“I think personally, if you start getting into fact-checking, I’m not sure. What is a big fact? What’s a little fact? And if you and I have different sources of information, does your source about the unemployment rate agree with my source? I don’t think it’s a good idea to get the moderator into essentially serving as the Encyclopedia Britannica.” -- Janet Brown, Executive Director of the Commission on Presidential Debates
You know, if there's one thing political journalists really need right now, it's encouragement to go on pretending Donald Trump isn't a weapons-grade fabricator of baseless bullshit and this election is just like all the rest. According to Brown, it's not the place of the independent voices of the press to immediately call out a lie and correct the record on the spot, where it might actually do some good in the mind of the American public; that job should go to the opposing candidate, so that it seems to any and all like an argument over proven fact is just a matter of "he said/she said."
"In our history, the moderators have found it appropriate to let the candidates be the ones that talk about the accuracy or the fairness of what the other candidate or candidates might have said," Brown said this morning on CNN's Reliable Sources. But not only is that a lousy idea, it has the added benefit of not being entirely accurate, given that when Mitt Romney tried to sell a whopper of an inaccuracy during the 2012 debates, Candy Crowley famously put him in his place right on the spot.
True, moderators aren't there to dive into endless backs-and-forths with the candidates over minutiae, but Trump doesn't traffic in minutiae-sized falsehoods. He doesn't engage in your average political spin or the fudging of facts. He blurts out big, steaming elephant turd-sized lies and does it with such a lack of compunction that it often overwhelms those trying to fact check him. But fact-checking him is an absolute must when the future of the republic is at stake. If Clinton pokes holes in his nonsense, it's just politics. If the moderators do it, it's, you know, journalism.
But, man, if the whole process is this fucked from the start, we may all need that debate drinking game for its anesthetic purposes more than for entertainment.