Tuesday, September 27, 2016

All Things in Moderation

Al Mohler has a lot of good things to say on today’s Briefing about last night’s presidential debate. But I don’t agree with what he says about Lester Holt’s moderation. To paraphrase Mohler, it’s true that Holt was not a neutral and objective moderator; but we shouldn’t fault him too quickly, because no individual is truly neutral and objective.

Now in one sense, that’s very true. No individual is perfectly neutral about anything. But I don’t think this acknowledgement should cause us to wave off the fact that Holt was blatantly going after Trump in a way that he never even came close to doing with Hillary.

It shouldn’t be difficult for a moderator to refrain from rebutting or correcting a candidate during the course of a debate. That’s not his job any more than it is the job of a random studio audience member. The moderator’s job is to ask the questions and make sure everyone more-or-less sticks to their time limits. That’s it. He is not in any sense a participant in the debate itself.

So if one of the candidates says something that’s factually inaccurate, the moderator has no business correcting it. It’s the opponent’s job to point out such things, and our job as viewers to discern such things. (The moderator also shouldn’t even be drawing attention to the fact that a candidate hasn’t adequately answered a question, as was true of Trump several times.)

Moreover, Holt was “correcting” Trump about things that are so obviously subjective and disputable. For example, at one point, Trump stated that he had opposed the war in Iraq, to which Holt quickly responded, “The record shows otherwise.” Excuse me, Lester? First off, what exactly is this objective and omniscient “The Record” to which you are referring?

But the main problem with this is that it’s precisely the kind of thing that a debate moderator has no business doing, whether he be Lester Holt or Chris Wallace.

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