The deck was stacked against Clinton at last night’s NBC presidential forum. Matt Lauer, who rolled over like a trained poodle when presented with 99 percent of Trump’s lies, had his real journalist hat on when grilling Clinton. The questions she received from the audience were more pointed as well, compared to the relatively straightforward ones Trump still managed to screw up. If you needed evidence that Clinton is being graded on a curve, this was it.
As my colleague Ryu Spaeth wrote this morning, Clinton’s performance shouldn’t really matter. This election is about Donald Trump, and there was plenty of evidence in last night’s 30-minute interview that he is not fit to lead.
But still: Going into the debates, Hillary Clinton has to do better. Last night, she played political prevent defense. She was trying to project an appearance of being detail-oriented and ready to lead, but she came off, as The Daily Beast wrote shortly after the debate, as “lawyerly—technical where unnecessary, vague where details were necessary, or simply utterly wrong.”
The way she addressed the question of ISIS were representative. Clinton, like Trump, did not explain how she would defeat ISIS; unlike Trump, she presented something that sounded like a plan, but wasn’t. “We have to defeat ISIS,” she said. “That is my highest counterterrorism goal. And we’ve got to do it with air power. We’ve got to do it with much more support for the Arabs and the Kurds who will fight on the ground against ISIS.” But we won’t do it with ground troops, she insisted. It was a mix of defensiveness (trying to atone for her previous position on the Iraq War) and pandering (We’re going to defeat ISIS!), with a hint of her real strength: her passionate and comprehensive policy knowledge.
At other times, she simply seemed defensive.
Again, Clinton was held to a different standard than Trump on Wednesday night. But answers like this don’t work in a presidential forum and they especially won’t work when juxtaposed with Trump’s straight talk.