We Need A Real Debate, Not The ‘Fight Of The Century’

We’re told that Monday night’s confrontation between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton could draw 100 million viewers and “rank among television benchmarks like the finales of “MASH” and “Cheers.” A Google search for the words “presidential debate” and “Super Bowl” yields 2.6 million hits, although no musical entertainment is expected at halftime.

We’re not being promised that the candidates will debate the issues of greatest concern to the American people.

But then, it may not even really be a debate at all. A debate, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a regulated discussion of a proposition between two matched sides.” Given Trump’s cheap theatrics, and the media’s sensationalist bent, we’re likely to see a “pageant” — defined as is defined as “a mere show” and “an ostentatious display” – instead.

That would be tragic — for the democratic process, and for the country.


Millions of Americans deserve answers — including the unjustly incarcerated, African Americans, Native Americans, the unemployed, people struggling to get by on their meager earnings, young people burdened with student debt, and everyone who is concerned about the future of the planet.

Will they get them?

The pre-debate coverage isn’t promising. We’ve heard a lot about trivial and gossipy topics — like the possible presence in the debate audience of someone who claims to have had a relationship with one of the candidate’s spouses several decades ago.

Who cares?

We’ve also heard a lot about “debate prep.” Clinton reportedly “has a thick dossier on Mr. Trump” and will try to “knock (him) off balance,” and that Trump’s campaign “has created a detailed analysis of Hillary Clinton’s debate style — including her body language and verbal tics …”

There’s something wrong with a “debate” process that encourages campaigns to do this kind of preparation instead of working to find solutions to the nation’s problems. Maybe the candidates should be placed in darkened rooms where they can answer questions in writing, like “Jeopardy!” contestants on the final round.

Here are some of the issues that Lester Holt and NBC should ask the candidates to debate.

The Economy

Incomes went up, and poverty decreased, in the latest census figures. But the nation has yet to fully recover from the financial crisis of 2008 — a crisis caused by greed, reckless and widespread lawbreaking on Wall Street.

Hourly wages have been lagging for decades. Millions of Americans are among the “working poor,” and poverty numbers are still higher than they were before the crisis.

The middle class is disappearing. Many Americans have left the labor force in discouragement. Others are working part-time when they need full-time work.

Out-of-pocket health care costs are soaring for insured Americans. Inequality keeps rising. The wealthiest of the wealthy — the top 0.01 percent — keep getting richer, and their money (along with that of large corporation) is corrupting the political process.

Economic questions:

Do the candidates support the fight for a $15 per hour minimum wage? Do they believe that workers’ bargaining rights should be strengthened?

Do they support stronger regulation of Wall Street and the breakup of big banks to prevent future crises?

Will they support higher taxes on the wealthy and and corporations? Would they use the tax revenue to create good jobs rebuilding America’s infrastructure and providing needed services?

Do the candidates have a plan for reducing long-term unemployment, and for promoting good jobs and economic growth? How do they intend to create social mobility in a nation where your family’s income at birth is likely to seal your economic fate for life?

Do the candidates have a plan for debt-free college education? Do they support Medicare for All – or, at a minimum, increasing current levels of coverage? Will they support stronger benefits for American workers, including guaranteed sick leave, as well as paid vacation and family leave?

Will they fight to get money out of politics?

Racial Justice, Criminal Injustice

Donald Trump could take a civics lesson or two from another celebrity, rapper Jay-Z, who made a video op-ed for the New York Times entitled “The War On Drugs is An Epic Fail.” As the video and accompanying text explain, African Americans are 13 percent of the general population but nearly one-third of those arrested for drug law violations – even though white and black Americans use drugs at roughly the same rates.

We imprison more people than any other country on earth. 2.2 million Americans are confined in local, state, and federal prisons, and more than 4.7 million are under community supervision (parole and probation). Altogether nearly 7 million people are caught up in the criminal justice system. 5.8 million people — disproportionately black and brown — have lost the right to vote.

The epidemic of African-American deaths at the hands of police officers continues unabated.

At the same time, our nation is wracked by the symptoms of institutional, structural, and historical racism: mass incarceration, racial inequality in wealth and income, disparities in health and longevity, and the trivialization of black and brown people’s suffering.

Questions on racial justice:

Do the candidates agree that “Black Lives Matter”? What will they do to end the epidemic of African-American deaths at police hands? Do they believe that urban police forces have been overly militarized — and should emphasize community policing instead?

Bernie Sanders says Jay-Z is right — we must end the failed war on drugs. Do the candidates agree with Jay-Z and Bernie?

What do the candidates plan to do about mass incarceration, problems with federal and state sentencing laws, and the criminalization of whole segments of our population? Will they end the use of private prisons, and the privatization of services inside public prisons?

How would they handle victimless crimes, drug addiction, or mental illness? How would they help prisoners reintegrate into society? Do they support giving convicted felons the right to vote?

How will the candidates address African-American infant mortality, which is 2.5 times that of whites? How will they address differences in income, social mobility, and life expectancy?

Do they believe that African Americans still suffer from the after-effects of slavery — and if so, how would they address that?

The Environment

A new report shows that we’re moving toward a climate catastrophe even faster than previously thought.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is causing environmental damage, disrupting sacred lands, and posing a future environmental risk to a broad swath of American geography. Native American leaders from 567 tribes will present their concerns to the White House this week in “nation-to-nation” talks.

President Obama introduced the Clean Power Plan in 2015 to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. In addition, a carbon tax and other climate measures could help slow climate change.

Environmental questions:

Do the candidates believe in climate science? Do they understand the urgency of climate crisis? Trump says he’ll scrap the Clean Power Plan and gut the EPA. How does he plan to reduce our nation’s climate footprint? Will Clinton support or expand it?

Do the candidates support the efforts of tribal leaders to protect their lands? Do they oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline?

Where do the candidates stand on the carbon tax? Will the candidates impose stronger regulations to prevent future environmental disasters and degradations?

Fight of the Century

The Clinton campaign says it’s worried the media will give Trump a “passing grade,” even if he lies extravagantly. That’s a legitimate concern. But it’s part of a larger problem: a “political/media industrial complex” that encourages networks to care more about ratings than reality, and politicians to concentrate on posturing over policies.

Monday night’s debate is a chance to change that. Let’s hope that NBC is more patriotic than CBS, whose CEO boasted of Trump’s candidacy, “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”

“It’s like waiting for the Ali-Frazier fight,” Dick Cavett said of Monday’s Trump/Clinton event. Presumably he meant the first Ali-Frazier bout, which was called “the Fight of the Century.”

But this isn’t an entertainment spectacle — even though it’s being marketed like one. This is the “Fight for the Century,” for the choices that will shape our future. Let’s hope Clinton and Trump spar about things that really matter.

An issues-driven debate might not be as good for the media, but it would be a lot better for America. For viewers who want Super Bowl-style action, there’s always Monday Night Football.

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After months of sparring from afar, Clinton and Trump set for highly anticipated debate

The high-stakes showdown — the first of three presidential debates — comes as both candidates are viewed negatively by large numbers of Americans, with Democrat Clinton facing questions about her trustworthiness and Republican Trump struggling to convince many voters that he has the temperament and policy depth to be president.

Director Rob Reiner Unloads On Donald Trump For Pushing White Nationalism

Rob Reiner has absolutely no love for Donald Trump.

The “When Harry Met Sally” director and longtime liberal activist didn’t hold back when discussing Trump on MSNBC’s “AM Joy” on Sunday.

“I believe that what we’ve done, what we’ve seen, is the last throes of the Civil War,” Reiner told host Joy Reid, in reference to the GOP presidential candidate’s divisive rhetoric on the campaign trail.

Watch the full clip here:

Reiner then blasted Trump for “leading the way for white nationalism,” and said it was “sad” how some people were hanging on to an idea of a white, immigrant-free America.

It’s not the first time Reiner has criticized Trump. He joined Twitter in May with the sole aim of preventing the former reality TV star from winning the election. In his very first tweet, Reiner called Trump a “narcissistic, misogynistic racist” and “a pathological liar.”

Donald Trump is a narcissistic, misogynistic racist. He's a pathological liar. We can't let him anywhere near the White House #UnhingedTrump

— Rob Reiner (@robreiner) June 8, 2016

Reiner has also likened Trump to the bigoted Archie Bunker from the 1970’s TV series “All in the Family,” in which he starred as the title character’s liberal son-in-law.

There’s no question about it. Archie would be voting for Trump,” Reiner told The Hollywood Reporter earlier this month.

See that interview below:

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

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Why Is Nightlife So Important To The Queer Black And Latino Communities?

A new documentary is taking an important look at the role nightlife spaces play in American Latino and black queer communities.

“Dancing in the Dark,” from filmmaker Adomako Aman, brings the stories and lives of those navigating queer nightlife spaces into conversation with one another. Nightlife has played an active role in providing safe and creative spaces for queers to come together for decades and the film pays special attention to the black, Latino and Blatino communities.

“It is tough being a brown skin[ned] person in America,” Aman told The Huffington Post. “Then, to be a brown skin LGBTQ+ member in America means there are triple the amount of obstacles we face in order to live in a space that can be considered safe. Mainstream media does not gives us authentic stories that we can run with so nightlife becomes that space where we create our own stories and experiences. But the thing is people fail to look over these amazing stories we have.”

Check out “Dancing in the Dark” for yourself above and head here to learn more about Adomako Aman.

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Miami Marlins Pitcher Jose Fernandez Killed In Boating Accident

Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating crash early Sunday morning in south Florida, the Miami Herald reports. 

In a statement confirming Fernandez’s death, the Major League Baseball team also announced it has canceled Sunday’s home game against the Atlanta Braves.

“The Miami Marlins organization is devastated by the tragic loss of José Fernández,” the statement read. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time.”

The 24-year-old pitcher was boating with two friends off Miami Beach when their 32-foot boat hit rocks and capsized, NBC Miami reported.

Divers recovered three bodies at the scene following a 3:40 a.m. call, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said in a release.

Speed appears to have been a factor. There was no evidence of alcohol or illegal substances found, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told the station.

Fernandez was drafted by the Marlins in 2011, and played his first MLB game in 2013. 

He went on to became the youngest Cuban-born player to make an All-Star debut, the Herald reported at the time. He won the National League Rookie of the Month Award in both July and August 2013, as well as the Rookie of the Year Award.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly broke down in tears at a press conference Sunday afternoon as he reflected on Fernandez’s passion for baseball.

““The way he played, there’s just joy with him when he played,” he said. “And when he pitched, and I think that’s what the guys will say too. As mad as he would make you with some of the stuff he would do, you just see that little kid that you see when you watch kids play Little League or something like that. That’s the joy that Jose played with and the passion he felt about playing, that’s what I think about.”

Emotional Don Mattingly honors José Fernández: "There was just joy with him when he played" https://t.co/PT7xK3hMsh https://t.co/R5amuTDm8s

— ABC News (@ABC) September 25, 2016

Fernandez successfully defected to the U.S. with his mother when he was 15. He had tried to do so three times previously, and was jailed each time for treason, CBS Sports reported. During their fourth and final attempt to leave Cuba, his mother fell overboard in the Gulf of Mexico. Fernandez, initially not knowing who had fallen, jumped in the water to save her, he recalled in a 2013 interview.

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Just before he received his many athletic honors, the Marlins surprised Fernandez by flying his grandmother to the U.S. from Cuba. The emotional reunion, which was captured on video, marked the first time they had seen each other since he had left the island nation. 

Fernandez credited his grandmother with teaching him how to catch a baseball and called her “the most important person in my life.”

One of Fernandez’s last posts on Instagram, which showed a woman holding what appears to be a pregnant belly, hinted that he may have been expecting his first child.

“I’m so glad you came into my life. I’m ready for where this journey is gonna take us together. #familyfirst,” its caption read.

Fellow athletes expressed their condolences after hearing the news of Fernandez’s death. 

I dont have the words to describe the pain feel for the loss of my friend Jose. Goodbye, my friend. pic.twitter.com/xvaa5z62RW

— David Ortiz (@davidortiz) September 25, 2016

No. 16, forever in our hearts.

Dee Gordon will never forget his friend, José Fernández. pic.twitter.com/sCFlNhrRMN

— MLB (@MLB) September 25, 2016

Absolutely devastated hearing about Jose. Thoughts and prayers go to his family, friends, and Marlins org.

— Mike Trout (@MikeTrout) September 25, 2016

Sick to my stomach thinking about the news this morning. What a competitor Jose was. Thoughts and prayers go out to the Fernandez family…

— Sammy Solis (@Sammy22Solis) September 25, 2016

Absolutely crushed and shocked at the news about Jo-Fez..My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, and the @Marlins org!

— Bryce Harper (@Bharper3407) September 25, 2016

I'm still waiting to wake up from this nightmare. I lost my brother today and can't quite comprehend it. The shock is overwhelming. What he meant to me , our team, the city of Miami, Cuba & everyone else in the world that his enthusiasm/heart has touched can never be replaced. I can't fathom what his family is going through because We, as his extended Family are a wreck. I gave him the nickname Niño because he was just a young boy Amongst men , yet those men could barely compete with him . He had his own level, one that was changing the game. EXTRAORDINARY, as a person before the player. Yet still just a kid, who's joy lit up the stadium more than lights could. A kid whose time came too soon. One that I will miss & never forget. Rest In Peace Niño, Jose Fernandez

A photo posted by Giancarlo Stanton (@giancarlo818) on Sep 25, 2016 at 10:16am PDT

Very saddened to hear about the loss of Jose Fernandez, baseball lost one of the best in the game. Praying for the Marlins and his family!

— Cameron Rupp (@CameronRupp) September 25, 2016

I am so sick right now as I wake up to hear this terrible news. Jose you will be missed by so many and I will never forget you as a teammate

— Justin Ruggiano (@justinruggiano) September 25, 2016

I tend to stay off of Twitter on start days but I cannot believe the news about Jose Fernandez. The game and the world just lost a great one

— Jon Lester (@JLester34) September 25, 2016

Jose Fernandez is one of the most genuine guys I've ever played with. He loved life, he loved baseball…..he will be missed dearly.

— dan haren (@ithrow88) September 25, 2016

 This article has been updated throughout.


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