Mr. Holt, hold your tongue!
Our first presidential debate is finished, with no clear winner. Hillary answered like a lawyer and came off as your creepy aunt who smiles too much and who’s hair never moves. Trump was Trump, interrupting plenty and arguing with both Hillary and the moderator, Lester Holt. What disappointed most in the debate, were not the candidates, who were somewhat lackluster, but their moderator.
Lester Holt, supposedly an unbiased newsman, caved in to pressure from the liberal media, and chose to ‘fact check’ Trump, while allowing Clinton to escape without the same level of scrutiny. This comes as a disappointment, as Holt had previously managed to make both candidates squirm.
Holt was somewhat invisible during the debate, so much so that one wag called for a manhunt to find him. This is to his credit. A moderator is not part of the debate; he serves as the referee. What’s not to his credit is how he went after Trump for some of Trump’s weaknesses, while ignoring Hillary’s. Holt challenged Trump with questions no less than 6 times. The questions included ones on Trump’s planned tax cuts, his tax returns, his Birtherism and his support for the Iraq War. (A transcript of the debate can be found here)
From the start of the debate, Holt went after Trump for specifics on how Trump would bring back manufacturing jobs to the US. Hillary’s own answer was empty and received no challenge from Holt but several from Trump as Trump bludgeoned Hillary for making bad trade deals.
When the issue of Hillary’s email scandal came up, she responded by saying, “You know, I made a mistake using a private e- mail…It was a mistake, and I take responsibility for that.” Holt’s follow up question was…none. He let Trump go after her.
Even when Hillary commented that, “I think implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police,” Holt did not challenge her. Such a comment that we’re all biased (read ‘racist’) should have garnered more questions.
Going so far as to argue with Trump, Holt stepped way over the line. “Arguing with Trump is Clinton’s job, not Holt’s,” one writer says, and he’s right. Whether or not Trump supported the Iraq war is something for the candidates to argue about, not Holt to ‘fact check’ upon.
Holt failed to question Hillary upon 3 of the most important challenges facing her: Hillary’s emails, Benghazi, or The Clinton Foundation. Her email scandal is still unfolding with bureaucratic slowness, her role in Benghazi is still unclear, and The Clinton Foundation’s finances all looms so large in the press it’s impossible to imagine that Holt never considered them as fodder for the debate. It is hard to say he was not covering for Hillary.
In the eyes of the media, Holt’s actions were good. USA today says he ‘fact-checked Trump.’ Holt allowed Hillary to call her e-mail scandal a ‘mistake’ while hammering Trump for not releasing tax returns. This writer has no love for Mr. Trump, but when has Trump been accused of endangering our national security and high level intelligence secrets? The bar for Hillary’s past actions is much higher because she’s painted herself as a committed public servant. That she’s lined her pockets over the years is more disgusting because she’s traded on power to get money.
Holt failed badly during the debate, especially the second half. He failed so badly that some on Twitter are calling him Clinton’s press secretary. Exaggeration aside, it’s hard to ascribe anything but bias, or fear, to Holt’s performance.
A writer on The Federalist has recommended that we discard moderators entirely. Whether that would work or not can be argued. What’s clear is that, again, moderators, who are supposed to behave in an unbiased fashion are playing the partisan. And what makes it worse is that the more partisan they are, the more unbiased they’re claimed to be. Holt went into the debate with some people actually thinking he was unbiased, but it can be doubted whether that will remain the case after his performance.