Is it too much to ask for fair questions to both candidates?
Monday night’s debate confirmed several presidential debate truisms. For example, substantive discussions of the issues tend to dissolve during these debates. That happened at Hofstra University.
Another tried and true fact of presidential debates is the mainstream media moderator will act as a praetorian guard for the Democrat. And yes, that too happened.
Debate moderator Lester Holt repeatedly challenged statements from Republican candidate Donald Trump while permitting Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to slip away. The questions he asked, at times, were also completely irrelevant to the issues facing American citizens, and contributed to the lack of substance in the candidates’ policy stances.
Let’s go over just five quick points to demonstrate Holt’s biased performance.
1) The NBC News anchor interrupted Trump twice on a question on jobs.
The question was, “How are you going to bring back the industries that have left this country for cheap labor overseas?”
Trump suggested renegotiating trade deals like NAFTA and was explaining the different tax systems in the U.S. and Mexico when Holt interrupted to ask the question again that Trump had just answered. Perhaps his answer wasn’t satisfactory, but that’s a point the other candidate — not the moderator — should make.
2) Holt dragged Trump’s tax returns into a discussion on tax policy.
“Mr. Trump, we’re talking about the burden that Americans have to pay, yet you have not released your tax returns. And the reason nominees have released their returns for decades is so that voters will know if their potential president owes money to …who he owes it to and any business conflicts. Don’t Americans have a right to know if there are any conflicts of interest?”
Whether or not Donald Trump could or should release his tax returns has absolutely no bearing on the tax policies the next president will enact in office. And in the context of “American prosperity,” which was the nominal topic of this segment of the debate, it was a completely irrelevant point.
Consider that the previous question asked Hillary Clinton to spend two minutes defending raising taxes on the wealthy and Trump to spend the same amount of time defending his plan for tax cuts. Instead of digging deeper into these policy ideas and their effects on the pocketbooks of American families, we were treated to Hillary Clinton asserting Donald Trump may not be as rich as he says he is, and Trump reciting how much his real estate/buildings are worth.
3) Holt brought up the constitutionality of “stop and frisk”; he forgot to do so regarding the due process rights of Americans on the terror watch list.
In the segment on “America’s direction,” Lester Holt began a discussion on race in which both major party candidates agreed that some form of gun control was necessary to curb violence in America’s inner-cities.
As Clinton herself said: “We finally need to pass a prohibition on anyone who’s on the terrorist watch list from being able to buy a gun in our country.” If the moderator is going to challenge the candidates on some political points, this would’ve been a great time to point out the due process rights of American citizens that are threatened by banning individuals on an arbitrary government list from purchasing firearms.
Instead of a follow-up on that point, Lester Holt decided to follow up on Trump on his advocacy for a possible nationwide “stop and frisk” policy — noting that a judge in New York ruled that policy unconstitutional. Constitutional questions are crucial, but shouldn’t the moderator serve them to both sides?
4) Speaking of forgetting issues, where were the questions on the Clinton Foundation’s incestuous relationship to the Clinton State Department? What about Benghazi? Or Hillary’s email server?
When the topic turned to “America’s security,” Lester Holt asked each candidate to describe how they would protect America from cyber warfare by foreign agents like the those that are believed to have hacked the Democratic National Committee.
Unbelievably, Lester Holt did not ask Hillary Clinton about her mishandling of classified information on a private email server, despite the fact that experts have said Clinton’s private email server was likely hacked. Further, not a single question directed to Hillary Clinton regarding her multiple grievous lies.
5) Questions directed to Trump were about personality, not policy.
“Mr. Trump, for five years, you perpetuated a false claim that the nation’s first black president was not a natural-born citizen. You questioned his legitimacy. In the last couple of weeks, you acknowledged what most Americans have accepted for years: The president was born in the United States. Can you tell us what took you so long?”
“Mr. Trump, this year Secretary Clinton became the first woman nominated for president by a major party. Earlier this month, you said she doesn’t have, quote, “a presidential look.” She’s standing here right now. What did you mean by that?”
If the candidates want to have a back and forth over who is more sexist/racist/intolerant/bigoted/what-have-you, that’s the candidates’ prerogative. Should the moderator of a presidential debate, whose job is to make these two individuals running for president give the American people an idea of what they will do in office, do their work for them?