Quijano's bias of omission in debate follows Holt's playbook
© Greg Nash

What is it about Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSupreme Court agrees to hear 'faithless elector' cases Poll: Sanders holds 5-point lead over Buttigieg in New Hampshire Climate 'religion' is fueling Australia's wildfires MORE's email and Clinton Foundation controversies that presidential and vice presidential debate moderators are apparently allergic to?

We've now had 180 minutes of debate between Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Democratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' MORE, Hillary Clinton, Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceTrump called top military brass 'a bunch of dopes and babies' in 2017: book Parnas: Environment around Trump 'like a cult' White House pushes back on Parnas allegations MORE and Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineHouse war powers sponsor expects to take up Senate version of resolution Sens. Kaine, Lee: 'We should not be at war with Iran unless Congress authorizes it' Overnight Defense: War powers fight runs into impeachment | Kaine has 51 votes for Iran resolution | Trump plans to divert .2B from Pentagon to border wall MORE. And these two obvious topics — two of the Clinton campaign's biggest vulnerabilities — have not been directly addressed to Clinton or Kaine in two events watched by at least 120 million people.

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The question to NBC’s Lester Holt and CBS’s Elaine Quijano is a simple one: Why?

Quijano's second question in the debate was about Clinton's character and mentioned the email and Clinton Foundation controversies, but the question was not pointed at all and allowed Kaine to easily skirt both issues.

"Sen. Kaine, on the campaign trail, you praised Secretary Clinton's character, including her commitment to public service, yet 60 percent of voters don't think she's trustworthy," Quijano said. "Why do so many people distrust her? Is it because they have questions about her emails and the Clinton Foundation?" 

In his answer, Kaine said that he trusted Clinton and then managed to pivot to criticisms of Trump and the birther issue without even mentioning the foundation or email scandals. 

Quijano didn't both to follow up — at the time or in the more than an hour of questioning that followed. 

Yet in the next section of the debate, after a question to Pence about polls showing many Americans think Trump is "erratic," Quijano offered two follow-up questions to Pence about the disconnect with Trump as the GOP vice presidential candidate pivoted to criticism of Clinton. 

Both Quijano and Holt were considered seasoned, sound, smart, non-partisan journalists going into their respective debates. And Clinton's mishandling of emails, the destruction of evidence, the staff members all electing to plead the fifth and/or be granted immunity is easily the largest shadow over her campaign against an equally flawed (for different reasons) opponent.

The Clinton Foundation also deserves infinitely more scrutiny from Clinton and Kaine given the access donors received, the appointments given to donors, donations in return for speeches from former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonTrump chooses high-profile but controversial legal team The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump beefs up impeachment defense with Dershowitz, Starr Trump to add Dershowitz, Ken Starr to impeachment defense team MORE, and the donations from foreign governments, just to name a few parts of the laundry list.

But does any of these vulnerabilities get broached by Holt or Quijano?

Nope.

The New York Times, not exactly a bastion of conservative sentiment, first had this to say about Quijano's performance last night:

“Elaine Quijano, the moderator, helped Mr. Kaine along, opening one question with a recitation of Mr. Trump’s statements.”

Curiously however, the Times has since scrubbed the analysis above. No editor's note was made regarding the deletion.

It has been said in this space that Executive Editor Dean Baquet doesn't remotely have the integrity to hold responsibility at the paper of record. And on a regular basis, he keeps proving the sentiment right.

But back to Quijano. She showed her inexperience as having never moderated a debate in spades last night. Control was fleeting, particularly as it pertained to an overzealous — and patently annoying by many pundit accounts — Tim Kaine, who decidedly lost the debate after Clinton won hers by an average margin of about 30 points last week.

All told by The Hill's count, Kaine interrupted Pence and Quijano 70 times in 90 minutes.

And when Quijano was allowing to Kaine to mostly run roughshod over the presentation, she didn't allow illuminating exchanges to go on longer when the dialogue absolutely warranted doing so.

Former Obama campaign chief strategist CNN contributor David Axelrod summed up the popular sentiment thusly:

It was allergy season in Virginia last night.

Elaine Quijano certainly caught them last night.

No email questions. Nothing pointed about the Clinton Foundation.

It was Lester Holt 2.0 on the moderating front.

Yet the Republican still somehow came out on top.

Trump and Clinton meet again this Sunday night. ABC's Martha Raddatz and CNN's Anderson Cooper will moderate.

The question is: Will these two break the string of two debates by actually asking a Democrat in the room something resembling a difficult question?

Concha is a media reporter for The Hill


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