Thursday, September 08, 2016

None of the Above for CiC

The biggest loser appears to have been Matt Lauer.  First, to the duopoly combatants.

After months of what the military calls stand-off attacks, launched from a distance, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump finally met on the same stage Wednesday night for hand-to-hand combat.

War analogies are almost as distasteful as football ones, aren't they?

Unfortunately for those seeking information on their respective military policies, they were separated by a half-hour, which meant there was plenty of unilluminating blather spewed by both candidates. That’s to be expected when neither has issued a detailed national-security blueprint or spelled out their plans to defeat ISIS with any specificity.

The candidates ran through their talking points—little they haven’t said before—set apart by stirring martial music, a “live exclusive” MSNBC logo on the screen, and nasal-spray and bladder-control advertisements. Of course, with each candidate limited to about 25 minutes, they couldn’t say much. Clinton spent much of her allotted time responding to questions over her lousy email security while serving as secretary of state. By the time a veteran asked her a serious question about defeating ISIS, moderator Matt Lauer jumped in, encouraging her to answer “as briefly as you can.”

Fun.  The lies and bullshit got thicker, though.

Clinton said she would follow the plodding path blazed by President Obama. “We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again, and we are not putting ground troops into Syria,” she said. “We’re going to defeat ISIS without committing American ground troops.” Trump didn’t address the issue, except to confirm he would destroy ISIS quickly. “The generals have been reduced to rubble,” he argued of the U.S. military’s high command, their hands tied by an overly cautious White House.

But Trump, who said last year that he knew “more about ISIS than the generals do,” has suddenly done an about face and says he will order “my generals”—itself a jarring construction—to devise a plan to defeat ISIS. Obama, of course, has done that as well, and has decided on a go-slow approach to grind the caliphate into dust. Sure, the U.S. could steamroll into the Syrian city of Raqqa, crushing at least ISIS’s physical capital. “I’ve talked to some U.S. generals who are really frustrated,” retired Marine general Anthony Zinni told Time Aug. 31. “They could be in Raqqa in a week.” But that would only set off a new wave of problems, as the U.S. has learned, relearned, and learned again in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Trump dismissed such concerns. In a non-sequitur, he suggested that a Trump Administration would “take the oil” to end such turmoil.

I'm as repulsed as any Clinton supporter.  Believe me.  But because of her lack of press availability over the past year, she was once again forced to refry the email beans.

She may have wanted to talk about why she is qualified to be US commander in chief, but she spent nearly a third of her time on the defensive about her emails.

She talked about classification "headers" and explained that there was "no evidence" her server had been hacked. She even said it may have been safer than those of the state department's, given that the government's (non-classified) system had indeed been breached.

When it came to handling classified information, she was unapologetic. "I did exactly what I should have done and I take it very seriously," she said. "Always have, always will."

For those keeping track at home, Mrs Clinton has gone from asserting that she never relayed classified information to that she never sent "marked" classified documents to that she never sent material with classified headers.

That's the rhetorical equivalent of rear-guard action that ends with your army pushed into the sea.

Her Iraq War authorization as a senator and the Libyan matter were also parsed.  As usual, she was unable to mollify the critics.  But leave it to Lauer to lower the bar enough for both Trump and Clinton to slither under it.

So Lauer didn't correct Trump on his record about Iraq?” The Washington Post’s Phil Rucker tweeted.

The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof wrote that the forum was “an embarrassment to journalism,” while his colleague Paul Krugman wrote that “everyone knew this would happen,” but Lauer didn’t “have a follow-up planned” for Trump’s answer.

"I hate media-on-media violence, but Trump's support for the invasion of Iraq has been. .. rather well documented. No Lauer follow-up?” wrote Yahoo News’ Olivier Knox.

NBC News’ own political unit fact-checked Trump's claim later, calling it “false”.

To be sure, Lauer got credit for pushing Trump on his plan for defeating ISIS and confronting Trump with a tweet of his from 2013 on the thousands of unreported sexual assault in the military where Trump said: “What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?” Many also lamented the short amount of time allotted for each candidate, just 30 minutes including audience questions.

But that didn’t take away from what many journalists saw as a quick and easy fact check.

"How can someone like @MLauer not set the record straight on Trump's bogus claim of being against the war in Iraq?” wrote the Washington Post’s fact checker Glenn Kessler.

Trump was buffoonish on the military rape question as well.

Trump [...]  began by  saying that it is  a "massive problem" and that "we're going to have to come down very, very hard on that."

"The best thing we can do is set up a court system within the military," he said according to Time. "Right now the court system practically doesn't exist."

[...] Lauer quickly interjected to read a tweet from Trump three years ago. In May 2013, Trump said that sexual assault was to be "expected" when you put women in the military:

After Lauer called Trump out on his 3-year-old tweet, Trump maintained saying, "It is a correct tweet. There are many people that think that's absolutely correct."

Lauer then asked if that means Trump would take women out of the military and the Republican nominee said, "No, not take them out, but something has to be happened [sic]. When you have somebody that does something so evil, so bad as that, there has to be consequences for that person. You should have to go after that person. Right now, nobody is doing anything."


Despite the whining in advance that Hillary would "lose" because Trump is graded on a curve, and the predictable and rote complaints about sexism and misogyny (spawning its own hashtag, naturally), it's the macro view of this forum that leaves me disgusted.

The most dispiriting thing Wednesday night was the grim view of the world the candidates gave Americans, with their relentless focus on fighting and terror. That, in part, comes from candidates eager to court—some might say pander to—the military vote. There was scant optimism, reflecting the hunkered-down nature of U.S. politics since 9/11. The frontier spirit that made the U.S.—a national character trait for more than two centuries—was nowhere on the deck of the USS Intrepid, docked in the Hudson River.

More than 500,000 Americans have died on U.S. highways since 9/11. A U.S. resident is 1,000 times more likely to die in a car crash than a terrorist attack. While the federal government has succeeded in reducing the number of vehicle fatalities, few blame the federal government for the asphalt carnage. But because such deaths are an everyday occurrence, they have become part of the white noise of American life.

You wouldn’t know it from listening to the candidates, but the world today is less violent than it has been in generations. If the candidates had focused on that Wednesday night, instead of heightening fears over relatively small threats, the evening could have been inspiring, as well as informative.

With these two odious people?  Not a chance.

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