On Monday night, America witnessed one of the most worthless, and certainly one of the most infantile, presidential debates in its history. After listening to Donald Trump’s meta-fictions and Hillary Clinton’s manicured obfuscations, the voter is left with one question: do you prefer an idiocracy or a kleptocracy?
At Hofstra University, a typically dignified Lester Holt did his best allowing the two candidates to engage in their rhetorical slap fights. But whenever he chimed in, or tried to play referee, he helped cover for the kleptocracy. And I don’t care if Holt writes Ronald Reagan fanfic in his spare time, he consistently let Hillary off the hook.
Holt, for example, couldn’t conjure up a single question about Syria. Or a single question about social issues. Not one. Just for example, it’s possible there are still a few people left in this country who might be curious about Hillary’s position on late-term abortions without limits. There may even be voters interested in Trump’s thoughts on any social issue, at all.
Instead, Holt nudged the conversation in the direction Beltway Twitterdom would approve.
Holt brought up birtherism — which is certainly fair game — but never once mentioned the Clinton Foundation. Now, while favor-trading at the State Department may not offend the sensibilities of the average liberal reporter like questioning the president’s birthplace, only one of these scandals involves the potential abuse of state power. And if birtherism speaks to Trump’s temperament — and surely it does –- then Hillary’s unfaltering propensity to assist people and institutions that enriched her foundation with hundreds of millions of dollars certainly speaks to her judgment, if not character.
It didn’t end there. Holt challenged Trump on his pro-war comments to Howard Stern in 2002 — also fair game since the Republican nominee claims some special foreign policy wisdom — and pushed back when candidate denied it. Yet Holt didn’t think it worth even asking Hillary to explain why she actively advocated for the very same invasion; arguing for it on the floor of the Senate. Surely, exploring the thought process and flip flops of a powerful senator with the authority to avoid war is at least as significant as what a then-celebrity had to say on the issue to a shock jock?
Holt never asked Hillary about advocating war (without congressional approval) in Libya. There was not a word on what happened in Benghazi. (I guess enough left-wing pundits and journalists have mockingly tweeted “BENGHAZI” in all-caps and vertical to make it a non-issue.) As others have mentioned, Hillary hasn’t met a war she didn’t like since Vietnam. This might be a worthwhile consequential enough topic for a future debate. You know, once we’ve exhausted all our discussions about Trump’s 1970s lawsuits.
Holt did bring up the email scandal, allowing Hillary to brush it off as a “mistake,” when, in fact, she lied to Congress and her staff destroyed tens of thousands of government documents after her wrongdoing was reported by The New York Times and others. No follow-up. Trump should have dismissed his birtherism as a “mistake.” I’m sure Holt and establishment media would have been satisfied.
To be fair, no one helped Hillary avoid substantive issues more than Donald. How many times did Clinton bait Trump and his colossal ego into defending some trivial issue related to his business or his wealth? If you can’t exhibit any self-discipline now, when will you?
When Holt asked about cyberattacks, Hillary uncorked her yawning platitudes, and Trump, who had an opening to hit her for mishandling dozens of classified documents, decided to drop a jumbled monologue about 400-pound hackers and his 10-year-old son’s computer abilities. I was waiting for someone to give the principal’s speech from Billy Madison (video above) after he’d finished.
When the question of her stamina came up, Hillary offered a canned line about how sitting through long congressional hearings proved her mettle. Instead of countering with “Well, Hillary, if you stopped doing corrupt stuff, you wouldn’t have to sit in front of Congress all the time,” Trump decided to re-litigate the Rosie O’Donnell incident.
Of course, Holt asked Trump about his attitude towards women, and specifically his comment on how Hillary “looks.” Okay. But then he asked nothing about Clinton’s contention that half of all Republican voters were “deplorables.” I’ve seen liberals prove Clinton’s assertion about deplorables was correct using charts and whatnot. Perhaps Hillary agrees. It never came up.
In any event, Trump lied a lot. And Hillary lied a lot, although she does it with far more dexterity and subtlety — on her trade position, on taxes, on murder rates, on NATO and so on. Then again, “Our candidate lied less than yours!” is an argument regularly used by partisans in 2016. With this measurement, it seems the consensus on cable news was that Clinton won. If I was forced to call it, I’d also probably give the debate to Hillary on points. Largely because Trump needlessly pummeled himself in the second half.
Yet media consensus has a terrible track record in 2016. So no one should underestimate the effectiveness of Trump’s populist positioning on trade or law and order. Perhaps we shouldn’t underestimate how a dismissive and smirking Hillary plays in certain places in America, either. However the polls shake it, though, I feel confident saying that everyone in country is now dumber for having listened to this debate.
Two more to go.