For failing to ask the same questions: Nick Corasaniti is a youngish reporter for the New York Times.
He graduated from Ithaca College in 2008. As of today, there seems to be something wrong with his TV set.
We base that statement on Corasaniti's 1200-word report in this morning's Times. Alas! When the scribe watches CNN's "town halls," he thinks he sees conduct like this:
CORASANITI (2/25/16): Live town hall meetings are not a new invention in the televised coverage of presidential politics. But with anchors like Mr. Cooper moderating, fact-checking and bantering, CNN has turned the genre into a powerful supplement—if not antidote—to the often-acrimonious debates: long, seemingly informal conversations in which candidates can be pressed at length, but can also take the opportunity to get their points across without being sniped at or interrupted, and to show more than a little personality and charm.When Corasaniti watches CNN's town halls, he thinks he sees Cooper "fact-checking" the candidates. He thinks he sees those candidates being "pressed at length," presumably concerning their policy views or their substantive proposals.
How strange! When we watch CNN's town halls, our TV set shows something different.
This Monday, we recorded what happened last Friday night when Cooper pretended to question Candidate Trump about his absurdly incoherent prescriptions for health care.
We presented the transcript at great length because the exchange was so god-awful bad, largely thanks to Cooper's refusal to perform in the way Corasaniti describes.
Cooper's exchange with Trump about health care went on for more than six minutes. It was a god-awful parody of a burlesque of a policy discussion. The candidate wasn't "pressed at length." Meanwhile, the moderator did no particular "fact-checking."
Our conclusion? Something may be badly wrong with Corasaniti's TV set! He seems to be seeing town hall events our own TV set isn't showing.
In today's report, Corasaniti pens a belated Valentine to CNN's "campaign coverage." As he starts his report, he describes the way the network's fearless, sure-footed team composed a late-breaking question at last Friday's town hall, the same event which produced that god-awful "discussion" of health care.
The late-breaking question concerned Candidate Trump's original stance on the war in Iraq. This is the exciting way Corasaniti starts today's report:
CORASANITI: Jeff Zucker scowled over a laptop in a CNN truck here recently, scouring a new report by BuzzFeed: Donald J. Trump, contrary to his campaign trail boasts, initially supported the invasion of Iraq. A wall of monitors still showed Jeb Bush, but Mr. Trump would take the stage in CNN's latest Republican town hall-style meeting in minutes.Did Candidate Trump really "stammer through his answer" about his stance on Iraq? Not gigantically, no. For the transcript, see below.
Yet Mr. Zucker, the network's president, urged care.
''I get it, we need to do this, but let's get it right,'' he said to Sam Feist, the network's Washington bureau chief, and David Chalian, the political director, but also to everyone else in the truck.
Mr. Chalian fashioned a question. Mr. Zucker and Mr. Feist refined it. Onscreen, Anderson Cooper was already questioning Mr. Trump. Precious moments ticked by as a printer was powered up. Finally, a producer snatched the page and dashed out of the truck, across a wide plaza, through a long law school lobby and into the wings to await the next commercial break.
''I literally was just handed this,'' Mr. Cooper said, posing the question, when the cameras went live again. As Mr. Trump stammered through his answer—''I could have said that,'' he allowed—Mr. Zucker, in the truck, nodded along, then went back to shuffling through a green deck of questions to be asked by handpicked voters in the audience.
At one point, Cooper and Trump wasted time as they took turns praising Howard Stern. ("A great interviewer," Cooper said.) Aside from that, Trump fumbled ahead with his usual blather. Cooper sat and watched.
As usual, Cooper skipped the chance to ask the obvious questions which keep going unasked. No last-minute prep would have been needed for the questions shown below. All that was needed was the desire to do the job of an actual journalist:
UNASKED BY COOPER: Last September, Mr. Trump, you said you "fought very, very hard against going into Iraq." You even said you could "give us 25 different stories" about your vocal opposition to the war, presumably meaning news reports. To this day, no one has ever found any such news reports. Where are those those 25 reports? If the news reports don't exist, why did you describe them to millions of voters during last September's GOP debate?You'll see Cooper ask those questions when the cow jumps over the moon. Unless you watch TV with Corasaniti, in which case you'll see fearless questions being asked all the time!
It's embarrassing to see this youngish Timesman pretend that CNN is producing tough coverage of Trump. Just consider the blindingly obvious questions which everyone, in all news orgs, have agreed not to ask:
UNASKED BY EVERYONE: Back in 2011, Mr. Trump, you claimed that you had sent investigators to Hawaii to investigate President Obama's birth. On national TV, you even said that your investigators "cannot believe what they’re finding. And I’m serious." Were there any such investigators? If so, what did they find? Did they find anything at all, or was that claim a fabrication?Anderson Cooper will ask that question when the cow returns from the moon. Last summer, Candidate Trump simply announced that he no longer wants to discusses that topic. All the obedient millionaires agreed to respect his wishes.
(Meanwhile, they rummage around in every word ever uttered by Candidate Clinton, worrying about the many false things she can be said to have said. "Please release your old speeches," they say, "so we can rummage around some more." As they do, Candidate Trump gets the eternal pass.)
Corasaniti's report is a bit of a fantasy piece. That said, the New York Times is mostly providing Potemkin campaign coverage too.
In essence, the Times is praising CNN for migrating to the same village. At the Times, scribes recall how much they [HEART] Candidate Bush, pretend CNN is tough.
The actual hard-hitting transcript: How much "fact-checking" do you see here? How much is the candidate "pressed?"
COOPER (2/19/16): Again, continuing. I literally was just handed this. There's a report now out tonight on Buzzfeed that includes—I have not heard it—includes an audio clip of what appears to be you on Howard Stern talking on the radio on September 11th, 2002. He asked you are you for invading Iraq? You said "Yeah, I guess so. You know, I wish the first time it was done correctly."For the record, Howard Stern is a very talented guy and a good guy, also a great interviewer. Can't we all just agree on that?
Is that accurate? Do you remember saying that?
TRUMP: No. But, I mean, I could—I could have said that. Nobody asked me—I wasn't a politician. It was probably the first time anybody asked me that question.
COOPER: But does that—
TRUMP: But by the time the war started—that was quite a bit before the war started.
COOPER: Yeah, this was 2002.
TRUMP: By the time the war started, I was against the war. And there are articles—I mean, there are headlines in 2003, 2004 that I was totally against the war. And actually, a couple of people in your world, in terms of the pundits, said, you know, "There's definite proof in 2003, 2004 Trump was against it."
COOPER: But 2004, the Reuters article, which you pointed to a lot, and there were a couple of comments you made, I think, at a Vanity Fair party and one other comment. Those were, I think, a couple of weeks after the war began.
TRUMP: Which is OK. A lot of people said—you know, it was so early that even if it was a little bit after the war, I mean, he was totally against the war. I was very much against it. That was probably the first time I was ever even asked about the war. Howard, who's a great guy, by the way. A lot of people don't understand that. But he is—
COOPER: He's a great interviewer.
TRUMP: He's a great—he's a great interview. He's a very talented guy and a good guy. But that was probably the first time—I don't remember that, but it was probably the first time I was asked about it.
COOPER: OK. I haven't heard it, but you may have said that.
TRUMP: And, you know, when you're in—when you're in the private sector—yeah, I may have. When you're in the private sector, you know, you get asked things and, you know, you're not a politician and probably the first time I was asked. By the time the war started, I was against it. And shortly thereafter, I was really against it.
COOPER: I want you to meet another voter. Ryan Parsons is his name. He's an aspiring entrepreneur here in South Carolina.
Final question: where are those 25 news reports? Cooper forgot to ask!