Least savvy thought of all time: Can anybody really imagine a set of Trump-Biden debates?
Theoretically, they're going to happen. But can anyone really picture such monsters from the deep?
In yesterday's New York Times, Thomas Friedman offered some suggestions for the way these debates should work. At one point, he gave voice to the least savvy thought of all time:
FRIEDMAN (7/8/20): Biden should insist that a real-time fact-checking team approved by both candidates be hired by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates—and that 10 minutes before the scheduled conclusion of the debate this team report on any misleading statements, phony numbers or outright lies either candidate had uttered. That way no one in that massive television audience can go away easily misled.Does Friedman actually live on this planet? No really—where does this guy live?
It's very, very hard to believe that any pair of candidates will ever agree to stop their debate with ten minutes to go so a fact-check team can identify their various misstatements.
It's very hard to imagine that. But no, that isn't our point.
What brought us out of our chairs was Friedman's reference to "outright lies." Is he really suggesting that our fact-checking team should identify such deliberate misstatements at the end of each debate?
That strikes us as a sad presentation. This is Elementary Logic 101, but how exactly would they know when an "outright lie" had occurred?
We're dealing here with a point so simple that everyone used to know it. It's relatively easy to spot a misstatement, but it's very hard to reliably identify a "lie."
Not long ago, every journalist understood this blindingly basic point. It was considered extremely bad journalistic form to refer to a misstatement as a lie.
Reason? A lie is a deliberate misstatement—and it's hard to get inside someone else's head.
In our view, Trump's mental disorder only drives this basic point home. We know of reason to think that Trump cares about telling the truth or making accurate statements.
But in any given case, can anyone feel they know what's going on inside that disordered noggin? How many of his lunatic statements might he believe to be true?
Maybe Friedman didn't mean that the fact-check team would explicitly identify "outright lies." But what a lack of sophistication was tangled up in that statement!
Journalistically speaking, of course, it's much like Springsteen said. Journalistically, this is our hometown, and its storefronts are badly faded.