After Matt Lauer’s poor performance Sept. 7 as moderator of the commander-in-chief forum, questions were raised of whether NBC anchor Lester Holt would do a better job at moderating the first presidential debate. After watching the debate twice, I feel Holt did not succeed in establishing himself as a successful moderator.
As the debate began, Holt appeared confident and prepared. With a calm yet serious tone of voice and elevated, assertive posture, he came off as a professional who knew what he was doing. However, once the debate began, things began to decline rapidly.
Holt seemed practically absent from the venue during much of the debate, letting both candidates ramble on and bicker between themselves. This was extremely apparent when Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump began bantering about who was better prepared for the debate.
The candidates began feuding like a married couple about their preparations for the night. Trump egotistically stated that Clinton’s time off to recover from pneumonia was unprofessional to him. Clinton replied back with a disturbing, sarcastic smile and even more praise over how she is “prepared to be president.”
All these temper tantrums from our two candidates, but where was Lester Holt? Sure, he would sometimes get in a word or two. But for the most part, the candidates ran the debate. He repeatedly would remind the candidates that he needed to move on to a new topic due to pressed time, but then would allow them “brief” comments on the previous subject.
As a moderator, it was Holt’s job to keep the candidates on track with the pre-decided schedule, and he did not do that. He was not tough enough in this area, and he practically let the candidates walk all over him.
He was repeatedly disrespected by the candidates, and he let it happen. Trump often would not let Holt ask a question or would interrupt him excessively when he tried to change subjects. Clinton also spoke to him in a rude manner, at one point asking him to “restart the clock.”
A moderator should be stern and exude the power they have during the debate. However, during these instances of disrespect, Holt simply kept his mouth shut, exemplifying weakness.
Overall, Lester Holt asked compelling questions to the candidates but failed to keep the debate under control. As a result, we had to listen to Clinton boast about her most impressive novel that “you can find at the bookstore or airport near you,” and Trump go on and on about his impressive endorsements. Millions of Americans tuned in to the debate to hear about each candidate’s plans for our future, not for a circus show.