vultures

Why Debate Moderators Should Not Fact Check Candidates

Update

Well, the debate happened. Hillary Clinton cleaned Trump’s clock. Trump fell apart. And, by all indications, Lester Holt did a good job.

See? This is the way it’s done:

In both cases, Holt called out Trump’s lies in advance. He called the questions Trump raised about President Barack Obama’s birthplace “false claims” and noted in his question about the Iraq War that Trump had supported the war when it began. Holt then followed up to reiterate contradictions with Trump’s past statements.

Earlier

When Fox News Chris Wallace stated he would not be fact checking the Presidential candidates during the debate he moderated, people’s heads seemed to spontaneously explode.

It is a given that one of the Presidential candidates this year is known for the sheer number of lies he can state within a surprisingly short period of time. The New York Time clocked him at 31 lies in just the last week. And his ability to tell a lie is only matched by his breathtaking level of ignorance about governance and foreign policy.

Combined, the two should generate, at a minimum a great deal of misinformation, and at a maximum, some real whoppers.

It is important to fact-check this and every candidate; even the ones we like and adore. But it is not the job of debate moderators to insert themselves into the debate. If they do, the debate can only result in a “You said this”, “I did not”, “Did, too”, “Did not” point and counter-point.  Not only does this disrupt the debate, it makes the debate about the moderator and the candidate(s), rather than just the candidates.

It is the job of the other candidate to fact-check their opponent. It then becomes the moderator’s job to ensure that such fact-checking doesn’t degenerate into a case of “Did, too”, “Did not”, “Did so”, “No you didn’t”, which benefits no one.

Now, what a skilled moderator can do is be aware of a candidate’s proclivity to stretch the truth on various issues, and coach questions in such a way that they short-circuit this tendency. So, instead of asking a candidate a broad, open-ended question such as “Did you support the invasion of Iraq?”, they can ask, “When you were on Howard Stern’s show in 2002, you said you supported the invasion of Iraq. Why did you feel this was a good move at the time?”

It reminds the candidate of previous fact-checking and forces them to respond to a specific event. If the candidate lies at that point, then it’s obvious. It gives them no room to run, no doorway in which to escape.

In addition, though it may not be the moderator’s job to fact-check, it is most definitely the job of the media. Not only should journalists and pundits point out inconsistencies and fabrications, they should do so in whatever immediate manner they can. This can include TV banners, post-debate discussions that include fact-checking, and even annotating the debate transcripts with asides providing additional information.

However, when a journalist is a debate moderator, they stop being a journalist at that point.

A debate moderator’s job is to ask pertinent, relevant questions that elicit information voters need in order to make an informed choice. To enable this they have to ensure that the point/counter-point between the candidates stays on point and is relevant. And they have to ask questions specific to the individual’s qualifications for the position. It becomes, in effect, a job interview. It provides a way for people to compare the candidates on the issues, not their personalities.

This also means that the debate moderator must avoid pandering to whatever is popular, or focusing on past events that have already been talked to death. In other words, they should avoid asking questions about specifics to the individual and focus, instead, on specifics of the job of President of the United States. This may include asking questions about issues related to past events, and using the event as a locus, but the focus shouldn’t be on the past event, itself.

Yeah, fat chance on that one.

The image is of turkey vultures. It seemed appropriate to the discussion.

Line of mail boxes

Republicans Desperate Attempt to Create a New Clinton Email Scandal

Update

I weep for humanity, I really do.

Now Snopes has a long posting on this story, as if it’s all something incredibly profound. The Hill has decided to double-down on it, like it’s discovered the holy grail. And the House Oversight Committee has ordered Reddit to preserve the posts, even though every single one is already preserved on the Wayback Machine.

Every member of these organization’s IT departments is laughing their heads off right now. Why?

Because all it was, was a simple question asking how to delete an email address in meta date—the only component of Hillary Clinton’s emails that wasn’t relevant then, and isn’t relevant now.

Earlier

An anonymous Twitter user has cracked a new Clinton email scandal.

Not.

A new story in The Hill about the Clinton emails appeared on my radar today. Evidently the House Oversight Committee is, in all seriousness, investigating a Reddit post.

A deleted Reddit post.

This post was dug up out of the archives by an anonymous Twitter account.

Yeah, a deleted, anonymous Reddit account, dug up by an anonymous Twitter Account. What passes for Deep Throat in the social media age.

The Reddit post is from a person with a handle of stonetear. Our intrepid reporters at The Hill and their little pundit minions have loosely connected the stonetear handle to Paul Combetta.

Paul Who?

Paul Combetta is an IT specialist currently employed by Platte River Networks. He was involved in the maintenance of the Clinton email server when it moved to PRN. He’s the guy who told the FBI, “Oh sh..” because he didn’t establish a new protocol to only save emails for 60 days, and when he realized it later, deleted the emails.

Remember BleachBit and Trump’s acid wash? Yeah, that IT guy.

Anyway, the recovered Reddit post is asking for tech help:

“Hello all- I may be facing a very interesting situation where I need to strip out a VIP’s (VERY VIP) email address from a bunch of archived email that I have both in a live Exchange mailbox, as well as a PST file,” stonetear wrote. “Basically, they don’t want the VIP’s email address exposed to anyone, and want to be able to either strip out or replace the email address in the to/from fields in all of the emails we want to send out. I am not sure if something like this is possible with PowerShell, or exporting all of the emails to MSG and doing find/replaces with a batch processing program of some sort. Does anyone have experience with something like this, and/or suggestions on how this might be accomplished?”

The date on the post is July 23, 2014, the day after the House Benghazi Committee and State reached an agreement on producing Clinton’s emails.

All the little tin hats are just having a field day with this. So much so that I hate to burst their bubble.

But I’m going to burst their bubble.

Whether stonetear is Combetta or not, all this post tells us is that an IT person was trying to strip out an email address from a bunch of emails.

Were they Clinton emails? Probably not, but it doesn’t matter. I can say this because a) Hillary Clinton was no longer using the email address at the time the emails were turned over, b) Clinton’s email address was already known at the time, and c) the Clinton emails published by State all display Clinton’s old email address. The email address wasn’t stripped.

You strip out an email address because you don’t want the public to get access to it. Other than that, there’s no reason to do so.

It made absolutely no difference in the Clinton emails.

That isn’t to say that our friends at Judicial Watch didn’t do their usual misrepresentation of the non-story.

Notice the reference to Delete ‘Very VIP’ Emails. No longer deleting email address…emails.

Don’t these people have a life?

Ms. Squirrel is ready for the rock to roll

Note to Trump: Clinton Emails Have Been Released

In a gentle interview with Bill O’Reilly, Trump made the following statement:

“When is she going to release her emails?” Trump asked. “Let her release her emails and I’ll release my tax returns immediately.”

Well, then, we should expect to see Trump’s tax returns any moment now.

Clinton released her email server, and thus all her emails, to the FBI months ago. The FBI has been able to discover several thousand deleted emails, which it turned over to the State Department last month. Eventually, emails determined to be State Department records and that aren’t exempt will be released to the public.

But, to all intents and purposes, Hillary Clinton has released all her emails.

If that isn’t sufficient, two separate judges have demanded that the State Department begin releasing emails responsive to their separate FOIA lawsuits in September. Emails responsive to the FOIA requests will begin to be delivered in one case, September 13, and in another, September 30. And additional emails will be delivered on a rolling basis throughout October.

However, we don’t have to wait. Yesterday, the State Department released nine pages of newly discovered emails to Judicial Watch. These emails are related to its search for Benghazi-related material.

The first email was one of the many where Clinton forwarded the email on to her assistant to print. The forwarded email was from Rick Jasculca, CEO of Jasculca Terman and Associates, sent to Huma Abedin. In it, Jasculca wrote:

Huma, I think you know how much I, and our entire family, loves Hillary as a friend. She has long been both a hero and a role model in our world.

But, it took some kind of special courage to step to the plate and take responsibility for what happened in Benghazi.

At a time where there is literally no moral or political courage being demonstrated anywhere, it seems somehow appropriate that, in the same week, both Malala and Hillary stood tall.

I have never been more proud to call Hillary a friend, and I’d appreciate it if you could share that with her.

Much love,

Grandpa Rick

The other emails echo the same theme. I’ll leave it to you all to guess why Judicial Watch hasn’t released this new FOIA production, yet.

If Trump is a man of his word, he should at least begin to turn over some of his tax records. He can start small: release his 2008 tax return now, as a show of good faith. He can then continue to release one new tax return year for every new FOIA email production.

One tax return not being audited now, and additional returns published as Clinton emails are produced. Surely a man of his word would be eager to follow through on his promise.