Last night’s debate was an extravaganza of Donald Trump’s trademark hostility, narcissism, and dishonesty. He denied ever saying that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by China. He reiterated the myth that Hillary Clinton started the Birther conspiracy. He falsely claimed his campaign financial disclosure made releasing his tax returns moot. But one chunk of the face-off stole the show for sheer lunacy and incoherence.
In defense of his oft-repeated lie that he opposed the Iraq war from the start, Trump introduced a new alibi courtesy of his friend and official Fox News surrogate, Sean Hannity. But Trump’s latest cover story is not only absurd, it’s a raving rhetorical mess:
“I then spoke to Sean Hannity, which everybody refuses to call Sean Hannity. I had numerous conversations with Sean Hannity at Fox and Sean Hannity said – and he called me the other day and I spoke to him about it. He said ‘You were totally against the war,’ cause he was for the war. And – wait, excuse me – and that was before the war started. Sean Hannity said very strongly – to me and other people – he was willing to say it but nobody wants to call him. I was against the war, he said ‘You used to have fights with me.’ Cause Sean was in favor of the war. And I understand that side also. But not very much cause we should never have been there. But nobody calls Sean Hannity. […] If somebody would call up Sean Hannity, this was before the war started, he and I used to have arguments about the war.”
Good grief! Trump cited Hannity eight times in that delirious paragraph. And he lamented four times that no one calls him. There is, however, a good reason that people don’t call Sean Hannity. They retch at the sound of his voice.
Seriously, what possible reason would there be to call Hannity for clarity on this matter? He is an avowed Trump fluffer who dedicates his program to the candidate. He even appeared in Trump ad endorsing his pal. His own record of veracity is as tainted as Trump’s. There is no way to affirm the contents of a private conversation that allegedly took place fourteen years ago. And it’s more than a little suspicious that Trump never mentioned Hannity for corroboration until last night. Did they coordinate this farce?
What’s more, Trump’s plea to call poor, lonely, Hannity was answered by these guys, and he hung up on them:
It is almost painfully pathetic that Trump has to resort to inventing witnesses to back up a lie that is well documented. But it’s just as bad that Fox News allows a prominent program host to openly campaign for a political candidate and serve as his personal propagandist. Any legitimate news enterprise would rein in their employee or suspend him until after the election. Fortunately for Fox, no one considers them legitimate.
It may come as a surprise to learn that Fox News has policies governing the ethical behavior of their employees. Over the years the network has brazenly promoted Republican politicians and pundits without regard for either fairness or balance. But the blurry lines they draw were recently crossed by primetime host Sean Hannity.
Hannity taped a tribute to Donald Trump that appears in a new web ad. Curiously, he is identified only as “Sean Hannity, TV personality.” Not only did they leave out his Fox News affiliation, but they reduced him to the status of Kim Kardashian or Ryan Seacrest. In the clip Hannity unequivocally states his support for Trump and outlines his reasons why.
“One of the reasons I’m supporting Donald Trump this year is number one, he’s going to put originalists on the Supreme Court. People that believe in fidelity to the Constitution, separation of powers, co-equal branches of government. He’s a guy that will vet refugees to keep Americans safe. And of course he’s gonna build that wall. He says he’s gonna have Mexico pay for it. That’s fine, as long as we secure the country and, of course, we don’t want people competing for jobs. He said he will eliminate Obamacare, make us energy-independent, and as somebody who’s been a marksman since I’m 11 years old, protecting our Second Amendment rights are paramount to me.”
This list of right-wing tripe is typical of the propaganda that Fox and Hannity regularly dispense. Nothing in it varies from the conservative politics that dominate the network. What’s unusual is that Hannity delivers his testimonial in an official Trump advertisement. Along with fellow asshats like Ted Nugent, Hannity plants a wet kiss full on the mouth of his hallowed hero. Unfortunately, he failed to get permission from his Fox bosses before contributing his services. That reckless disobedience resulted in Fox News taking swift disciplinary action:
“We were not aware of Sean Hannity participating in a promotional video and he will not be doing anything along these lines for the remainder of the election season.”
Well, that ought teach him. While distancing themselves from Hannity’s impropriety, Fox firmly forbade him from further misconduct. And that appears to be the extent of his punishment. He wasn’t suspended. His pay wasn’t docked. There doesn’t even seem to be a demand to remove his segment from Trump’s ad. What’s more, they gave him permission to continue his partisan antics after the election.
This absence of consequences isn’t the least bit peculiar. Why would Fox News punish Hannity for doing in an ad what he does everyday on his program? Hannity has publicly endorsed Trump. His show has hosted Trump more than any other program on television. Tonight, in fact, he’ll be holding his third “town hall” wherein Trump is given the full hour to advance his candidacy. Hannity’s role in these infomercials is mainly to toss Trump softballs that he often answers himself. Or, at least, polishes the frequently moronic answers Trump serves up.
As the election season proceeds, Fox News is frantically escalating their Trump crusade. On the air they are deploying ever more hysterical Trump surrogates. The Fox News website is fully engaged in PR for Trump. Their Twitter feed is brazenly distributing professionally designed pro-Trump memes (see this collection). They couldn’t be more engaged in the campaign without registering as a PAC, which technically they ought to do anyway.
Consequently, Hannity’s pathetic iPhone video contribution to a web ad really doesn’t make much difference. And the only people watching Fox’s disinformation blitz are dimwitted wingnuts who wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton under any circumstances. Fox’s incessant choir-preaching didn’t elect John McCain or Mitt Romney, and it isn’t going to elect Donald Trump either.
For much of the summer conservatives busied themselves counting the days that elapsed since Hillary Clinton held a press conference. To them it indicated that she had something to hide. The truth was that she was concentrating on local media and one-on-one interviews. She was hardly avoiding the press. However, if she wanted to she had ample reason. Her press conference this morning is a perfect illustration of why Clinton might be justified in dodging these affairs.
Following a weekend of bombings and stabbings attributed to terror-linked suspects, Clinton delivered a statement and took a few question from reporters covering her campaign (video below). She began by offering her support to the communities affected by the attacks. She also expressed concern for the victims and determination to prevail over the perpetrators saying, in part:
“Like all Americans, my thoughts are with those who were wounded, their families and our brave first responders. This threat is real, but so is our resolve. Americans will not cower, we will prevail. We will defend our country and we will defeat the evil, twisted ideology of the terrorists.”
After her remarks, Clinton invited the press to ask questions. You might think this would be a good time to dig deeper into her plans to defeat the enemy. But that would only be true if you considered the enemy to be Donald Trump. Because the press seemed far more interested in him than in ISIS. Here are the four questions Clinton was asked by our intrepid journalists:
Unidentified Reporter: The person of interest in this case is an Afghan immigrant, now U.S. citizen. What do you say to voters who may see this as a reason to consider supporting Trump’s approach to terror and immigration?
What do you say to those voters? Who gives a flying flapjack! Voters who are considering Trump’s approach to fighting terrorism are considering an approach that doesn’t exist. And his followers don’t care. In over fifteen months of campaigning he has yet to articulate a coherent policy. Trump’s ISIS “plan” consists of bashing Clinton and President Obama, while boldly declaring from the comfort of his gold-encrusted penthouse that he will bomb the sh*t out of them. Despite the obtuse phrasing of the question, Clinton’s reply was thoughtful, covering law enforcement, intelligence gathering, and immigration reform. All while respecting the civil liberties of American citizens and residents. Voters considering Trump have no interest in such trivialities.
Monica Alba, NBC News: Secretary Clinton, the White House has labeled these lone wolf attacks a top concern and given these weekend’s events, what more specifically should be done and what would you do specifically beyond what President Obama has done? Is the current plan enough?
Remember that question. You won’t hear another like during this event. It actually addressed a substantive issue and Clinton was able to respond in kind.
Jennifer Epstein, Bloomberg Politics: Are you concerned that this weekend’s attacks or potential incidents in the coming weeks might be an attempt by ISIS or ISIS sympathizers or, really, any other group, maybe the Russians, to influence the presidential race in some way, And presumably try to drive votes to Donald Trump who, as you said before, widely seen as perhaps being somebody who they would be more willing to — or see as an easier person to be against?
Once again, the question was framed with an eye on how Trump figured into it. The reporter couldn’t simply inquire as to Clinton’s thoughts on the events of the day. Apparently the electoral consequences of terrorism are more important than defeating it. Nevertheless, Clinton soldiered on to provide an answer:
“We know that a lot of the rhetoric we’ve heard from Donald Trump has been seized on by terrorists, in particular ISIS, because they are looking to make this into a war against Islam rather than a war against jihadists, violent terrorists, people who number in the maybe tens of thousands, not but tens of millions.” […and…] “we know that Donald Trump’s comments have been used online for recruitment of terrorists. We’ve heard that from former CIA Director Michael Hayden, who made it a very clear point when he said Donald Trump is being used as a recruiting sergeant for the terrorists. We also know from the former head of our Counterterrorism Center, Matt Olsen, that the kinds of rhetoric and language that Mr. Trump has used is giving aid and comfort to our adversaries.”
That business about “giving aid and comfort to our adversaries” was quickly snatched up by the Trump camp. They complained that Clinton was accusing him of treason. However, she was only citing the opinion of a counter-terrorism expert. The rest of her comments were accurate and well documented.
Nancy Cordes, CBS News: Secretary Clinton, as you know, Donald Trump has had a lot to say about your record on this issue over the weekend. Here’s one more example. “Under the leadership of Obama and Clinton, Americans have experienced more attacks at home than victories abroad. Time to change the playbook.” What’s your reaction to that characterization?
Cordes was referencing Trump’s tweet this morning. It hardly requires a response since it is so patently absurd. Americans have not experienced any near the number of attacks as the victories abroad. There have only been a handful of domestic terrorist attacks. That doesn’t diminish the tragedy resulting from them, but it’s simply a fact that there have been very few. Conversely, the U.S. has conducted thousands of missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, that have eliminated hundreds of terrorists including many of their top commanders. Clinton made that very point and ridiculed Trump’s “irresponsible, reckless rhetoric.”
Change the playbook? Trump doesn’t have a playbook at all, and we’re not even sure that he can read. Clinton, on the other hand, has laid out detailed plans for dealing with terrorism. She has the support of dozens of national security experts with credentials from both parties. While Trump has been shunned by members of his own party who say he is unqualified, ignorant, and dangerous.
The press showed itself in this candidate avail to be obsessed with horse-race politics to the exclusion of anything else. The issues that needed to be discussed today were the ones relating to the attacks in New York, New Jersey, and Minnesota. There were real people with real injuries involved. But the media seemed to be interested in only the political circus generally, and the Trump sideshow in particular. That’s a sad state of journalistic affairs. And it would serve as justification should Clinton want to ditch her press corps for the remainder of the campaign. Unless the media can divest itself of its Trump fetish, they don’t deserve to be taken seriously.
Let’s face it, the media has very little to brag about lately. It has been embarrassingly inept in its coverage of the election. It lets Donald Trump get away with a torrent of lies unseen in modern times (see the Trump Bullshitopedia). Simultaneously, it harps on Hillary Clinton’s alleged scandals despite the absence of any evidence of actual wrongdoing.
Consequently, it should come as no surprise that a new poll by Gallup reveals that trust in the media has sunk to historic lows. Gallup’s survey asked people “how much trust and confidence” they have in the mass media to report the news “fully, accurately and fairly.” The respondents who said “a great deal” or “a fair amount” totaled to only thirty-two percent. That’s the lowest score in over forty years that Gallup has been asking this question.
The cause of the decline becomes more apparent when the numbers are broken out by political affiliation. Gallup notes that “Democrats’ and independents’ trust in the media has declined only marginally.” Since last year those groups have fallen four percent and three percent respectively. However, Republicans have taken a dive of mammoth proportions, dropping twelve percent. Says Gallup:
“With many Republican leaders and conservative pundits saying Hillary Clinton has received overly positive media attention, while Donald Trump has been receiving unfair or negative attention, this may be the prime reason their relatively low trust in the media has evaporated even more.”
This part of Gallup’s analysis may be true so far as the perception of Republicans is concerned. As a group they are notoriously whiny about what they believe is unfair reporting. However, as a matter of fact it is demonstrably false. A study by Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy showed that from the start of the campaign “Trump’s coverage was positive in tone — he received far more ‘good press’ than ‘bad press.’” The same study showed that “Clinton had by far the most negative coverage of any candidate.” And people wonder why Clinton is wary of the press. But there is another reason Republicans lost faith in greater numbers. Gallup highlighted it saying that:
“It is also possible that Republicans think less of the media as a result of Trump’s sharp criticisms of the press.”
Bingo! Donald Trump has taken a sledgehammer to the media from day one. He has complained relentlessly about a perceived bias by a press corps that has shamelessly coddled him. They air his repetitive stump speeches in full and uninterrupted. They fall for his stunts designed to draw more attention to him. They even admit that they cater to his whims because they are addicted to the ratings they think he generates. CBS CEO Les Moonves famously said that “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”
Even worse, Trump frequently disparages reporters personally. He calls them dummies, losers, sleazy, and scum. He points at them viciously during his rallies while spitting insults and “joking” about killing them. An NBC reporter once had to be escorted to her car by Secret Service after a rally due to threats from Trump’s hostile followers.
There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of the media. It is a humongous industry controlled by a few monolithic, multinational corporations. It often pursues its own self-interest rather than the interests of the public they purport to serve. However, the delusional rantings of Donald Trump and his surrogates in no way justifies a loss of trust for the press. His unhinged rage is representative of a paranoid diversion from reality. And unfortunately, the damage he does to the public’s relationship with the media will far outlast this election season.
The Trump family of whiners is continuing to complain about what they perceive as poor treatment from the media. Never mind that Donald Trump has consumed far more air time than any other candidate. Or that he has Fox News (the highest rated cable news network) dedicated 24/7 to his election. Somehow the delusion that they are victims keeps seeping into their daily bitchfest.
The latest lament has Little Don expressing his belief that the media is plotting to “trip up” his father by asking him hard questions. You know, questions like what does he know, and what would he do as president. He whines about his false impression that Papa Trump is being treated unfairly. Then he floats his theory that it’s all a conspiracy to influence the moderators of the upcoming debates. Actually, the opposite is true.
This all occurred during an interview with Philadelphia radio host Chris Stigall. But the Trumpette really took a flyer when he sought to accuse the media of being biased in favor of Hillary Clinton
“The media has been her number one surrogate in this. Without the media this wouldn’t even be a contest, but the media has built her up. They’ve let her slide on every indiscrepancy, on every lie, on every DNC game trying to get Bernie Sanders out of this thing. If Republicans were doing that, they’d be warming up the gas chamber right now.”
Seriously? Little Don is comparing imaginary unfair press coverage to the mass murder committed by Nazis in World War II? It is perpetually puzzling how these cretins can sink to such heinous rhetoric. They seem to have no filter that warns them about the injury they do to the memory of people who truly suffered such atrocities. Although it’s not inconceivable that they do it intentionally to dog-whistle at their deplorable, alt-right supporters.
For the record, Donald Trump has not only been covered more than his opponents, he has been covered more positively. A study by Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media examined all the coverage and arrived at these results:
“The report shows that during the year 2015, major news outlets covered Donald Trump in a way that was unusual given his low initial polling numbers—a high volume of media coverage preceded Trump’s rise in the polls. Trump’s coverage was positive in tone—he received far more ‘good press’ than ‘bad press.’ The volume and tone of the coverage helped propel Trump to the top of Republican polls.”
Overall, the study found that “Trump’s coverage was roughly two-to-one favorable.” At the same time Hillary Clinton’s coverage was (and is) markedly negative:
“Whereas media coverage helped build up Trump, it helped tear down Clinton. Trump’s positive coverage was the equivalent of millions of dollars in ad-buys in his favor, whereas Clinton’s negative coverage can be equated to millions of dollars in attack ads.”
The evidence of the pro-Trump coverage continues to this day. Clinton is hammered incessantly about old email stories and speculation about her health. On the other hand, Trump’s current scandals are virtually ignored. Just yesterday there were stories about his unsavory business ties and his corrupt foundation. Today those stories are already off the table. And just try getting the press to ask him about his tax returns two days in a row.
Setting aside his offensive analogy, Trump. Jr. is right about one thing: “Without the media this wouldn’t even be a contest.” That’s true, although not in the way he intended. Had it not been for the ratings-obsessed media’s efforts to prop up a bigoted, narcissistic demagogue, Trump would have been a long forgotten punch line by now. The press’ attitude toward Trump was best summarized by CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”
Among the many firsts of this unprecedented election year is that one candidate has distinguished himself as being obsessed with debate moderators and formats. Guess who.
Donald Trump has spent much of the campaign complaining about everything being rigged to crush him. The primaries were rigged. So are the polls and the press and even the election itself. It’s a position that reeks of paranoia and fear. There isn’t another candidate that has ever been so chronically neurotic about the forces supposedly aligned against him. It makes you wonder what sort of hysterics he we would resort to in negotiations with members of Congress or foreign leaders.
Yesterday Trump exposed another flank in the covert crusade to kneecap his candidacy. Interviewed by phone for a segment on CNBC, Trump alleged that his omnipresent enemies are “gaming the system” in order to tilt the debates in Hillary Clinton’s favor. His “evidence” was solely derived from his experience at last week’s Commander-in-Chief Forum on NBC. Which, by the way, he said he won. This was his response to anchor Joe Kernan’s question about the upcoming debates with Clinton:
“The fact is that they are gaming the system, and I think maybe we should have no moderator. Let Hillary and I sit there and just debate. Because I think the system is being rigged so it’s going to be a very unfair debate. And I can see it happening right now because everybody was saying that [Matt Lauer] was soft on Trump. Well now the new person is going to try and be really hard on Trump just to show the establishment what he can do. So I think it’s very unfair what they are doing. So I think we should have a debate with no moderator, just Hillary and I sitting there talking.”
Trump, of course, is the one who has been trying to game the system for months. He’s the only one who has had anything to say about the process, particularly with regard to debates. During the GOP primaries his griping forced the party and the press to succumb to his whims.
His proposal to eliminate the moderator is peculiar for two reasons. First, it would make the discussion wholly controlled by the candidates, rather than a neutral party who would introduce topics of importance to voters. Any subject that the candidates found uncomfortable, they would just leave out. That doesn’t serve the principle purpose of the debates which is to enable voters to make informed decisions about the election. A good moderator will also make sure that there is an even distribution of time and that candidates stay on topic.
Secondly, for Trump to suggest a moderator-free debate after he went to such extreme lengths to influence the selection of the moderators is absurd. Politico is reporting that the Commission on Presidential Debates paid deference to Trump with their moderator selections due to their fear of offending him:
“[T]here is wide speculation among media executives that NBC’s Lester Holt, who Trump is comfortable with, was chosen to moderate the first debate with Clinton later this month in order to appease the GOP nominee. Similarly, some also believe that Fox News’ Chris Wallace was tapped to moderate the third and final debate to lessen the likelihood that Trump skips it.”
If that’s true, the Commission failed terribly at their primary task. Allowing any candidate to guide their selection taints the whole process. There ought to be no criteria for the moderators other than their experience and ability. Was Clinton asked who she would feel comfortable with? And Chris Wallace is close friends with (and until last month employed by) Trump’s debate adviser Roger Ailes. That’s more than an appearance of bias.
Yet with all of the advantages Trump has received, he is still the only one bitching about it. He is either the biggest crybaby in politics or he just feels entitled to the special treatment all narcissists expect. That, combined with his innate fear of facing Clinton one-on-one, is what’s driving his cascade of tantrums. However, the Commission and the press should not be capitulating to him. They have already gone way too far by lowering the bar of expectations in his favor.
On Friday Hillary Clinton spoke to a group of donors about how “deplorable” many of Donald Trump’s followers are. She correctly pointed out that his campaign seems to appeal to the racist, sexist, homophobic faction in the Republican Party. In other words … the Republican Party. Almost immediately the StormTrumpers went on the attack accusing Clinton of insulting his pure and virtuous supporters. You know, the ones who beat up protesters and think President Obama is a gay, Muslim, communist from Kenya. Today Clinton got confirmation that she was right.
While attending the ceremonies commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of the terrorist attack on September 11,2001, Clinton briefly fell ill. She left the event early to rest up for bit at her daughter Chelsea’s apartment. Fox News (of course) broke this story with allusions to her overall health for which they had no evidence. The rest of the media piled on shortly thereafter. The so-called “medical episode” was over in less than an hour.
However, the freak-out on the Fox News website had just begun. Commenters on the Clinton story seemed determined to prove that they were, indeed, deplorable sleazeballs, completely devoid of common decency. For many, the only problem with Clinton’s illness was that it wasn’t fatal. Have a look:
These are the folks who are moaning about having been called deplorable. They openly wish for the death of a someone simply because they have political differences of opinion. And this isn’t a unique circumstance (see The Collected Hate Speech Of The Fox News Community). Yet they consider themselves to be patriotic Americans. Well, that isn’t the America that I know. And it isn’t the America that is being honored on this historic anniversary. For the Fox News fans to pick this day of national unity to express these grotesque feelings is utterly atrocious. If they don’t like being called deplorable they can fix that pretty easily: Stop being deplorable.
Here’s more evidence that the right is falling into an abyss of desperation. Donald Trump is clinging feverishly to national polls showing him as competitive. Never mind that they have no bearing on who wins presidential elections. It’s the states that deliver electoral votes and the presidency. On that scale Hillary Clinton is way ahead. The Trump camp knows this, though they will spend the next few weeks frantically trying to divert attention from it.
The latest diversions qualify as certifiably insane. Let’s begin with a charge that emanated from the bowels of Alex Jones’ InfoWars. Jones, you will recall, is a Birther, a 9/11 Truther, and believes that the children murdered at Sandy Hook were all actors. This morning he posted a story alleging that Clinton wore an “earbud” during the Commander-in-Chief Forum last night. She was supposedly being coached with answers from unseen aides off stage. The story was picked up and propelled by the Drudge Report and even Fox News who said that:
“[T]he buzz Thursday morning was more about a report claiming Clinton relied on a ‘micro’ earbud as she fielded questions about national security — a claim her campaign vigorously denied.”
Donald Trump, Jr. tweeted“We cant let Hillary get away with wearing an ear piece during tonights Veteran Forum#HillarysEarPiece#NBCNewsForum” And Fox’s Sean Hannity joined in with a post on the subject as well.
There is just one problem with this crackpottery. The video of the event contains numerous shots of both of Clinton’s ears that plainly have nothing in them. The entire fantasy was born from a single video still that had a random reflection. That was sufficient to set the wingnuts to drooling over the discovery of Clinton’s evil plot. But, see? No earbud!
If that wasn’t enough, Fox News sought to invent another fantastical scandal involving Clinton. This one was from the warped imagination of Stuart Varney, anchor of Varney & Company on the Fox Business Network. He introduced a segment that anxiously wondered “Who is Clinton’s ‘mystery man?’” The report featured video of a well-dressed gentleman accompanying Clinton on the campaign trail. Varney asserted that social media was blowing up over who he might be. He expressed skepticism that he might simply be one of Clinton’s Secret Service agents:
“If he’s actually a member of the Secret Service detail guarding Hillary Clinton, why is he touching her, because he did, he came up on the stage the other night and put his arm around her, and then said ‘Keep talking.’ Surely that is not what the secret service is supposed to do is it?”
Varney’s guest was former Secret Service agent and frequent Fox contributor, Dan Bongino. He offered a theory from way out in right field suggesting that the “mystery man” was “responding to the stage when [Clinton] is in what may have been some kind of a medical crisis.” Varney joined in the wild speculation asking “Is he supporting her during a medical crisis?”
Judging from the video that Varney showed, the man was undoubtedly with Clinton’s Secret Service detail. And he and other agents sprung into action when something occurred in the audience. Clinton, the agent, and others on stage were all looking in the same direction into the crowd. No one appeared to be concerned with Clinton’s health by any stretch of the imagination. See for yourself:
By the end of the segment both Varney and Bongino were dismissing the whole thing as a conspiracy theory that they had just debunked. Which was nice of them after having also just invented it and broadcast it to an audience thirsty for scandal. Both surely knew there was nothing to this before they began, but they considered it too juicy not to plant in the minds of gullible Fox viewers.
Expect to see more of these nutcase studies in Clinton intrigue before the election is over. Fox and Trump will surely uncover evidence of Clinton’s involvement in the Kennedy assassination. Not to mention the Hindenburg crash and fake moon landing. This is all they have left since they nominated a narcissistic ignoramus who can’t go twenty minutes without embarrassing himself and his party.
As the campaign season enters its final stretch the most impactful remaining scheduled events are the candidate debates. The first one is less than three weeks away (September 26). This will be the first time that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will confront each other face to face.
One thing the media has no problem with is endless speculation about the outcomes of future events. Consequently, there is no shortage of analysis of how they expect the candidates to perform. The expectations game in the media, however, is always being prodded by the candidates in order to shape the public perception after the fact. By lowering expectations the candidate can claim victory by simply not blurting out obscenities or drooling.
To that end, Donald Trump is getting a significant boost from the media who are already staking their position on the inferiority of Trump. Ordinarily that would appear to be a realistic assessment. Trump is obviously ill-equipped to debate Hillary Clinton. He is woefully ignorant of domestic policy and world affairs. Match that with his inability to articulate a coherent solution to any problem. The result is a candidate who represents a truly dangerous prospect for national leadership. On the other hand Clinton has a profound depth of knowledge related to the specific prerequisites for governing.
However, in the debate expectations game Trump has the advantage because no one thinks he can compete effectively with Clinton. Unless, that is, you believe that childish insults and deliberate lies are valid methods of scoring points. And the media is taking the lead in propagating Trump’s shortcomings. Some prominent members of the allegedly liberal press are admitting that they have lowered the bar for Trump’s performance. Here are examples from CNN, the New York Times, and the Associated Press:
Dana Bash, CNN: I think the stakes are much higher in this debate and all the debates for Hillary Clinton because the expectations are higher for her because she’s a seasoned politician. She’s a seasoned debater. You know, yes we saw Donald Trump in the primaries debate for the first time, but he is a first-time politician. So um, for lots of reasons. Maybe it’s not fair, but that’s the way it is. The onus is on her.
Maggie Haberman, New York Times: What hurts Hillary Clinton is the bar has been lowered for Trump repeatedly because he keeps getting graded on a curve as her supporters would say and which I think you’ve seen. The question is does he merely pass and have that recorded as, yes, he did very well.
Julie Pace, Associated Press: By virtue of her long political resume, Hillary Clinton will enter her highly anticipated fall debates with Donald Trump facing the same kind of heightened expectations that often saddle an incumbent president. Trump, as the political newcomer, will be more of a wild card with a lower bar to clear.
So poor Donald Trump is such a buffoon that needs to be given “special” consideration. The golf resort baron has a debate handicap that’s higher than his IQ (which isn’t saying much). Never mind that he will tell you he has a tremendous brain and knows more than anybody about anything. He boasted that he won all twelve of the GOP primary debates. And he only participated in eleven of them. His opponents included several people highly regarded for their debating skills. The sharp tongued Chris Christie, senate whiz kid Marco Rubio, and Princeton’s North American Debating Champion of 1992, Ted Cruz.
Still, the media is portraying Trump as a child with a learning disability being forced to compete with Albert Einstein. It’s a flagrantly dishonest assessment that tilts the balance in his favor. It also trivializes the presidency by pretending that Trump’s intellectual inadequacy isn’t an obstacle to serving. And they are only doing it to make more of a horse race out of the election. When the race is tighter people are more engaged, which translates into more viewers and higher ratings. So if one candidate needs a (bone)head start, they’ll give it to him.
Donald Trump has been whining about the debates from the start of his campaign. He complained about the moderators, the length of time, and the participants. After winning the GOP nomination he complained that the general election debate dates were unacceptable and that he wouldn’t participate unless he approved of the moderators. His animosity toward the press is legendary. He blacklisted many news organizations (i.e. Washington Post, Univision, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, and more), prohibiting them from covering his events. Although he just announced that he would end his practice of blacklisting saying “I figure they can’t treat me any worse!”
Americans are going to make an important decision in November. Their only criteria should be whether the candidate is qualified to do the job and represents their interests. Being an idiot does not grant you special privileges or a leg up to the White House. If only one candidate can engage in a substantive discussion, then she deserves to win.
The lengths to which Fox News will go to smear Democrats are still being tested. To date they have shown no qualms about making defamatory inferences, character assassination, and outright lying. But one of the most loathsome tactics they’ve employed is their readiness to embrace unsavory characters as “credible” sources. They often cite known conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones and Glenn Beck for news analysis. And Fox News reporters are always more likely to believe Vladimir Putin or Ayatollah Khamenei or anyone rather than Hillary Clinton.
A superb example of this was just revealed with new findings by the FBI following their investigation into Clinton’s email server. Part of the controversy involved a Romanian hacker who claimed to have accessed Clinton’s server. Marcel Lazar, aka Guccifer, was interviewed in jail by Fox’s Catherine Herridge. Her report stated that he had “easily – and repeatedly – breached” Clinton’s server’s security. He told Herridge that “For me, it was easy … easy for me, for everybody,” Herridge also said that Guccifer had “provided extensive details about how he did it and what he found.”
Herridge also reported the response from Clinton’s campaign:
“There is absolutely no basis to believe the claims made by this criminal from his prison cell. In addition to the fact he offers no proof to support his claims, his descriptions of Secretary Clinton’s server are inaccurate. It is unfathomable that he would have gained access to her emails and not leaked them the way he did to his other victims.”
So given the wild assertions of a jailed Romanian hacker, whose claims Fox admitted they “could not independently confirm,” and the official statement from Clinton’s spokesperson, who do you think Fox News believed?
Consistent with the Fox’s disregard for honesty and ethics, the network latched onto Lazar and his transparent deceit. Fox doesn’t care whether or not he’s telling the truth so long as it’s damaging to Clinton. And why bother giving consideration to an American who has served the public for decades when you have the word of a foreign criminal who might say anything to get a reduced sentence? However, it wasn’t long before the FBI came out with its conclusions following their investigation:
“On May 26,2016 the FBI interviewed Lazar who admitted he lied to FOX News about hacking the Clinton server. FBI forensic analysis of the Clinton server during the timeframe Lazar claimed to have compromised the server did not identify evidence that Lazar hacked the server.”
That’s a pretty definitive refutation of Fox’s star witness. This is someone that formed the basis for an extended smear campaign of Clinton that traversed across the network’s schedule. The hosts of Fox & Friends, Steve Doocy and Ainsley Earhardt speculated that the hacking probably involved many others and would lead to a Clinton indictment. On Fox’s The Five, Eric Bolling repeated Lazar’s claims, as did his co-host, Kimberly Guilfoyle, who also linked it incoherently to Benghazi.
What Fox News did here was inexcusable and irresponsible. They accepted Lazar’s claims as fact and used them as a political weapon. In none of these incidents has Fox News issued a retraction or an apology. They simply make outrageous and untrue allegations and then let them fester, even after they’ve been proven false. It’s standard operating procedure at Fox News and it’s more proof that whatever they do, it isn’t journalism.