Matt Lauer’s Gift to America’s Press and Electorate

Posted September 11, 2016 on 11:16 am | In the category Election, Politics, Press, Uncategorized | by Jeff

Last Wednesday night NBC’s Matt Lauer hosted what was to be the first serious discussion of security issues by candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. By all counts the evening was a disaster for Lauer. With each candidate appearing – separately – for 25 minutes Lauer managed to spend almost half of Clinton’s time on repeated questions about her email server while Secretary of State. It was as if Reince Priebus had written the script. Lauer then got to some of the real issues but, having wasted half the allotted time on the email nonissue, was constantly interrupting Clinton and telling her to hurry it along while she attempted to provide rational, specific answers. It was embarrassingly unprofessional, useless to potential voters and an insult to the viewers.

Lauer followed with a series of questions to Trump that included no followup, no corrections of obvious lies, and no attempts to get him to actually address issues on which Clinton had provided detailed answers. Whether you agreed with Clinton you at least knew where she stood. Trump was even allowed to get away with the old “secret plan” trick that Nixon used to avoid saying what he intended in Vietnam (a plan that turned out to cost an additional 20,000 American lives and hundreds of thousands of Asian lives – in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia).

Lauer’s gift to America arrived the next day. It began with an editorial in the Washington Post that ridiculed Lauer’s performances and called out the Post’s rivals in the press for their weak, even cowardly, coverage of the Trump campaign as well as their mindless focus on the nonissue of Clinton’s email server. As Charles Pierce has pointed out on his Daily Politics Blog for Esquire, while the Post’s editorial did not mention names, certainly the New York Times comes to mind. The Times’ editorial stance against Trump has been solid while its reporting has harped on the same litany of non- and phony issues that has kept cable news and talk radio twisting reality to its listeners’ interests.

Others have followed. Andrew Bacevich in an op ed in the Boston Globe, late night TV hosts joking about it, social media full of viewers’ rants, NBC executives reported by CNN to have said his performance was “a disaster” and the Chairman of NBC News felt compelled to defend Lauer in an internal memo released to the LA times

The Washington Post was singled out by Trump during the primaries and its reporters were no longer allowed access to the campaign. In response, the Post did what it does best: continued to report the news as it sees it, much as it did during Watergate. The Managing Editor of the Post is Marty Baron who came to the Boston Globe and took on the Catholic Church over its record of child abuse, against the advice of some who feared reprisals by the Church. We know how that worked out

So, Lauer’s gift has been to force some part of the press to look at itself and consider its own performance. Whether it is a gift that keeps on giving remains to be seen, but the evidence will be there for all to see. Will the mainstream press give priority to major issues and stop harping on fundamentally meaningless issues like Clinton’s personal emails? Will it not be bullied by Trump’s arrogant behavior and demand actual answers to questions about meaningful policy issues? Will it push back on Trump’s comments about Vladimir Putin and report the reality of Putin’s behavior and its risk to the U.S. and its allies? And will the press stop catering to the American fringe by regurgitating right wing fantasies on Vince Foster’s death, Whitewater, Clinton’s personal emails and President Obama’s birthplace?

Hillary Clinton is by no means a perfect candidate. But the press owes us its best efforts to treat her fairly by seeking from both candidates answers to the serious questions we face. Anything short of that is a dereliction of duty,

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  1. Neither candidate is fit to be the next president of the USA . The American voters have been tricked into choosing between two parties ( for years ). Having to choose between two parties that are a sinking towering of Pisa ,( that have to be propped up constantly ), is no choice at all . Most other democratic countries give voters many choices , but the USA forces the people to choose between the “lesser of two evils “. The American people then are astounded that their winning choice does not meet their expectations. Will they ever learn ?

    Comment by Preacherbbb — September 16, 2016 #

  2. Hey Preacher,

    Trump is of course a buffoon, unlike me and my Roman whores! The European parliamentary system has given us me, Tony “puppy dog” Blair, David Brexit Cameron, Neo-Nazi Orban in Hungary, Hollander in France, every parlamentarian’s hero Erdogan of Turkey, and of course that powerful example of corporate corruption Stephen Harper in Canada.
    Funny thing about elections – they often produce disasters. The U.S. Had had Nixon, Reagan, two Bushes, just to start the list. Some of us believe the problem is not in the system but in the voters. And strangely enough voters in many other Western democracies have made some pretty awful choices over the years, The U.S. Is an easy target this year and we deserve it, but blaming it on a political system that has sustained a country through many simply awful presidents is simplistic. Wath Germany next year – see where the voters take that current model of decency and intelligence. Does not look good.

    Comment by Silvio Berlosconi — September 16, 2016 #

  3. It’s not simplistic , when the system does not work . Politicians (by their very nature) are liars and tell voters what they want to hear . I’ve lived in Canada, the USA and Germany, and each “system “‘ has its pros and cons . No government has ever been able to balance successfully the needs of the people with the responsibility of rulership. How many millions have died because of ideological disagreements ? How many millions more have to die untill humanity “gets it right “?

    Comment by Preacherbbb — September 17, 2016 #

  4. I tend to agree wih Silvio -as you might suspect. I see nothing in the U.S. Electoral system that makes it any more likely that awful people end up in office than those other systems in other Western democracies. There are simply too many examples of failure in all systems – which Preacher actually seems to be saying in his second comment. In a sense he argues with himself by stating that blaming the two-party system in the U.S. Is not simplistic and then arguing that all systems have failed.

    I too have lived in Germany – also in the Czech Republic. In the latter case I watched as the Czechs managed to replace Vaclav Havel – a modern hero in my view, with Vaclav Klaus, in my view an arrogant right wing ideologue. It did of course allow people to choose from a number of different parties, but in the end the result was not appreciably better. When the results are better, it seems to me it is because of a range of issues like a healthy economy, a degree of domestic tranquility and a relative peaceful international scene.

    There are problems in all three areas which are – in my view – creating opportunities for unpleasant election results in places like Turkey, Germany, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Austria and the United States. Canada is the exception which is increasing the number of American adults taking French classes.

    Comment by Jeff — September 17, 2016 #

  5. Silvio and Jeff seem to be at odds while the Preacher stays the course. It is easy to understand why Havel gets such high praise as a moral guide from Jeff (so does Merkel, and it is easy to understand that as well) while Silvio would undoubtedly point out that as a practical politician it was on his watch that the country broke apart, despite his desperate attempts to hold it together. In that sense he was a complete failure since there couldn’t be a much poorer result for a head of state than to not succeed in holding it together. .And as Jeff points out it could be that Germany will reach a related crisis next year in its election.
    In both cases there was a basic difference in the political systems. Both Czechoslovakia and Germany did not and do not not have two-party systems, as the US does, and third parties can grow and suck up resentments against the long-established rulers. All over Europe now you can add to Jeff’s list of countries where the anti-immigrant vote has found a home in recently-formed third parties – the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland and all of Scandinavia, especially Denmark, and the AFD will be the party to watch in the next German election. So the US system, where this time around neither candidate can appeal to any kind of intelligent angry opposition to the status quo, leaves them no alternative, and not laughing. If the US system allowed a party for the disgruntled, its next election would have a very different look.

    Comment by Jimmy Joe Pittmann — September 23, 2016 #

  6. Having no real,interest in defending Silvio, I will simply say that Amurcans have two,places for the disgruntled: the Green Party and the Libertarian Party. Between them they are likely to get maybe 12% of the vote. Probably less. And possibly they deserve less since they are not really serious.

    Jimmy Joe is right that the Czechs and Germans do not have two party systems. That is the point. Their having multi party systems has not saved them from political messes not unlike what the U.S. is flirting with. Although for Germany we need to
    look,back some 75 years. And, of course, Havel was replaced by Klaus in the Czech Republic, not Czechoslovakia, which had ceased to exist after the velvet divorce.

    JJ’s concern over trends in Europe are well taken, we are in for troubled times with some serious risks. And while Merkel,is a lot less saintly than some believe, she is about as good as we have and her days seem to be numbered. Not good.

    Comment by Jeff — September 23, 2016 #

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