Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Who Needs a Moderator?, Trump Asks

Amid all the hullabaloo over Hillary Clinton’s health, perhaps you missed this latest ploy from Donald Trump:

He wants to change the debate ground rules. He wants to do away with moderators at the three presidential debates. He is trying to game the agreed upon system just like he shortchanged contractors out of their agreed upon compensation for work on his construction projects.

Trump is obviously afraid that moderators with more savvy, sense, intelligence and courage than Matt Lauer will point out his fabrications, inconsistencies and overt lies.

Let’s be clear. Both candidates fudge the truth, but Trump’s lollapaloozas are extreme. It does no one a service, other than Trump, to have him spout inaccuracies. Clinton’s misstatements, as well, need to be clarified and cleansed. An objective, informed, intelligent and courageous moderator should take up the challenge. 

Here’s another thing that needs to be clear: The Trump-Clinton debates will not rival the dignity of the hallowed Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858. Though they will pit a Republican against a Democrat, that’s where the similarities end. The format of those seven classic meetings was not a give and take of candidates answering questions posed by a moderator, each other or member of the public. Rather as explained by Wikipedia, “The format for each debate was: one candidate spoke for 60 minutes, then the other candidate spoke for 90 minutes, and then the first candidate was allowed a 30-minute ‘rejoinder.’ The candidates alternated speaking first.”

In seeking to remove the moderators Trump is suggesting they would be biased against him. He claims the format is rigged against him (http://www.politico.com/story/2016/09/trump-no-debate-moderator-228016). 

A rigged election is a theme Trump has espoused for several weeks as a counterfoil to a potential loss on November 8. “I’m afraid the election’s gonna be rigged, I have to be honest,” Trump said last month in Columbus, Ohio. 

Perhaps no other comment—from his attacks on Mexicans, Muslims, prisoners of war, a Gold Star family, the military leadership—has been more troublesome as it undermines the credibility of our electoral system and the peaceful transition of power. 

Hardly an election goes by that does not engender cries of “foul.” But from Richard Nixon in 1960 through Al Gore in 2000, candidates who felt cheated out of the presidency have considered the consequences a legal challenge to the outcome would have on our democracy. 

Trump, on the other hand, is feeding a frenzied following fodder for physical dissent should he lose. From the outset of his primary run to now, his campaign has not been a combat of ideas and platform planks but rather one of invective and disdain for the truth. 

In case of defeat, Clinton supports half-jokingly talk about moving to Canada. Trumpsters talk about taking back their government, by force if necessary. Paranoia abounds (http://nyti.ms/2bVLlVg).

Democratic paranoia stems from the possibility that Russia might hack the results in key states to tip the election. Already Russia is suspected of hacking election files in Arizona and Illinois. Computer voting with no paper backup is an invitation to confusion, if not disaster.

For a diverting take on how a computer glitch could determine an election, view the 2006 Robin Williams film, Man of the Year. Williams played Tom Dobbs, a TV host-comedian whose acerbic jabs at politics and politicians not only provoked laughter but also propelled him toward a spontaneous populist third party candidacy for the presidency.

Asked during a debate why he was running, Dobbs sounded Trump-like prescient: “I’ve decided to run because I’m fed up with party politics. I’m tired of the Republican Party,  I’m tired of the Democratic Party. There’s no real difference. They’re all Mr. Potato Head candidates. Basically, you’ve got a figure where here’s the operative word, “party,” because behind closed doors, phew,  I think they’re just having a real good time…the bottom line is they’ve lost track of what they are responsible for. They’re responsible to the people and not party loyalties and definitely not lobbyists. That’s why I’m running for president.”

To no one’s surprise who views the movie, spoiler alert, he wins because of a computer screw-up. Watch the movie to find out what happens next.

By the way, did anyone else see the irony of Hillary Clinton’s failed attempt Sunday morning to keep her pneumonia secret coinciding with the Sunday night airing of Churchill’s Secret, a movie on PBS about the British prime minister’s attempt to keep the world in the dark about a life-threatening stroke he suffered in 1953? 

The movie is based on the book by Jonathan Smith, The Churchill Secret KBO. KBO stands for Churchill’s motto, “Keep Buggering On.” Is that not like what Clinton told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “I thought that I could just keep going forward and power through it. And obviously that didn’t work out so well,” she said.

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