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!”
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.
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.