What had been billed as a forum on foreign, military and veteran’s affairs, the first ever Commander-in-Chief forum instead turned into an embarrassment for two of the three forum participants. Both NBC moderator Matt Lauer and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump proved they were clearly out of their league.
That NBC would pick Matt Lauer, the host of the network’s Today Show, to moderate the first onstage meeting of the two main presidential candidates was also a major embarrassment for the network itself. Trying to pawn off a TV personality more adept at interviewing the Kardashians as a serious journalist makes one wonder whether the network looked at the forum as a political event or simply a one-hour entertainment special.
In a limited time format, where each candidate had roughly 25 minutes to answer questions, Lauer spent nearly half of his time with Clinton on an issue that the FBI has put to rest … the Clinton “email scandal.” Even as she tried to give detailed answers to Lauer’s questions, Clinton was continually cut off by the moderator.
When it came time to question Trump, Lauer lobbed one softball after another at the former reality TV star and purported billionaire. Lauer did not fact-check Trump and never once called him out for his outrageous falsehoods during the town hall event. Specifically, Trump insisted that he never supported the war in Iraq and pointed to an Esquire interview from 2004 to prove that he was against it from the beginning.
The Iraq War began in 2003. Trump is on record as having been in favor of what turned out to be one of the biggest foreign policy blunders in U.S. history.
Trump was given free reign by Lauer to trash our President, our generals and our armed forces while singing the praises of Russia strongman, Putin. Instead of calling Trump out on such shockingly traitorous remarks, Lauer teed-up the next softball question.
A moderator, as a ref, has every right to be tough on his people. But a good ref knows to be fair to both sides of the contest. Lauer never asked “email” level questions of Trump. Lauer should have asked Trump to explain his attacks on a Gold-Star family, or the five deferments that kept Trump from serving his country.
Matt Lauer was not a good ref. He may be a good interviewer of celebrities but last night’s forum had only one television celebrity … the other participant was a qualified candidate seriously looking to be our next commander- in-chief.
Photo | Doug Mills/The New York Times