Can Lester Holt Make Presidential Debates Great Again?

Governor Bill Clinton and wife Hillary Clinton at a Texas campaign rally in 1992 on his final day of campaigning in McAllen,
Governor Bill Clinton and wife Hillary Clinton at a Texas campaign rally in 1992 on his final day of campaigning in McAllen, Texas

Join me in giving a big warm thanks to all the parents borrowing $58,440 a year to send their kid to Hofstra University, where an anticipated 100 million viewers will tune in Monday night for the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Only the Super Bowl and the 1983 finale of "M*A*S*H" have hit the 100-million viewer mark on television, so the pressure on Lester "Iron Pants" Holt Jr., the moderator, is huge.

"His nickname is 'Iron Pants' because he is in the anchor chair so much," Lester Holt Sr. said of his son, who didn't finish college and got his big break taking over the hot seat at NBC Nightly News when Brian Williams, another college dropout, got caught lying about events as a war correspondent in Iraq.

Holt's iron pants will go well with Clinton's choke collar and Trump's loincloth Monday night as these gladiators treat us to 90 minutes of blood sport, euphemistically described as "in-depth discussion of the leading issues facing the nation" by the Commission on Presidential Debates, the nonprofit, nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) corporation that's been putting on presidential debates since 1988 and creator of the official debate Twitter hashtags #debates and #debates2016 that produce cute little podium emojis just for the occasion.

College students at Hofstra and everywhere may learn some valuable lessons Monday night. Maybe the issue of college affordability and student debt will get some air time between another go-round about Hillary's email and Donald Trump's new shiny hotel in Washington.

Mr. Trump, is the $3 million rent you agreed to pay per year to Uncle Sam to lease the 117-year-old postal facility where your shiny new hotel is located on Pennsylvania Avenue a very good deal, a great deal or a beautiful deal?

Is the $120 "Trump Tower" snack sold in the bar - a 1-pound lobster, 8 oysters, 4 clams, 4 shrimp, blue crab cocktail, cocktail sauce, mignonette and old bay aioli - available to go in plastic containers? And to follow up, how many coal miners will this deal put back to work?

Which think tank is more crooked, Mr. Trump, Forbes, that pegs the deficit your economic plan will create at $5.3 trillion, or the Brookings Institution, that calculates a $10 trillion deficit under your plan?

When can we expect you to sue somebody over reports that you paid your personal legal claims with foundation money?

Do you agree with your doctor that your lab results showing a testosterone level of 441 is "astonishingly excellent?"

How artful is the deal you negotiated with Vladimir Putin to keep Russian hackers away from your tax returns?

Nobody thinks Trump is smarter than Clinton or more experienced or prepared. It's not even debatable. The election is a show for Trump, a stage for him to do his braggadocio schtick. Whether he wins or not, he intends to make himself a profit. Everyone agrees he knows nothing about the intricacies of diplomacy or governance. He's never created a policy or performed a public service in his life. The leading issue facing the nation is that nobody seems to care.

"Debate Prep" is even a new dumb thing this year - a caricature like everything else.

Trump "is approaching the debate like a Big Man on Campus who thinks his last-minute term paper will be dazzling simply because he wrote it," the New York Times reported as fact, not opinion.

Does anyone doubt that Hillary Clinton has been studying the facts and research available on every issue that matters to voters?

Imagine if we were able to hear what her plans are to increase economic security for families and solve problems, and then hear a response to her ideas from Trump that doesn't include name calling.

If Monday night Hillary Clinton can get through her obligatory apology for all the sins committed anywhere by anyone with sufficient contrition, leaving herself enough time to share details of her plans for criminal justice reform, expanded healthcare access, tax policy, clean energy and how ISIS terrorists will be hunted down and killed, while smiling and using her indoor voice, she'll do very well as long as moderator Lester Holt doesn't let Trump dumb the whole thing down.

The Republican primary debates were tormenting cockfights that were excruciating to watch, and obviously challenging to moderate, given Trump's braggadocio. God help us if that is the new norm of political dialogue.

"But the thing that I am most proud of is that he is one of the best human beings you will ever have the opportunity to meet," the elder Holt said about his son. "He is just a good person, very giving and caring. That's who he is. The rest is just accomplishments due to talent and opportunity," he said of the guy who could possibly make America's debates great again.