#LaueringTheBar still was trending this morning as NBC’s Matt Lauer continues to get blistering reviews in the media, old-school and social, for the job he did moderating NBC News/MSNBC’s Commander-in-Chief forum last night. The hashtag began trending Wednesday night on Twitter as the Today co-host wrapped his live Q&A with presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Twelve hours later, it’s trending still.
Rule of thumb: When you are on the front page of both the New York Times and the Washington Post as a prize bungler, you know you’re in trouble.
This morning, public relations execs are emailing reporters covering the election, offering crisis-management experts to discuss not whether Clinton can recover from the grilling she got last night but whether Lauer irreparably damaged his reputation and, if not, what steps must he take to repair the damage.
Lauer has been accused by pundits on both sides of the political aisle of spending way too much time pounding away at Clinton’s email habits as Secretary of State, then rushing her through other topics. When a veteran in the hall asked Clinton how she planned to defeat ISIS, Lauer interrupted, instructing her to answer “as briefly as you can,” so he could get to the rest of his list before his half-hour with her ran out. Lauer was “overly aggressive” with Clinton, to whom he “seemed hostile,” former New York Times media reporter Bill Carter concluded this morning, on CNN.
Meanwhile, Lauer neglected to challenge Trump on several claims, such as his already refuted insistence he always opposed the war in Iraq. Clinton actually had referenced one such occasion when Trump voiced support for the war, during an interview with Howard Stern. Lauer focused on plowing through his list of questions rather than challenging Trump, who sometimes reverted to his effective interview style of talking over the moderator. As one TV news pundit said this morning, in fairness, Lauer’s not the first TV news talent to get sidelined by the real estate developer-turned reality-competition-show executioner.
Even one of MSNBC’s talking heads gave Lauer failing grades on the air, immediately after the forums wrapped. During Rachel Maddow’s post-forum show, Col. Andrew Bacevich scolded that “as a discussion of national security issues and the sort of things we want to hear from a prospective commander in chief, it’s really been a missed opportunity.”
“Questions they should have been asked on that score, they simply were not asked,” he reprimanded. “And the couple of occasions that the question was posed, they evaded it. Before we wrap things up, it seems to me it would be useful to surface the things that ought to be discussed when we are trying to understand the qualifications of somebody to be commander in chief. We did not hear that.”
Bacevich ticked off four or five questions he thought should have been asked, including such basics as: “What have you learned from our unsuccessful wars of the past couple decades, and how would you apply those lessons?” and “What is your understanding of the complexities of the Syrian civil war?” He concluded, “Those are the items that ought to be on a commander in chief’s agenda, and they weren’t even asked.”