The Friday night “week in politics” segments on NPR and PBS both investigated whether Matt Lauer was biased against Hillary Clinton in NBC’s commander-in-chief forum on Wednesday night. On NPR's All Things Considered, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne picked the Clinton-toady spin that Lauer spent too much time on the e-mail scandal instead of “substantive issues.”
DIONNE: I think one of Matt Lauer's problems is he -- so much attention was given to the email controversy that there wasn't as much time left for all the substantive issues there. He came under attack for that. He interrupted Clinton a lot and pushed her in a way he didn't push Trump.
That’s flatly wrong. Lauer interrupted Trump more than he interrupted Mrs. Clinton. And how is it that Mrs. Clinton recklessly sending around classified documents isn’t a “substantive issue,” and certainly a national-security issue? It’s easy to guess that if the Republican candidate had sent classified information in e-mails, Dionne would insist that candidate should be prosecuted.
At least New York Times columnist David Brooks acted like a true moderate, saying both candidates were dreadful, and the criticism of Lauer only came because Hillary didn’t perform well:
BROOKS: I thought Matt Lauer got hammered because Hillary Clinton did badly. And whenever a candidate does badly, the tendency on that side's partisans is to attack the moderator. I thought he did fine, but she did poorly and Trump did poorly. And so people are unhappy with the moderator. I do think one or two fact-checks is fine for a moderator, and probably the right thing to do, as Candy Crowley did. But the idea that this is going to be a debate between the moderator and the candidates is the wrong idea.
Brooks was stronger on his dislike for the candidates on the PBS NewsHour, uttering this memorable silliness: “I thought they both lost. I thought America lost. Humanity lost. A little piece of my soul died.”
Mark Shields didn’t want to criticize Lauer, but he did offer another liberal trait, assuring the PBS audience that the dumber Republican candidate can put together a “coherent sentence” and win on likability, even though he’s dumber:
SHIELDS: There is no question that, in 1980, Ronald Reagan had been portrayed as a war-monger, somebody who couldn’t do anything off a script. And the one debate with President Jimmy Carter, he stood toe-to-toe and reassured people that he wasn’t bound and determined to start World War III on the spot and could make a coherent statement.
So, I mean, there is a lot more to a debate than there was on Wednesday night. And, in 2004, I think it’s pretty obvious that John Kerry won the three debates on debating terms, but in the final analysis, George Bush was reelected because voters chose “I like” over “IQ.”