Anderson Cooper with Trump: We've been moving in this direction for a good many years. But in the current White House campaign, traditional journalistic culture has totally ceased to exist.
To see what we mean, consider CNN's town hall event last Thursday night. More specifically, consider a long, embarrassing, hapless exchange between Anderson Cooper and Candidate Trump.
Trump, of course, is a consummate clown, the end result of a long, gruesome process. We'll focus on Anderson Cooper.
At one point during his hour with Trump, Cooper called on a South Carolina voter named Todd. Todd wanted to know what Trump planned to do to replace Obamacare.
Todd said he was "a local health insurance agent." He said he wasn't "a big fan of Obamacare." Still and all, he stressed the fact that he wanted specifics from Trump:
QUESTIONER (2/18/16): What is your exact plan, and please be specific, as to what you would do to replace Obamacare?To watch the whole segment, just click here. Todd's question starts around 16:30.
How would Trump replace Obamacare? The voter wanted to hear his exact plan. He asked Trump to be specific.
Needless to say, Trump instantly wandered off point. Just like that, the candidate was sharing his exact thoughts about refugees from Syria:
TRUMP (continuing directly): OK. Great question. First of all, Obamacare as you know is a disaster. Your rates are going up 25, 35, 45, 55 percent. It's going to fail in '17 anyway unless as usual the Republicans bail them out. We know where the Democrats are coming from, but the Republicans have been so weak.To his credit, Cooper piped up at this point, reminding Trump of the question he'd been asked. In response, Trump wandered the countryside again.
The budget they passed four weeks ago is a—they call it the omnibus budget. It gives Obama everything he wanted. It gives him money to bring in people from Syria that we have no idea who they are or where they are, et cetera which is a disaster. We can't afford to do that.
It gives money for illegal immigration, for letting people come in illegally into this country. The whole thing is a disaster and the Republicans passed it.
With health care, we have to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Once again, he wandered about, then offered a magic solution:
COOPER (continuing directly): What would you replace it with?How would Trump replace Obamacare? He mentioned health care savings accounts, which he said are great. Beyond that, he advocated "removing the lines," which he said would "create competition," leading to "the best health care you've ever, ever had."
TRUMP: A health care savings accounts, which are great. We would do that. Or we're going to have and probably—and—you can say and/or, what I really like is the—
I'm a self-funder. I'm not taking any money, OK? I'm not taking money from the insurance companies so I can do what's right.
I can do what's right for the people, I can do—and this is something that I think I've been given credit for. I don't think I've been given enough credit, because I have turned down hundreds of millions of dollars. I could take—if Jeb Bush raised $148 million, put it in a fund, it's like throwing it out the window, what he did with it. I would have had 500—I would have had $1 billion—I have people asking me, "please let me give you"—I'm doing it all myself.
What happened is, we have lines around each state. It makes it impossible for people to bid, for insurance companies to bid within those states. The insurance company would have a monopoly—would rather have a monopoly on here, or on New York, or on Iowa, or on any other place, than be able to bid all over the United States, because they make much more money that way. What we do—and the insurance companies take care of the politicians. They're giving the politicians—most of the guys that I'm running against are getting money from insurance companies and they're getting money from—by the way, other companies. Drug companies, pharmaceutical companies.
They give tremendous amounts of money to the people that I'm negotiating against, that I'm debating against, the people that are on the stage, the people that are in Congress, the senators.
So what I'm saying is this. We have to get rid of the lines. We have to create competition. When you do that, you will have the best health care you've ever, ever had. And it'll be at a reasonable cost.
They almost got rid of the lines when they were doing Obamacare but it didn't happen. Because the insurance companies have too many of the senators under control.
COOPER: Let me ask Todd, just to follow-up—
TRUMP: You understand what I mean. There's no competition!
By now, Trump had spoken for two minutes and 30 seconds in response to the voter's question asking him for specifics. He had said virtually nothing which was responsive to the question he'd been asked.
In all likelihood, very few viewers could really explain what "health care savings accounts" are, or how they would work as replacement for Obamacare. Presumably, almost no one knew what Trump meant by the phrase "removing the lines," given his hurried, rushed, confusing explanation of the topic.
Cooper made no attempt to clarify this part of Trump's statement, or to challenge Trump with the familiar standard objections to "removing the lines."
At this point, Cooper turned to Todd, the person who asked the question. In response to a pitiful question from Cooper, this exchange occurred:
COOPER (continuing directly): Did you get your answer? Is that specific enough for you? Do you—To our eye, it looked like Todd was too polite to say that he wasn't satisfied. At any rate, that's what was said.
QUESTIONER: Sounds fair enough. Yes.
TRUMP: Thank you.
To his credit, Cooper asked an actual question at this point, although he stammered around. In response, a filibuster occurred:
COOPER (continuing directly): I got one question about it. If Obamacare's, like, repealed, and there's no mandate for everybody to have insurance, what's to— I mean, why would insurance company not have a pre-existing, insure somebody who has a pre-existing condition?How would Candidate Trump replace Obamacare?
TRUMP: Well, I like the mandate.
OK. So here's where I'm a little bit different. I don't want people dying on the streets, and I say this all the time. And I say this—
Look, I did five speeches, maybe six speeches today. We had a lot of rallies. We had of thousands and thousands of people. We get big crowds. Every time I talk about this, I get standing ovations. The Republican people, they're wonderful people. They don't want people dying on the streets.
Sometimes they'll say, "Donald Trump wants single-payer," because there's a group of people—as good as these plans are, and by the way your insurance will go way down, you'll have better plans, you'll get your own doctor, which Obama lied. Remember this—
COOPER: Will people with pre-existing conditions be able to get insurance?
Obama lied when he said you're going to keep your plan, you're going to keep your doctor, you got to—it was a pure lie. And frankly, many Democrats went along, only because they believed him.
He lied 28 times, he said it. Twenty-eight times. If that were in the private sector you'd be sued for fraud, OK? He lied to get the plan through. He got it through and it's turned out to be a disaster. The wrong people are buying it, you know what's happening. It's dead. It's going to— Look, Obamacare is dead. It's going to be repealed, it's going to be replaced.
But I will say this, Anderson. If we don't do something quickly, you're going to have a health care problem like you've never seen before in this country. Now—
The new plan is good. It's going to be inexpensive. It's going to be much better for the people. But there's going to a group of people at the bottom, people that haven't done well. People that don't have any money that won't be able to be taken care of.
We're going to take care of them through maybe concepts of Medicare. We have hospitals that aren't doing well, we have doctors that aren't doing well. You cannot let people die on the street, OK?
Now, some people would say, "that's not a very Republican thing to say." Every time I say this at a rally, or even today, I said it once, it got a standing ovation.
I said, "You know, the problem is everybody thinks that you people, as Republicans, hate the concept of taking care of people that are really, really sick and are gonna die." That's not single-payer, by the way. That's called "heart." We gotta take care of people that can't take care of themselves.
But the plans will be much less expensive than Obamacare, they'll be far better than Obamacare, you'll get your doctor, you'll get everything that you want to get. It'll be unbelievable. But you've gotta get rid of the lines. You gotta have competition. Those people that are left, we've gotta help them live. And everybody likes it when I say it, and that includes Republicans. And it's not single-payer.
By now, five minutes and 15 seconds had elapsed since Todd finished asking his question, in which he asked for specifics. In reply, Trump had said virtually nothing about what he would do. Meanwhile, Cooper had shown a total inability to moderate a discussion of this extremely basic question.
Trump had rattled some highly inaccurate claims about how poorly Obamacare is working. In answer to what he would do instead, he kept saying he wouldn't let anyone die in the streets, and that his new plan, whatever it is, isn't "single-payer."
He stressed the standing ovations he says he gets when he speaks. He also said that his new plan, whatever it is, "is good," is "going to be inexpensive" and is "going to be much better for the people." He said people's insurance costs would go way down and they would be able to have their own doctor.
Voters will get everything they want to get. It will be unbelievable.
How was he going to keep people from dying in the streets? According to Trump, "We're going to take care of them through maybe concepts of Medicare."
Cooper let this world-class bafflegab pass.
How was Trump going to make costs go way down while improving everyone's plans and requiring companies to insure people with pre-existing conditions? There wasn't the slightest sign that Cooper knew how to ask such questions, or that he was willing to stop Trump from the self-serving digressions with which he lards his reactions to basic questions like this.
It isn't easy to handle a discussion like this, but Cooper didn't show the slightest sign of having any ability, or any will, to engage in the process. Simply put, he's a multimillionaire TV star who was pretending to interviewing a multibillionaire candidate who has taken our culture's rolling decline completely over the top.
Including that voter's futile question, we've looked at roughly six minutes out of Trump's 30-minute session with Cooper. The transcript you see doesn't even resemble a rational discussion.
It isn't easy to be in Cooper's seat, tasked with responding to so much nonsense and evasion. But Cooper, who's paid millions per year, didn't show the slightest sign of knowing how to interrupt the familiar, predictable puddles of piddle the candidate emitted.
You're looking at a complete collapse of the American system. This cosmic journalistic collapse has been underway for decades, of course. Tomorrow, we'll review the accurate things Ruth Marcus has now said.