Today, I'm reminded of that "Commander in Chief Forum" last fall for some reason. I can't help but think of how the first 10 minutes of the show unfolded:
LAUER: What is the most important characteristic that a commander-in-chief can possess?
CLINTON: Steadiness. An absolute rock steadiness, and mixed with strength to be able to make the hard decisions. Because I’ve had the unique experience of watching and working with several presidents. And these are not easy decisions. If they were, they wouldn’t get to the president in the first place.
And when you’re sitting in the Situation Room, as I have on numerous occasions, particularly with respect to determining whether to recommend the raid against bin Laden, what you want in a president, a commander-in-chief, is someone who listens, who evaluates what is being told to him or her, who is able to sort out the very difficult options being presented…
LAUER: You’re talking about judgment.
CLINTON: … and then makes the decision. Makes the decision, that’s right.
LAUER: So judgment is a key.
CLINTON: Temperament and judgment, yes.
LAUER: The word “judgment” has been used a lot around you, Secretary Clinton, over the last year-and-a-half, and in particular concerning your use of your personal e-mail and server to communicate while you were secretary of state. You’ve said it’s a mistake.
LAUER: You said you made not the best choice. You were communicating on highly sensitive topics. Why wasn’t it more than a mistake? Why wasn’t it disqualifying, if you want to be commander-in- chief?
CLINTON: Well, Matt, first of all, as I have said repeatedly, it was a mistake to have a personal account. I would certainly not do it again. I make no excuses for it. It was something that should not have been done.
But the real question is the handling of classified material, which is I think what the implication of your question was. And for all the viewers watching you tonight, I have a lot of experience dealing with classified material, starting when I was on the Senate Armed Services Committee going into the four years as secretary of state. Classified material has a header which says “top secret,” “secret,” “confidential.” Nothing — and I will repeat this, and this is verified in the report by the Department of Justice — none of the e-mails sent or received by me had such a header.
LAUER: Were some of the e-mails sent or received by you referring to our drone program, our covert drone program?
CLINTON: Yes, because — of course, there were no discussions of any of the covert actions in process being determined about whether or not to go forward. But every part of our government had to deal with questions, and the secretary of state’s office was first and foremost. So there are ways of talking about the drone program…
LAUER: And you said you thought your communications on that were fairly routine?
CLINTON: Well, let me say, the FBI just released their report about their investigation, they discussed drone matters in the unclassified section of their report.
LAUER: But Director Comey also said this after reviewing all the information. He said there is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.
CLINTON: Well, Matt, I just respectfully point to the hundreds of experienced foreign policy experts, diplomats, defense officials who were communicating information on the unclassified system because it was necessary to answer questions and to be able publicly to go as far as we could, which was not acknowledging the program.
But I would be in Pakistan, as I was on several occasions. There might very well have been a strike. I would be asked in a public setting, in an interview, about it. It was known to have happened. We had to have an answer that did not move into classified area. And I think we handled that appropriately.
LAUER: You mentioned you’re in Pakistan. Some of the e-mails you sent and received happened while you were overseas. And Director Comey also said that while they have no proof, we assessed that it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail accounts.
CLINTON: Matt, there is no evidence. Of course anything is possible. But what is factual is the State Department system was hacked. Most of the government systems are way behind the curve. We’ve had hacking repeatedly, even in the White House. There is no evidence my system was hacked.
LAUER: Let us bring in Hallie Jackson of NBC News who’s been covering this campaign. She’s getting questions from our veterans. Hallie, who are you with?
JACKSON: Hi, Matt. I’m with Lieutenant Jon Lester (ph), who will stand with me here. He began his military career by enlisting in the Air Force and then switched over to the Navy before he retired, where he flew P-3 Orions in Desert Storm and in Desert Shield. He’s a Republican, and he has this question for you, Secretary Clinton.
CLINTON: Thank you.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for coming tonight. As a naval flight officer, I held a top secret sensitive compartmentalized information clearance. And that provided me access to materials and information highly sensitive to our warfighting capabilities. Had I communicated this information not following prescribed protocols, I would have been prosecuted and imprisoned.
Secretary Clinton, how can you expect those such as myself who were and are entrusted with America’s most sensitive information to have any confidence in your leadership as president when you clearly corrupted our national security?
CLINTON: Well, I appreciate your concern and also your experience. But let me try to make the distinctions that I think are important for me to answer your question.
First, as I said to Matt, you know and I know classified material is designated. It is marked. There is a header so that there is no dispute at all that what is being communicated to or from someone who has that access is marked classified.
And what we have here is the use of an unclassified system by hundreds of people in our government to send information that was not marked, there were no headers, there was no statement, top secret, secret, or confidential.
I communicated about classified material on a wholly separate system. I took it very seriously. When I traveled, I went into one of those little tents that I’m sure you’ve seen around the world because we didn’t want there to be any potential for someone to have embedded a camera to try to see whatever it is that I was seeing that was designated, marked, and headed as classified.
LAUER: Let us…
CLINTON: So I did exactly what I should have done and I take it very seriously, always have, always will.
LAUER: Sir, thank you. Thank you very much for your question. Secretary Clinton, let’s talk about your vote in favor of the war in Iraq. You’ve since said it was a mistake. ...
She was widely criticized for not being a good girl and allowing herself to look annoyed at that endless line of bullshit questioning.
Now recall how Lauer treated Trump. He just let him lie and lie and lie, and never challenged him on any of them:
LAUER: You heard me say to Mrs. Clinton, Secretary Clinton, and it didn’t completely work out toward the end there, as much as possible I’d like you to tell our veterans and our people at home why you are prepared for the role of commander-in-chief and try to keep the attacks to a minimum. We’ve had a year of that and maybe 60 more days of it.
TRUMP: To a minimum, absolutely.
LAUER: OK, perfect. To a minimum. I guess that’s a question of definition.
TRUMP: I guess.
LAUER: Any time you interview a president, sitting or past president, they will tell you that the most daunting…
TRUMP: Was I supposed to answer this question?
LAUER: No, no, no, I mean just keep the attacks to a minimum. Any time you talk to a president, they’ll tell you the most daunting part of the job is the role of commander-in-chief.
LAUER: What have you experienced in your personal life or your professional life that you believe prepares you to make the decisions that a commander-in-chief has to make?
TRUMP: Well, I’ve built a great company. I’ve been all over the world. I’ve dealt with foreign countries. I’ve done very well, as an example, tremendously well dealing with China and dealing with so many of the countries that are just ripping this country. They are just taking advantage of us like nobody’s ever seen before.
And I’ve had great experience dealing on an international basis. I look today and I see Russian planes circling our planes. They’re taunting us. I see in Iran, I see the boats taunting our ships, our destroyers, and I think…
LAUER: But what have you done in your life that prepares you to send men and women of the United States into harm’s way?
TRUMP: Well, I think the main thing is I have great judgment. I have good judgment. I know what’s going on. I’ve called so many of the shots. And I happened to hear Hillary Clinton say that I was not against the war in Iraq. I was totally against the war in Iraq. From a — you can look at Esquire magazine from ’04. You can look at before that.
And I was against the war in Iraq because I said it’s going to totally destabilize the Middle East, which it has. It has absolutely been a disastrous war, and by the way, perhaps almost as bad was the way Barack Obama got out. That was a disaster.
LAUER: People talk about you and commander-in-chief, and not just Secretary Clinton, but some of your Republican opponents in the primary season, and they wonder about your temperament. They say, does Donald Trump have the temperament to be commander-in-chief?
You said something recently that I found interesting. You admitted that sometimes in the heat of a debate or when you’re talking about a lot of issues you say things that you later regret. So can we afford that with a commander-in-chief — to have a commander-in-chief who says things that he later regrets?
TRUMP: Well, when you say regret, yeah, sure, I regret. But in the meantime, I beat 16 people and here I am. So, you know, to a certain extent there is a regret. I would have liked to have done it in a nicer manner. But I had 16 very talented people that I had to go through. And that was a lot of people.
LAUER: But when you say…
TRUMP: That was a record, Matt. That was a record in the history of Republican politics. I was able to get more votes than anybody ever has gotten in the history of Republican politics.
LAUER: But when you say inflammatory things… (CROSSTALK)
LAUER: … in a presidential campaign, it’s different than saying them when you’re commander-in-chief. If you say things you regret…
TRUMP: I agree with you.
LAUER: … when you’re commander-in-chief, you can spark a conflict, you can destabilize a region, you can put American lives at risk. Can we afford to take that risk with you?
TRUMP: Well, I think absolutely. I think if you saw what happened in Mexico the other day, where I went there, I had great relationships, everything else. I let them know where the United States stands. I mean, we’ve been badly hurt by Mexico, both on the border and with taking all of our jobs or a big percentage of our jobs.
And if you look at what happened, look at the aftermath today where the people that arranged the trip in Mexico have been forced out of government. That’s how well we did.
LAUER: Back in August…
TRUMP: And that’s how well we’re going to have to do, Matt.
LAUER: Back in August, when you admitted that you regret some of the things you said, you also said this. “I can promise you this: I will always tell you the truth.”
TRUMP: It’s true.
LAUER: So let me read some of the things you’ve said. “I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.” Was that the truth?
TRUMP: Well, the generals under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have not been successful. ISIS…
LAUER: Do you know more about ISIS than they do?
TRUMP: I think under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have been reduced to rubble. They have been reduced to a point where it’s embarrassing for our country. You have a force of 30,000 or so people. Nobody really knows. But probably 30,000 people. And I can just see the great — as an example- General George Patton spinning in his grave as ISIS we can’t beat. We had the greatest…
LAUER: Yeah, you’ve said if we had MacArthur today or if we had Patton today, we would not have ISIS, that the rise of these military commanders that we have today, they come up the chain of command, and by the time they get to the top, they’re too politically correct. And we know that’s not a compliment coming from you. Have you lost faith in the military commanders?
TRUMP: I have great faith in the military. I have great faith in certain of the commanders, certainly. But I have no faith in Hillary Clinton or the leadership. You look at what’s happened. And, you know, when she comes in and starts saying, oh, I would have done this, I would have — she’s been there for 30 years. I mean, we need change, Matt. We have to have it, and we have to have it fast.
LAUER: Let’s go to Hallie Jackson in our crowd. Hallie?
That was a shitshow of a candidate forum. Lauer made the stupid emails the center of the "commander in chief" discussion for Clinton and he let Trump lie his ass off about how he was against the Iraq war and ramble on about his qualifications and incoherent plans to defeat ISIS.
They were very friendly.
Lauer was criticized at the time for not being adept at dealing with Trump and it was mentioned in passing that he's interrupted Clinton to tell her to speed it up while letting Trump ramble like a moron unchallenged. But as Rebecca Traister has so insightfully written, men like Lauer and Halperin and Charlie Rose along with many others who may not be blatant sexual harassers but whose misogyny colored their coverage of the 2016 race can give themselves a big pat on the back for helping to make Donald Trump possible.
Some of us watched it unfold in real time, appalled and shell-shocked. After it was over we were told that it was all her fault for being a "terrible candidate" despite the fact that she still won the popular vote by a substantial margin even as she faced the headwinds of am unpredictable demagogic circus clown from hell who sucked up all the oxygen, an FBI director who lived in his own world, foreign hacking and other interference on Trump's behalf and a media that was led by people who commonly treat professional women like chattel and seemed determined to see her humbled come hell or high water. Despite what we all saw with our own eyes in real time, after the fact the overarching narrative was that she lost because she didn't coddle insecure white men enough in her campaign. How very convenient.
So here we are. I guess there's some justice that some of these men are paying a price for their more blatantly sexist behavior. But that pig is still in the oval office and the he might just get us all killed.