Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was finally asked a tough question during NBC’s Commander-in-Chief forum, so naturally, the media establishment immediately coagulated around the notion that Matt Lauer was the worst moderator ever.
“Had I communicated this information not following prescribed protocols, I would have been prosecuted and imprisoned,” the vet asked. “Secretary Clinton, how can you expect those such as myself who were and are trusted with America’s most sensitive information to have any confidence in your leadership as president when you clearly corrupted our national security?”
How could the host allow a veteran to spend precious time on Hillary’s email “scandal,” they wondered from the bubble? Since Clinton claims her experience makes her ready “on day one,” it might be reasonable for some voters to wonder why she still supposedly didn’t understand how classified documents worked; or why she engaged in actions that probably allowed foreign actors to access top secret information; or why she attempted to obstruct the investigation into those emails? We can’t talk about Trump tweets 24/7, after all.
For critics, there was an even uglier moment. How could Lauer let Trump get away with lying about his position on Iraq? This was the big takeaway last night and the dominant apprehension of the media; the sanctity of the candidate roundtable and political debates. As if politicians blatantly lying about their positions was a unique event.
Basically everyone lied about everything at the forum. Yet rarely was any of the post-forum hand-wringing concerned about Hillary’s performance. It is true that Clinton’s distortions are better-couched, but why no pushback when she claimed no Americans died in Libya “action”? Why no fact-check on Hillary’s false intimation that no one hacked her emails? The consensus is that a foreign nation probably did hack her classified emails. No one seemed exceptionally concerned about her prevaricating on that one.
Now, media types are wondering if perhaps moderators should engage in spontaneous fact checks, which, theoretically, sounds like a wonderful idea. In practice, though, as the very stories calling for fact checks illustrate, the media is highly selective in ascertaining which inaccuracies they find problematic, which would skew coverage even more than it’s already skewed — if that’s possible. Imagine Candy Crowley using incorrect information to defend Barack Obama from Mitt Romney but having no moderator challenging the president’s litany of untruths regarding Obamacare.
Republicans “lie,” but Democrats offer imprecise or nuanced assertions that can be transformed into a truth with a couple of Vox explainers.
First “Today” show segment on candidate forum includes fact-check of Trump’s false Iraq claim that wasn’t fact-checked at the forum.
— Michael Calderone (@mlcalderone) September 8, 2016
What must have been most offputting was Hillary’s performance. For the first time, a small part of me was forced to concede that Clinton might be one of the few politicians in the country awful enough to lose a general election to Trump. She must have felt something went wrong, as well, because for the first time in 278 days she held a formal press conference.
Not that it mattered. The press didn’t exactly roll her an orange and ask her what her favorite color was, but it wasn’t far off. Most of her time was spent ripping Trump’s ugly assertion that he preferred Vlad Putin to Barack Obama. It was unpatriotic and outside norms of political discourse, said Hillary — who probably forgot a couple of months ago she was cheering on Democrats who were accusing Republicans of arming ISIS
With the freedom to ask the probable next president of the United States anything in the world they wanted, the first query from the media was about polls. Why aren’t you winning by a larger margin, Hillary?
By the end, Hillary had answered a total of four questions, not one of them challenging or enlightening in any genuine way. Two softballs allowed Hillary to pontificate about foreign policy. One question was about the horserace and one about the unfair treatment Clinton receives from the media. “I’ve been somewhat heartened by articles recently pointing out the disparate treatment of Trump and his campaign compared to ours – I don’t understand the reasons,” Clinton explained on the tarmac in New York.
Probably because it’s a complete fantasy propagated by partisans and now internalized by the media as a reality.