Despite Jonathan Chait and “Joe” Scarborough’s rending of garments, I thought Hillary Clinton did her usual professional job answering pointless questions about her emails. Moderator Matt Lauer, who looked shrunken from the effort of staying awake this late, might have thought asking Clinton about the emails and the Chappaqua server were an attempt at “balance”; he might also have genuinely cared about the responses. But the answers convinced no one who didn’t want to be convinced. Most people without blinkered ideas about American greatness and who don’t need strong men administering a dole thought Donald J. Trump looked as moronic as any person who’s run for the presidency, and this includes George W. Bush, who compensated for his imbecility with political chops. But Chait:
Trump went on to make a series of wild and dangerous statements. He praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a strong, effective, and popular leader. Lauer did press him on this point, and when he did, Trump offered the astonishing rebuttal, saying President Obama had done equivalently brutish things. Lauer did not press Trump on his claim that the president of the United States behaves in a fundamentally similar way to a dictator who imprisons and kills political critics and journalists. Trump likewise reiterated his belief that “to the victor go the spoils” is the proper basis for American foreign policy, specifically with regard to his long-standing lament that the United States failed to steal Iraq’s oil after the 2003 invasion.
Lauer’s attempt to press Trump was the completely ineffectual technique of asking repeatedly if he is ready to serve as commander-in-chief. Lauer probably believes the answer is no, but nothing about this question would drive home Trump’s extraordinary lack of knowledge. Instead it allowed him to performatively demonstrate his confident, alpha-male reality-show character as a prospective chief executive.
Assuming that Lauer’s “Today Show” audience followed him to MSNBC last night, Chait overestimates the “forum”‘s impact on the race but not on grammarians:
Lauer: So, is the plan you’ve been hiding this whole time asking someone else for their plan?
Trump: No. But when I do come up with a plan that I like, and that perhaps agrees with mine — or maybe doesn’t — I may love what the generals come back with…
He’ll come up with a plan of his own that agrees with his. America is ready.