Going back to the debate, which really was the most fun thing that happened this week … now Trump is whining that Lester Holt “went after” him and asked him unfair questions. In truth, Lester Holt was barely there and only occasionally got in a word edgewise.
But in reviewing the transcript, it struck me that Holt spent more time aiming questions at Trump simply because Trump wouldn’t provide simple answers. Hillary Clinton would answer questions. She spoke in complete sentences that got right to what she wanted to say. Trump would spew out word salad, and Holt kept having to ask the same question again. For example:
HOLT: Mr. Trump, we’re talking about the burden that Americans have to pay, yet you have not released your tax returns. And the reason nominees have released their returns for decades is so that voters will know if their potential president owes money to — who he owes it to and any business conflicts. Don’t Americans have a right to know if there are any conflicts of interest?
TRUMP: I don’t mind releasing — I’m under a routine audit. And it’ll be released. And — as soon as the audit’s finished, it will be released.
But you will learn more about Donald Trump by going down to the federal elections, where I filed a 104-page essentially financial statement of sorts, the forms that they have. It shows income — in fact, the income — I just looked today — the income is filed at $694 million for this past year, $694 million. If you would have told me I was going to make that 15 or 20 years ago, I would have been very surprised.
But that’s the kind of thinking that our country needs. When we have a country that’s doing so badly, that’s being ripped off by every single country in the world, it’s the kind of thinking that our country needs, because everybody — Lester, we have a trade deficit with all of the countries that we do business with, of almost $800 billion a year. You know what that is? That means, who’s negotiating these trade deals?
We have people that are political hacks negotiating our trade deals.
HOLT: The IRS says an audit…
TRUMP: Excuse me.
HOLT: … of your taxes — you’re perfectly free to release your taxes during an audit. And so the question, does the public’s right to know outweigh your personal…
TRUMP: Well, I told you, I will release them as soon as the audit. Look, I’ve been under audit almost for 15 years. I know a lot of wealthy people that have never been audited. I said, do you get audited? I get audited almost every year.
And in a way, I should be complaining. I’m not even complaining. I don’t mind it. It’s almost become a way of life. I get audited by the IRS. But other people don’t.
I will say this. We have a situation in this country that has to be taken care of. I will release my tax returns — against my lawyer’s wishes — when she releases her 33,000 e-mails that have been deleted. As soon as she releases them, I will release.
I will release my tax returns. And that’s against — my lawyers, they say, “Don’t do it.” I will tell you this. No — in fact, watching shows, they’re reading the papers. Almost every lawyer says, you don’t release your returns until the audit’s complete. When the audit’s complete, I’ll do it. But I would go against them if she releases her e-mails.
HOLT: So it’s negotiable?
TRUMP: It’s not negotiable, no. Let her release the e-mails. Why did she delete 33,000…
HOLT: Well, I’ll let her answer that.
All that verbiage, and he never answered the question. Then we turn to Secretary Clinton:
HOLT: He also — he also raised the issue of your e-mails. Do you want to respond to that?
CLINTON: I do. You know, I made a mistake using a private e- mail.
TRUMP: That’s for sure.
CLINTON: And if I had to do it over again, I would, obviously, do it differently. But I’m not going to make any excuses. It was a mistake, and I take responsibility for that.
Done and done. Of course, it would have been better had she made that statement earlier, like about 2012. She has her own problem with directly responding to criticism. But she got it right on Monday.
But that’s a pattern that was repeated as the night wore on. Holt asked Clinton a question, and she would answer it. Holt asked Trump a question, and some weird steam-of-consciousness ravings would come out of his mouth that were barely related to the question. So Holt would push the question a couple more times, and Trump would get more agitated and belligerent.
But in truth Lester Holt said very little during the debate, and for long stretches of time it was just the two candidates reacting to each other.