It seems Donald Trump’s endless temper tantrums and baseless accusations about media bias are having their intended effects. As the crucial presidential debates draw near, the organization behind them is showing signs of losing its spine.
The Commission on Presidential Debates announced that it was delaying its moderator list until September because it is scared to choose a moderator that Donald Trump doesn’t like. As CNN reports, the Commission wants there to be no question of impartiality, but Trump has at one time or another accused nearly every single potential journalist of being unfair to him. They don’t know what to do.
“The delay is due in part to an unprecedented challenge the bipartisan Commission faces in selecting individuals who are immune (or at least as immune as possible) to accusations of bias. While that is always a concern for the Commission, the sources said it is more challenging than ever this time around due to one factor: Donald Trump.
The last thing the Commission wants is for the moderator to become part of the story about a debate. Yet Trump’s aggressive attacks on the media and complaints about unfair treatment have effectively guaranteed that the moderators will come under scrutiny from conservatives.
This has made the Commission even more cautious than usual in researching potential moderators, sources said.”
The commission now seems to be bending over backward to find moderators who have been nice to Trump so that he has no grounds to complain. Which is, of course, exactly what Donald Trump wants. At this point in the race, most serious journalists from most serious news outlets have burned their bridges with Trump’s campaign by pointing out and (occasionally) standing up to Trump’s repeated lies.
Things as mundane as accurately quoting the Republican candidate have led to many news organizations to be banned from covering Trump’s campaign. Others have faced repeated smears and endless accusations from Trump’s Twitter account. Recently, Trump painted the entire media as being against him.
It is being reported by virtually everyone, and is a fact, that the media pile on against me is the worst in American political history!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2016
Meanwhile, Trump is consolidating his power in the right-wing media. In an unprecedented move, he went as far as to hire the man who runs Breitbart News, a website devoted to the promotion of racism and fringe conspiracies, to work as CEO of his campaign. Now, Breitbart operates as a de facto propaganda wing for the Trump campaign. Fox News has fallen in line as well, with Trump making nearly nightly appearances on Sean Hannity’s program, where he is deified. The rest of the media he shuns.
Trump’s vicious lashing out at the media has made typically no-nonsense journalists gun shy to cross him. And not without reason. Reporters who cross him have been met with threats and vitriol. At a recent rally, an NBC reporter had to be escorted from the building after the Secret Service deemed it impossible to protect her from the mob of Trump fans who showed up. Reporters have said hostility towards them at rallies is becoming increasingly common.
Typical Trump supporter at Trump rally.
Now imagine millions of them.
Every single one is voting 11/8.
— The Baxter Bean (@TheBaxterBean) August 13, 2016
So who does the Debate Commission have left? Who would pass Trump’s absurdly rigorous “fairness” test? The only media people Trump seems to like are Sean Hannity; the writers at Breitbart; and the man many describe as the “stupidest man on the internet,” right-wing conspiracy theorist Jim Hoft. Hardly a group that can, or should, be entrusted to give America an open and honest debate.
No doubt this is great news for Trump. The candidate seems aware that the debates have the potential to be deeply humiliating for him. Whatever one’s opinion about Clinton there is no denying that, as President Obama noted during his DNC speech, she is perhaps the most qualified person ever to run for the office. She knows her stuff. Trump, on the other hand, seems to struggle with even basic foreign and domestic policy details. The asymmetry in skill may explain why Clinton’s camp can’t seem to wait for the debates to start, while Trump has floated the idea that he may boycott completely.
If the Debate Commission unfairly puts its thumb on the scales to make Trump happy, it will rob America of a chance to see the Republican candidate for who he really is: A belligerent know-nothing.
Featured image via Joe Raedle/Getty Images