David Levi Strauss / Dispatch / The Race

Dispatch 24: The Lauer Depths


WITH luck, money, and Matt Lauer, who needs a plan? The “Today Show” host should send Trump an invoice, after tossing him softballs for most of his half-hour interview last night, and failing to provide a modicum of fact-checking of the candidate’s patently false statements. Or perhaps NBC News chairman Andy Lack has a bigger deal in the works, for a new “White House Apprentice” show on NBC.

NBC’s event, sponsored by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association and held at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum off the West Side Highway in Manhattan, with a clear view of the World Trade Center site, one week before the 15th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11, should have been a serious event. Instead, NBC treated it like a game show.

Trump won the coin toss and elected to go second. Matt Lauer opened round one by asking Hillary Clinton what she thought the most important quality was for a Commander-in-Chief. When she replied, “Steadiness. Steadiness and strength,” Lauer said “You’re talking about judgment,” and launched into a series of oft-repeated accusations about Clinton’s use of a private email server as Secretary of State that took up half of Clinton’s time. He paused only long enough to take the first question from the audience, from Lt. John Lester, a Republican. His question was, basically, “Why aren’t you in prison?”

Granted, this was going to be a tough crowd for Clinton, no matter how it was handled. Polls show Trump is up about 20 points among veterans. But Clinton’s credentials and experience in military matters are sterling, and to prevent her from talking about them in this forum was a premeditated crime.

Trump won the night because the form was all in his favor. He was more entertaining. You could see it in the faces and the body language of the veterans sitting around him. He said some outrageous things. He said that the people who gave him his mandated intelligence briefings made it clear (through their body language) that they were angry because Obama, Kerry, and Clinton had not taken their advice. He said the generals had been “reduced to rubble” by Obama and that he would choose new generals. And he said that he would “take the oil” in Iraq, because “to the victor go the spoils.” The first two of these statements involve illegal and unconstitutional actions, and the third would constitute a war crime.

But Matt Lauer didn’t respond to any of these outrageous statements.

This debacle on the Hudson is a dark harbinger of the Presidential debates to come, beginning with the one September 26, moderated by “NBC Nightly News” anchorman Lester Holt. If the Lauer/Lack methodology continues in this forum, it will be almost impossible for Hillary Clinton to make her case to the public, and the rise of Trump in the most recent polls will continue.

Donald Trump’s campaign, from the beginning, has been designed to obliterate the line between entertainment and politics. Obviously, this is a process that began long ago, and we are now in the terminal stages of it. We’re still using the old language, but it’s a new game. We still talk about “Trump supporters,” but we mean Trump fans. Some older reporters who still remember “the News” and “broadcast journalism,” natter on about their responsibility to the American people and the importance of a reasoned debate about political policies and issues. Trump himself continues to use this antiquated language at times, even as he ignores all of its precepts.

But this is truly a New Media World: one in which Trump’s methods, and his politics, have the clear advantage.

David Levi Strauss
Thursday, September 8, 2016

LINK to all David Levi Strauss Power 2016 Dispatches

[Photography: Jon Winet. July 28, 2016. Stairwell, Wells Fargo Center. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Click on image to see an enlargement.]


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