I'm not a fan of the "This Person DESTROYED XXX in Heated Debate" headlines for a number of reasons. The first is that TV political debates rarely have actual winners -- most people believe the person they liked beforehand won regardless of what actually happened. Second, most of the debates are pointless spectacles that do little more than damage discourse and deepen divisions.
That being said, there are times when using the TV political show format to counter lying, smearing and blatant propaganda is a good thing. While minds may not be changed, it is important to provide an aggressive defense of reality and truth. Last night, Stormy Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti finally agreed to go on Tucker Carlson's show to debate him, and effectively countered Carlson's incessant smearing and dishonesty.
Carlson and the Fox News network has engaged in a long campaign to discredit Avenatti by calling him "the creepy porn lawyer" and accused him of using the scandal to further his own career interests (Avenatti is apparently interested in running for office). Carlson, a man who makes millions promoting thinly veiled racism, apparently sees himself as a truly subjective player just trying to get to the truth. Carlson trades in this type of intellectual dishonesty, so it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that he has tried to smear Avenatti. Carlson correctly sees Avenatti as a danger to the Trump presidency given his in depth knowledge of the president's attempt to cover up his payment to Daniels, and has attacked his character to draw attention away from the issue.
What was somewhat surprising though, was the brazen hit job Carlson and his team tried to pull off after promising beforehand he would not refer to Avenatti as "the creepy porn lawyer". Carlson solemnly swore he wasn't going to use the term before the interview, promising his audience he was going to engage in a substantive debate. As soon as the interview started, Fox ran a huge graphic underneath Carlson and Avenatti that read: "CREEPY PORN LAWYER TOYING WITH 2020 RUN". The graphic and other variations of it, ran throughout the entire show. Even for Carlson and Fox, this was a low blow.
Regardless of the underhanded tactics, Avenatti proved himself to be an effective antidote to Carlson's dishonesty. He had forced Carlson to agree to not interrupt him in order to come on the show, no doubt having studied up on the Fox propagandists hectoring style. When Carlson is losing an argument, he interrupts, changes the topic, and begins to get personal with his guests. Carlson even cuts their mic or boots them off the show, claiming that "I can't reason with someone like you" etc, etc. Avenatti wasn't having any of it and forced Carlson to engage on more equal terms.
Carlson tried to entrap Avenatti in a number of idiotic arguments, like President Obama's supposed spying on Donald Trump's campaign during the 2016 election (which of course, did not happen). Avenatti, however, kept forcing him back.
"First of all I don't think that has been established," Avenatti said of Carlson's claim that aide Carter Page was being spied on. "But if it had been established then of course it would bother me. Are we going to get to the facts of my client's case?"
Carlson then continued to hammer away on the issue. "How many times are you going to ask me the same question?" Avenatti shot back. "I've already stated that in my view, I don't believe that president Obama has been shown to have authorized the spying."
At several points during the debate, Avenatti forced Carlson to answer questions himself, most notably about his continued defense of Donald Trump.
“Why is it that you don’t call Donald Trump ‘the creepy porn president’?" asked Avenatti. "He’s the one that had sex — with a 4-month-old son at home — with my client without a condom. But you don’t want to acknowledge that. Acknowledge it. Do you believe he had sex with my client?”
Carlson of course attempted to deflect the question, but the point is an important one. Avenatti knew he wasn't going to get a straight answer from Carlson, but as a seasoned lawyer, he understands the game being played.
Carlson likes to give his audience Youtube worthy clips of him "owning" liberals, and Avenatti simply wouldn't let him have any. During the Trump presidency and the Alt Right's all out assault on truth and reality, this is a vital part of a strategy to undermine it. Carlson has proved to be highly adept at misdirecting attention away from Donald Trump and the vast array of crimes he has committed against American democracy, and those who highlight this should be applauded.
Michael Avenatti may be an imperfect ambassador for the resistance, but he is a fighter, and America needs as many of those as possible.