Media unanimous in its verdict: NBC’s Matt Lauer needs to be sent back to the minors
The fall stretch run to Election Day did not start out well last night, with NBC making a major mistake in its choice of moderator for the first real showdown between the nominees
Last night was truly bizarre for me, one of those nights where you just think you are seeing and hearing things. This really can’t be happening, right?
It started with the NBC Commander-in-Chief Forum, a one hour forum that turned out to be what we should have expected it to be, a one hour television show.
Hosted by Matt Lauer, a man who dropped out of Ohio University’s School of Telecommunications and only when it became an embarrassing note on his resume did he return to get his degree. Why he was chosen by NBC, which broadcasts The Apprentice, did it become obvious why he was chosen.
LAUER: But what have you done in your life that prepares you to send men and women of the United States into harm’s way?
TRUMP: Well, I think the main thing is I have great judgment. I have good judgment. I know what’s going on. I’ve called so many of the shots. And I happened to hear Hillary Clinton say that I was not against the war in Iraq. I was totally against the war in Iraq. From a — you can look at Esquire magazine from ’04. You can look at before that.
And I was against the war in Iraq because I said it’s going to totally destabilize the Middle East, which it has. It has absolutely been a disastrous war, and by the way, perhaps almost as bad was the way Barack Obama got out. That was a disaster.
Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock the past year, you know this is something that has been discussed endlessly in the media. Trump says he was against the war in Iraq (good thing), even though there is zero evidence that this is true (bad thing). It has been pointed out enough times that Trump had said on the Howard Stern show in 2002 if he was for invading Iraq, saying “Yeah, I guess so. I wish the first time it was done correctly.”
Ok, it was an off-the-cuff comment, to be sure. But he said it, so why not ask him about the comment and see what he has to say about it?
Instead, Lauer lobbed a softball question at Trump. Set it up on a tee and watched him bat (more on baseball in a moment).
“People talk about you and commander-in-chief, and not just Secretary Clinton, but some of your Republican opponents in the primary season, and they wonder about your temperament. They say, does Donald Trump have the temperament to be commander-in-chief?” Lauer asked.
But if you think I am going to talk about Trump you’re wrong, I’ll leave that to the pundits. What startled me was the reaction of journalists on Twitter and elsewhere.
I like to have Twitter open during television events because I want to know how the media is reacting to the event. Generally, like during yesterday’s Apple iPhone event, the reaction is to make bad jokes (I do it, too), snarky comments, or occasionally some fact checking.
Last night, the reaction to Matt Lauer’s performance was instant, and unanimously negative.
“So Lauer didn’t correct Trump on his record about Iraq?” Phil Rucker of The Washington Post’s tweeted.
Seriously — everyone, and I mean everyone, knew this would happen. And Matt Lauer didn’t have a followup planned? https://t.co/mm5ufZKjEx
— Paul Krugman (@paulkrugman) September 8, 2016
It was an avalanche of negative reaction. Many accused Lauer of concentrating on Hillary Clinton’s emails, while asking soft questions of Trump. But it was the failure to follow-up that made so many angry.
The reason, of course, is that Lauer represented all of US journalism, and the image seem last night was very bad, indeed. Politics as entertainment, NBC protecting its Apprentice franchise, sexism – you name it, it all came out last night.
And, oddly, that is a good thing. It was nice to see so many angry at their profession. Hell, I’ve been angry at mine for years. Every time I think about those running the country’s largest newspaper and magazine properties I think “what qualifies them to be in their place?” (Usually it is because their last night is the same as the person who put them in their position. Don’t tell me there is no royalty in the US.)
So, ironically, I actually think the media did OK last night. The real star of the show was Matt Lauer, and he made sure everyone would remember his performance (which may not have been quite as bad as his critics said). Nonetheless, the reviews are in, now we can hope the show gets cancelled.
Then, I mistakenly stayed up to watch the Giants close out their game with the Rockies (the baseball reference from above).
Since most TNM readers are from the East Coast or from Europe, you may not be aware what a nightmare the second half of the season has been for the Giants. They were supposed to win this year, being an even numbered year, but it won’t happen. It turns out that the team is old, and bad trades have decimated the farm system. The bullpen is a disaster and last night was no different, with three different pitchers appearing in the bottom of the ninth, all being ineffective.
But like the reaction to Matt Lauer’s performance, the reaction from fans and the media was also encouraging: the team and coaching staff have blown it, and it is too late to fix things.
Somehow baseball is more upsetting to me than politics. With the end of the baseball season approaching I can look forward to a long cold winter. With politics, if the wrong candidate wins in November I will be soliciting a job from TNM readers somewhere in Europe (keep me in mind!). But what I will miss most if I move to Europe to work is one thing: baseball.