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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Lester Holt: Another PARTISAN HAKE For Hillary
Socio-Political Commentary ... Kyle Smith
The ref not only made himself part of the game on Monday night, he ran up to the scrimmage line, then sacked the quarterback three times.
In the early going, it looked like it was going to be an ideal, Jim Lehrer-style performance from Lester Holt, the NBC Nightly News anchor. Lehrer was so boringly nonpartisan, so unwilling to play gotcha that he was always hotly in demand to moderate debates. For the first half or so, Holt gave simple, broad, open-ended questions and let the candidates go at it. He didn’t venture into live fact-checking, didn’t much quarrel with the nominees, didn’t ask persnickety questions.
For the most part, Holt asked the kinds of basic questions that gave Hillary Clinton and Trump plenty of opportunities to repeat favored talking points: what would you do to pump some life into the job market? How would you heal the race divide? Are police biased against minorities? What’s your policy on homegrown terrorist attacks?
But in the last half of the show, Holt started going after Trump. He got into an unfortunate bickering match with the Republican nominee over the latter’s (apparently offhand) support for the Iraq War in a 2002 Howard Stern interview. It was perfectly reasonable to bring up the point, but the exchange became tiresome on both sides, with the two men talking past each other. Holt would have been wiser to simply say, “In 2002, you told Howard Stern you supported the Iraq War. Tonight you say you didn’t. Can you explain?” Arguing with Trump is Clinton’s job, not Holt’s.
Trump’s birther argle-bargle is something the media have shown far too much interest in given its relative non-importance, but it was also fair of Holt to give Trump a chance to put the question to rest in front of a large audience. Trump bungled the opportunity, but it was hardly an unfair topic to bring up given that questioning President Obama’s birthplace is how Trump became a national political figure in the first place, and given that Trump made a circus out of the matter just 10 days earlier.
Still, having put Trump on the hot seat on a couple of questions, and giving no such pushback to Clinton, Holt then got into a third tug-of-war with the GOP standard-bearer, demanding that Trump answer for his remark that Clinton didn’t have “the look” of a president.
When Trump tried to change the subject to stamina, Holt (and then Clinton) pressed the point.
So Holt’s questions were fair game, but it’s not the case that Clinton has nothing to be embarrassed about either. Holt might have questioned her about, for instance, the role she played in arranging the sale of American uranium assets to Russia after Clinton and her foundation accepted large checks from shady intermediaries. He might have noted that she was chided by the FBI for her reckless mishandling of classified information, or that she put sensitive national security information on a server, less secure than Gmail, that could easily be hacked by the Russians. He could have asked her whether she could be trusted about her health given that she apparently wasn’t going to tell the public she had pneumonia until she collapsed on 9/11 (and even then stonewalled for hours).
True, Hillary Clinton has answered a lot of these kinds of questions before, but the not in front of a huge national audience. For Holt to allow her to get away with saying, “”It was a mistake” on her usage of email doesn’t cut it, not from a guy who was willing to hammer Trump on a remark like “I just don’t think she has a presidential look.”