The BBC has a roundup this morning of the media’s reaction to last night’s “Commander in Chief Forum,” and the general consensus is that Matt Lauer, the event’s moderator, blew it bigtime.
To illustrate its point, the network provides a bevy of quotes from major media outlets:
“Matt Lauer Failed The Moderator Test” blared the Huffington Post.
“Matt Lauer’s Pathetic Interview of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Is the Scariest Thing I’ve Seen in This Campaign” said New York magazine.
And, in the New York Times: “Matt Lauer Fields Storm of Criticism Over Clinton-Trump Forum”.
Vox focused on the main point of contention: “Matt Lauer totally blew it on Trump’s blatant lying about Iraq and Libya.”
If you look closely, you will notice that all of these sources lean left, some more heavily than others. But they share another bond, which you discover on further scrutiny. To wit: They all complain that Lauer didn’t do more to help Hillary Clinton and hurt Donald Trump.
Here’s the HuffPo’s analysis of Lauer’s failing:
During the first half of an hourlong event, Hillary Clinton pointed out to Lauer that Republican nominee Donald Trump had expressed support for the Iraq War prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion, even though he’s falsely claimed throughout his entire candidacy to have been staunchly opposed to it.
“My opponent was for the war in Iraq,” Clinton said at the forum simulcast on NBC and MSNBC. “He says he wasn’t. You can ― you can go back and look at the record. He supported it. He told Howard Stern he supported it.”
But when Trump took the stage in the second half of the event, he cited his criticism of the war in an August 2004 Esquire story as evidence he opposed the invasion, which actually began 16 months earlier. In a room full of Iraq War veterans, Lauer didn’t challenge Trump’s false claim.
I am not defending Trump here. He has reversed himself on a number of occasions, including whether he approves of and/or ever met Vladimir Putin. But it’s hard to ignore the fact that Hillary Clinton spread a pretty thick layer of manure during her half hour. (She also breached the sole ground rule that each candidate limit his comments to his own record and not attacks on his opponent, but that’s another story.)
Clinton’s worst lies came at the beginning when Lauer, to his credit, asked her some incisive questions about her handling of confidential and classified information during her tenure as secretary of State. One of his opening questions and one of the toughest was whether the poor judgment she displayed in using a private email server shouldn’t disqualify her from becoming commander-in-chief. Clinton responded with this:
[T]he real question is the handling of classified material, which is I think what the implication of your question was. And for all the viewers watching you tonight, I have a lot of experience dealing with classified material, starting when I was on the Senate Armed Services Committee going into the four years as secretary of state. [Emphasis added]
Really? She’s so experienced that she was unaware that the letter “C” on documents stood for “classified.”
She went on to mention in the same response that classified material has a header that designates it as such. That is true, but Lauer missed the opportunity to point out to her that on at least one occasion, she ordered Jake Sullivan, one of her right hands at State, to remove the classified heading. Here’s an email from 2011 where she gives such an instruction as a fix for a technical problem:
When one of the military veterans in the audience pointed out that if he had shared the same kind of sensitive information she had, he “would have been prosecuted and imprisoned,” she danced furiously:
First, as I said to Matt, you know and I know classified material is designated. It is marked. There is a header so that there is no dispute at all that what is being communicated to or from someone who has that access is marked classified.
She went on in this same manner for another hundred words without coming close to addressing the conspicuous double standard the officer’s question highlighted. Lauer could have followed up on this but instead moved on to his next question.