I didn't sleep well last night. I had the same problem the other night after watching Stranger Things, a terrifying new show on Netflix that features monsters from the Upside Down and a preternaturally emotive Winona Ryder.
This time, it was because I made the mistake of watching the NBC "Commander in Chief" forum, an hour long dumpster fire in which Hillary Clinton and a random monster Donald Trump were both questioned for 25 minutes or so about their ability to be commander-in-chief—or at least, that was the purpose. In reality, it was more like a strange episode of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde.
At one point, I was literally curled up in my chair, trying to resist the urge to toss something sharp and hard at the TV screen, just to make it stop. Finally I checked Twitter to see if I was the only one witnessing this demented clown show hosted by the same guy who failed to extract the truth from inept liar Ryan Lochte, Today host Matt Lauer.
Nope, it was real, not a drunken dream I'd concocted after finishing the box wine.
First, the Clinton portion. Now, I'm one who thinks Hillary Clinton was exceedingly stupid to use her own email while she headed State. I mean, who does that? When you're offered a work email account, you use it, and instruct your family and friends to use your private email for private business, thus keeping the two separate. Right? But whatever. Apparently Colin Powell told her to do as he did and use a private email account to email world leaders and others because it's not anyone's business to know who you email. (Fortunately she didn't take all his advice to heart and she turned over all her government related private email, unlike Powell.)
So when Matt Lauer opened with a half dozen or twenty questions about email, I wasn't too surprised, but that was before I learned that each candidate only had 30 minutes. That's why Mean Matt kept shushing her whenever she tried to answer a question, calling her "Mrs. Clinton" instead of her title, "Secretary Clinton". He spent more than a third of the time allotted to question her about emails. But it did accomplish one thing: She finally gave the right answer, something she seemed incapable of before: "I communicated about classified information on a wholly separate system," she told an angry and ill-informed retired Naval officer, who thought she'd been sending all her classified email through her private email. Then she described how, in foreign countries, she often went inside a tent so that those classified communications couldn't be seen from above. This is what many in the press and most Americans don't understand: Classified email goes through an entirely different system, and she used this system—not the one that resided on her private server—to send and receive email marked "Classified". A few lower level emails were sent to her private email that were either improperly marked or were later classified. This should put to rest the email "scandal" that's always been overblown, frankly.
Then she answered one question about Iraq and a couple about ISIL before her time was up. This presumably was all we needed to make a decision about who should be our next CINC if we'd been, say, living under a rock the last two years, or maybe in the Upside Down.
Exit stage, Hillary Clinton.
Then Donald walks in, with a huge entourage (Hillary brought one person with her). After they were all seated, Matt Lauer started lobbing softballs at him. "You were for the Iraq War," he reminded Trump. "No I wasn't," Trump lied, and Nice Matt let that slide. He asked him about military action in Libya—Trump was for that, too, but you wouldn't know it from the answer he gave and the lack of follow up. Then Ryan Lochte's Best Friend Matt started quizzing Trump about his statements on "the generals". We find out that he thinks they've been "reduced to rubble" and that he's going to replace them all, anyway, so it doesn't matter what they think.
Yes, he seriously suggested he'd line all the current generals up and announce "You're Fired" just as if they were candidates on The Apprentice.
At this point I wanted Khizr Khan to rush into the room and start waving that Constitution around.
And while he's at it, he should bring a copy of the Geneva Convention, because it turns out that Trump thinks we should have stolen Iraq's oil while we were there. That's quite clearly a war crime.
But that's not all. Mr. Lauer, using techniques he must have learned from interviewing America's Biggest Loser, also asked Trump if he was "surprised" by anything her learned in his intelligence briefing. "Yes," Donald replied, and it was about now that I started looking around for something large enough to break the screen of my TV, anything to stop him from saying what he said next: Donald could tell from the briefers' "body language" that they disagreed with President Obama when it came to decisions made about this intelligence.
People, I can't even begin here...the average Demogorgon is better equipped to be president than Donald.
I guess the intelligence briefers were, what, winking at him? Nodding knowingly? Crossing their fingers behind their back? How does one use body language to convey the idea that President Obama routinely ignores intelligence briefings? I've actually read books on body language and I can't for the life of me figure this one out.
Maybe they were secretly letting Donald know that they agreed with him on Vladimir Putin, a man Trump admires and thinks is doing a better job than President Obama. (The Russian economy is in tatters, and if you believe Putin's approval ratings really are 82%, I've got a dacha in Siberia to sell you.) Oh, and another thing—when Putin called Trump "brilliant" what he really said was "colorful" or "flashy", not clever.
Here's what REALLY went down at that intel briefing. It turns out intel briefers don't like being accused of crass political maneuvering, and so they used something a little more obvious than body language to let reporters know the Donald is full of gas.
Since Donald the Demogorgon wasn't asked endless questions about a non-scandal, he had plenty of time to answer questions from the veterans. At one point he corrected a woman who asked him about the veteran suicide rate—20 veterans commit suicide a day. "Twenty two!" he corrected her gleefully, as if this terrible statistic, and what it might reflect about the current efforts of the VA to prevent suicides, was good news for Donald Trump and his aspirations to become Supreme Leader President of the United States. But it turns out he was wrong: The rate is not 22 a day, it's 20. She was right, he was wrong, and later, she said in an interview she was disappointed in his answer as it didn't offer any solutions to this very serious problem.
To his credit, Matt Lauer did ask a question about a 2013 tweet of Trump's, when he said the sexual assault problem in the military was to be expected, since that's what inevitably happens when men and women serve together. Trump said he still agreed with that, a statement that elicited loud gasps from the audience.
So, to recap, Mr. Hyde spent an hour grilling Hillary Clinton about her emails, shushing her whenever she tried to expand on her answers to the questions the vets asked, and then Dr. Jeckyll let Donald Trump utter lie after lie and make one outrageous statement after another and never interrupted him once.
That horrible hour made me really happy that I'll be 30,000 miles above the ground when the first presidential debate occurs on the 26th. That's better than being in the Upside Down here on Earth, where the media thinks that these two candidates are equal in their mendacity.
Stranger Things scared me, so much so that I checked the locks again and again and slept with my dog nearby. The NBC candidate forum was even scarier, because the Demogorgon named Donald might just pull off the upset of the century and become president one day, a truly terrifying prospect. But that can only happen if the media fail in their duty to properly vet the candidates.
I never want to see Matt Lauer on my TV again, but I might be okay with inviting the Demogorgon into my house for Season Two.
(If you want to read more about why Matt Lauer so badly botched this forum, and why it's so important that they get it right for the debates, read Ezra Klein's excellent wrap-up at Vox.)