The Corner

Elections

A ‘Bipartisan Commission’ to Vet Major Party Nominees for President?

President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden stand on stage at the end of their first presidential campaign debate in Cleveland, Ohio, September 29, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Via Mediaite, I see Frank Figliuzzi, a former FBI assistant director, declared on MSNBC today that he wants all future presidential nominees to be vetted by a bipartisan commission.

“We’ve got to have a national discussion about how we vet a presidential candidate. We screwed this up. Whether it’s the media not digging deeply enough, whether it’s a time to have a discussion about a bipartisan committee that demands tax returns, make that a requirement, or exposes financial pictures for candidates. But we got this wrong, and this can’t happen again,” Figliuzzi said.

Figliuzzi has every right in the world to detest the selection of the Republican Party in 2016 and 2020. But in the early months of 2016, 14,015,993 people voted in Republican primaries to nominate Donald Trump for president — 44.95 percent of all votes cast. The next-closest candidate was Ted Cruz with 7,822,100 votes and a bit more than 25 percent of all votes cast.

What does Figliuzzi think should have happened? Some “Bipartisan Commission of Approving Presidential Candidates” should have demanded Trump’s financial records, or reviewed them without his consent, and then vetoed the selection of Republican primary voters? Why would Republicans allow a commission — whose membership is presumably at least half members of other parties — to decide who represents them in a presidential election?

You can think the Republican primary voters of 2016 made a terrible mistake. (I think that!) But that doesn’t make those voters any less empowered, under the structure of the party and the traditions of American political parties, to make the selection. Trump won the primary and the general election fair and square; we don’t need yet another blue-ribbon panel of retired lawmakers to come out and study an issue and come out with some watered-down consensus conclusion.

As for “the media not digging deeply enough” — does Figliuzzi think the media didn’t dig into Trump before the 2016 election? Before Trump ran for president, he had twelve biographies written about him, not including his own self-aggrandizing ghostwritten books. Trump had been in the public spotlight since the early 1980s.

Sure, the campaign started with major media institutions giving Trump the equivalent of $2 billion in free media — including complete live coverage of his speeches, phone interviews on morning shows, and endless discussion of Trump at the expense of other GOP candidates. Some of us remember, “nothing too hard, Mika.” CNN’s Jeff Zucker offered him advice for the debate. CBS CEO Les Moonves laughed, “[Trump’s campaign] may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”

The media loved Trump when he was blowing up the GOP primaries — and only turned hard against him in the 2016 general election. But once they did, boy, did they turn hard: “During his best weeks, the coverage ran 2-to-1 negative over positive. In his worst weeks, the ratio was more than 10-to-1.”

Just what aspect of Trump does Figliuzzi think the media didn’t examine enough before 2016? His business failures? His slippery record with the truth? His womanizing? His unfamiliarity with policy details? His temper? His addiction to blurting out any idea that pops into his head on Twitter? Just what does Figliuzzi think the media could have or should have found that would have altered the course of the election?

What if enough Americans in enough states had a clear view of Trump’s glaring character flaws, and picked him anyway, because they really, really, really didn’t want Hillary Clinton to be president?

Come to think of it . . . would Hillary Clinton have passed the vetting and background check from a Bipartisan Commission?

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