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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Brennan Suen

Fox News host Chris Wallace has said his role is to be “a timekeeper,” not a “truth squad” who fact-checks the candidates when he moderates the final presidential debate of this election on Wednesday. But that statement stands in stark contrast to Wallace’s previous effort to fact-check eventual Republican nominee Donald Trump while serving as a moderator of Fox News’ March Republican primary debate. Wallace even explained after that debate that because Trump frequently repeats the same lies, he had taken steps to ensure he could “fact-check him” “in real time.”

Shortly after Wallace was announced as the moderator of the final general election debate, Fox News host Howard Kurtz asked Wallace what he planned to do if the nominees “make assertions that you know are untrue.” Wallace replied, “That’s not my job. I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad. It’s up to the other person to catch them on that.” He later added that such “truth squading” is “a step too far.” He reiterated during an October 16 interview that he believes the proper role of a moderator is to merely act as “a timekeeper,” not “a participant.”

That stance undeniably helps Trump, who has an unparalleled history of telling lies throughout the campaign. Indeed, Trump praised Wallace’s comments, saying, “I think the candidates should police themselves.”

Wallace’s assertion contradicts his performance as a co-moderator of the March 3 Fox News Republican primary debate. During one exchange with Trump over the candidate’s economic plan, Wallace repeatedly said that Trump’s “numbers don’t add up,” stated that Trump was incorrect to say that one of his proposals would cut the deficit by “hundreds of billions of dollars,” and explained to the candidate — and the audience — that it “doesn’t cut the federal deficit.” Wallace’s exchange with Trump relied on what Washington Post media reporter Callum Borchers called “instant, graphical fact-checks” and “full-screen graphics” that “cast serious doubt over the feasibility of Trump’s [economic] plans.”

Borchers praised Wallace for producing “a memorable TV moment that will likely have people talking about his fact-checks after the debate.” The Post’s Erik Wemple similarly wrote that the “revolutionary” fact-checking graphics forced Trump to “look at the data” without being able to spin the facts.

Wallace himself even noted the importance of fact-checking Trump after the March 3 debate. During a March 10 interview on Fox host Brian Kilmeade’s radio show, Wallace described the thinking behind the video fact checks, saying that “the only way you could catch [Trump] is in real time, in effect what the newspapers do the next day or the blogs do hours later, … fact-check him”:

BRIAN KILMEADE (HOST): You held his feet to the fire there, and it never added up.


CHRIS WALLACE: Here was the deal — and I’m glad you liked it, I must say a lot of people did — when you’re talking to Trump, he throws around a lot of numbers and you know, I thought, it was funny, there is a tremendous amount of planning that goes into these debates and I thought the only way you could catch him is in real time, in effect what the newspapers do the next day or the blogs do hours later, is fact-check him. There were about three or four things I knew he might say, like cut these departments, or we could negotiate a better deal on drugs, so I had these four full screens made up.

Chris Wallace is still moderating the debate. Donald Trump is still one of the candidates. The only difference between when Wallace thought fact-checking was vital and when he decided it was improper “truth squading” is that Trump’s opponent is no longer a group of Republicans, but Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

This debate may be the last chance a journalist has to ask questions of Trump before a national audience. But as Wallace’s own comments make clear, without vigorous, “real time” fact-checking, Trump will be able to lie to that audience with impunity.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters for America.

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]