Donald Trump is probably thrilled with the moderators chosen for the upcoming presidential debates. But the rest of us should be concerned.
Today, the Commission on Presidential Debates released the names of the moderators for the presidential and vice presidential debates:
First presidential debate:
Lester Holt, Anchor, NBC Nightly News
Monday, September 26, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY
Vice presidential debate:
Elaine Quijano, Anchor, CBSN and Correspondent, CBS News
Tuesday, October 4, Longwood University, Farmville, VA
Second presidential debate (town meeting):
Martha Raddatz, Chief Global Affairs Correspondent and Co-Anchor of “This Week,” ABC
Anderson Cooper, Anchor, CNN
Sunday, October 9, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO
Third presidential debate:
Chris Wallace, Anchor, Fox News Sunday
Wednesday, October 19, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV
As Media Matters’ Cristina Lopez noted, it certainly looks like Donald Trump’s efforts to bully the commission into picking moderators of his choice paid off.
Noting that the Commission was more cautious than usual, due to Trump’s pre-debate temper tantrum about bias, Lopez wrote:
Trump had also previously hinted at who he thought would be acceptable and unacceptable as debate moderators, noting “he would ‘object to moderators who he considered to be ‘unfair.’” While discussing possible debate moderators Trump claimed that “certain moderators would be unacceptable,” while also noting that NBC’s Lester Holt, who the commission chose, “is a good guy.”
Lo and behold, Holt is one of the moderators and so is Fox’s Wallace, the first time a Fox News host has been selected. Missing are any Latinos whom Trump might object to based on their ethnicity - the same way he objected to a Hispanic judge on the non-ethnic-related Trump University fraud case. Nor is there any moderator from a network as blatantly liberal as Fox is blatantly conservative: Rachel Maddow or Democracy Now's Amy Goodman would have been better counterbalance to Wallace, e.g., than the Trump-promoted Holt. That's not to cast aspersions on Holt but he's just not comparable.
But wait, there’s more. As Think Progress pointed out, Wallace has a “huge conflict of interest” via Roger Ailes. Since resigning in disgrace as CEO of Fox News over allegations of sexual and other misconduct, Ailes has reportedly been advising Trump (though the campaign denies a formal role). And Wallace's statement about Ailes' ouster reveals he remains an Ailes loyalist:
Roger Ailes is the best boss I’ve had in almost a half a century in journalism. I admired him tremendously professionally, and loved him personally…
There are people in tears. I shed mine a couple of days ago when the stories started to come out, that made this day seem like it was likely. I never knew a boss who transmitted a sense of mission, a team of common purpose, more than Roger did. And the thing that’s different from any place I ever worked is, people feel a personal connection to Roger, and I think a lot of people feel a deep sense of personal loss.
Just as bad, if not worse, is the fact that Wallace rejects the claim that Fox is a conservative news outlet.
Wallace is probably the best choice among the Fox hosts, but that's not reassuring given such a terribly low bar. Don't believe me? Check out Wallace’s infamous 2006 interview with former president Bill Clinton, below, and you might get an idea of the kind of “fairness and balance” Hillary Clinton may be in for.
Hillary is like that. She’s the big fish at the bottom of the pond with all the fishing lures hanging out of her mouth. I expect her to do fantastic the first two debates. Trump may wind up crying.
That’s where Wallace comes in. If Trump doesn’t have much heart for this, Faux does. They have always been good little Nazi’s, dutifully following orders.
CNN will air the biographies of both candidates at the end of this week. A little detail reveals their true mindset: Hillary’s biography is subtitled “unfinished business” which doesn’t sound even remotely as favorable as the “all business” subtitle selected for Donald. The devil is truly in the detail.
It’s true that Wallace may try to stack the deck for Trump in a third debate, but if he does so that blatantly, he will simply provide glaring evidence of what this site has been exposing for years – the obvious bias of Fox News to the right wing and the GOP. If he were to spend a full debate throwing happy softballs to Trump and vicious browbeatings to Clinton, he’d simply provide soundbites for years of why people shouldn’t watch Fox News.
I’m more concerned about Roger Ailes being the one providing Trump with gotcha lines and insults for the first debate. Ailes believes that the audience will remember a huge moment more than they’ll remember a wonkish discussion of policy.
Think in terms of Ailes’ prior success in 1984 with the Reagan age joke during his debate with Mondale. Think in terms of Lloyd Bentsen’s demolition of Dan Quayle on a debate stage in 1988. In 1992, Bill Clinton was able to use this to his advantage in the town hall debate, wherein he had an answer for every wonkish question sent up to him. It didn’t matter what he was saying – just that he was totally at ease in the room and had clear answers about everything, while Bush looked uncomfortable and sometimes confused. And in 2012, we had the famous backfire moment in the second debate where Romney was caught telling a flat out lie in one of his windups.
My concern is that Ailes will attempt to set up a moment wherein Trump bashes Clinton on a vicious personal level, in the hopes of knocking her off her focus. One or two of those could wind up being the repeated soundbite of the night, even if Clinton, as expected, cleans his clock. Ailes will try to create a media moment out of the mud-throwing, and he’s always had success when doing so.
Giving the drumpf such a sympathetic shill to rub his sweaty underbelly is an insult to our political process.
Those are my concerns, exactly.
If Trump tanks in the first two debates (which I think is highly likely) Wallace will be there as an insurance policy for the third debate. If Trump looked really bad in the other two, Wallace would be there to give Hillary the shiv before she got out the door. I don’t trust Faux as far as I can throw them.