Last night, a national tv audience was subjected (yes, that IS the right word) to Primadonald and HRC responding to questions from forum moderator, Matt Lauer, and people in attendance. What follows are your blogger’s take-aways from this event.
With barely 30-minutes allotted to the questioning of each candidate, the one who has a history of bloviating and saying nothing of substance has a distinct advantage; i.e. all s/he has to do is just talk and “run out the clock”. Advantage Primadonald who used it by repeatedly going off on tangents and thus, saying nothing of value, especially as his words pertained to the questions that were asked. This sort of format only works if the moderator takes a very active role and warns whichever candidate is engaged in prolix “You’re off-topic” or “You’re not addressing the question”, and is even-handed in doing so.
When it came to asking tough questions, Lauer shined. But beyond that, his performance was dismal and that has been acknowledged by his bosses at NBC. The moderator failed on two major occasions to fact-check Primadonald who outright lied when he claimed that he supported neither the war in Iraq nor Syria. It is a well-documented fact that he was in favor of both.
Add to this, Lauer admonished HRC to strive to be “brief”, but sent no such message to her opponent. Rather, the host allowed Primadonald to rant about the many failures of HRC, Obama and John Kerry and kill time with a good bit of non-responsive blather. In particular, when Lauer asked Trump “Are you smarter than the generals?”, the candidate was allowed to avoid answering altogether but keep right on talking. Here, it is plausible to suggest that the moderator simply lacked the wherewithal to interrupt and get his guest back on track; he could not handle the man sitting across from him and Primadonald figured that out and used it to his own advantage.
The billionaire got away with murder as has been suggested above. He was too often non- or only marginally- responsive to the questions posed. He avoided being pressed with more tough questions by “running out the clock” with verbiage signifying nothing. He never had to deal with a fact-check that took place in real time. Both the format and the moderator helped the candidate to project a falsely competent picture of himself.
The candidate’s most difficult moment came when Lauer confronted her about her private server and careless handling of the e-mail traffic that went to and from that device. She addressed the matter squarely and perhaps at too great a length, giving the impression that she was being defensive. Beyond that, she took responsibility for the problems this has caused, and for her vote to get the US into the war in Iraq. Generally, she came across as knowledgeable, in command of herself and certainly more “on-point” than her opponent.
To be determined
Let’s see how good a job news sources and analysts do in getting out the truth about last night’s forum. What follows are three questions that are posed here and deserve to be answered: (1) Will each candidate be fact-checked and the results made public? (2) Will someone calculate the time each candidate spent in off-topic speechifying and make the results public? and (3) Will someone determine which of the two candidates most frequently articulated a direct response to the questions asked and make that result public?
The information to be gained from dealing with these queries would give voters a clearer impression of which of the two competitors is the more honest (and hence trustworthy), who is better prepared, and who is using verbosity as a “cover” for being less competent.