TV Critic: 'Unhelpful' Chris Wallace 'Came Down Harder on Clinton'

October 20th, 2016 3:49 PM

While Fox's Chris Wallace has drawn near-universal praise for moderating the final presidential debate, the Hollywood trade paper Variety carried the contrarian headline: "Final Debate: Wallace Misses." TV critic Sonia Soraiya wrote Wallace’s questions “provided some of the most heartfelt responses from her [Hillary] , such as her articulate, emotional statement of purpose on abortion.”

On the other hand, Wallace’s questions had the effect of equalizing the two candidates, a journalistic tic that is admirable but unhelpful in 2016. Trump’s mendacious statements going unchallenged did not help anyone except Trump himself, and Clinton, who had the unenviable task of trying to defend herself while also fact-checking a demagogue, was frequently too busy juggling her own complicated spin to address his.

Wallace, who as a Fox News anchor is familiar with the long tradition of demonizing the Clintons, also came down harder on Clinton — understandable for the most conservative moderator, but frustrating for anyone with a passing relationship with the truth. While Trump’s assertion that he was pro-life went by without a hitch, Wallace asked Clinton to justify her position on partial-birth abortion — a buzzy topic from two decades ago if there ever was one.

Later, Clinton was asked to address a paragraph from hacked emails, which forced her to both address that the hack originated in Russia and that the quote was taken out of context. Trump, who insisted he did not know Russian president Vladimir Putin, wasn’t even directly asked about his relationship to Russia, instead getting the softball question, which he could barely answer, of whether or not he would “condemn” the hacks.

Indeed, Wallace’s approach towards moderating pointed back to a bygone, halcyon era — the ‘90s — where hand-wringing over the national debt and pillorying the Clintons were de rigueur. The moderator asked about American intervention abroad, “entitlements,” and GDP growth, engaging with a very classic set of conservative viewpoints with deep roots in the political consciousness.....Meanwhile, pressing and (more) emergent issues such as climate change, police brutality, LGBTQ rights, and mass incarceration never made it onto the table.

Isn't it bizarre to suggest national debt is a "bygone" issue, when Obama's added so much more to the debt than Bill Clinton during his presidency? (It's more understandable that an abortion fan would find it "archaic" to focus on abortion in the ninth month.)

Soraiya found Wallace's moderation offered a "strangely retro capper" to debate season.

Trump performed as well as he ever has, while Clinton was put on the defensive against the moderator for the first time in these three debates. Wallace, switching between the two, seemed wistful for a GOP that would not have allowed either of these candidates to their podiums. But although it is difficult to fault Wallace for his decorum and grace under pressure, his methods and concerns did not seem wholly appropriate for this day and age of upside-down politicking, where the GOP nominee routinely responds to the Democrat’s critiques with a variation of the playground taunt — I know you are, but what am I?