Part 3—The craziness of Matthews and Dowd: Yesterday, in the 5 PM hour, we're fairly sure we saw Mark Preston make an unusual statement.
Preston is "executive editor for CNN Politics, reporting on campaigns, polling and politics across the network's platforms, including CNN, CNN International and CNN.com." We're fairly sure we saw him compliment Donald J. Trump for the way he had dropped all that "Lyin' Ted" blather.
We say we're fairly sure we saw Preston compliment Trump because CNN has failed to post a transcript for yesterday's 5 PM hour of The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.
The transcript doesn't appear on CNN's site. It hasn't appeared through Nexis. As sometimes happens, yesterday's 5 PM hour has disappeared from the earth.
We're fairly sure we saw Preston make the remark we've described. We were surprised by his normalizing statement, because, just one day before, Trump had made one of the craziest statements of his entire campaign.
We refer to the crazy statement in which this apparently crazy person tried to link Ted Cruz's father to Lee Harvey Oswald and, apparently, to the murder of President Kennedy. In our view, that was about as flat-out crazy as anything Trump has said.
In fairness, Trump has made many ludicrous statements and done many ludicrous things. Yesterday, Jonathan Chait recalled what we would regard as the craziest previous moment from Candidate Trump. It involves the table which groaned beneath all those alleged Trump Steaks.
Chait went into some detail about that prior event. In doing so, we think he showed an eye for the type of craziness which has long been swallowing our national discourse.
What happened in that previous crazy event? After winning the Mississippi and Michigan primaries, Trump appeared for a press event next to a table piled high with steaks.
Chait's account starts like this:
CHAIT (5/4/16): The most surreal and characteristic moment of Trump’s presidential campaign may have taken place two months ago. That week, Mitt Romney had mocked Trump’s business acumen, highlighting his many failed ventures, including Trump Steaks, in a well-regarded and highly publicized speech that articulated both the horror with which Republican elites regarded Trump and their strategy for preventing him from capturing the nomination. A few days later, having won a series of victories, Trump appeared in his Mar-a-Lago resort to insist Trump Steaks were indeed a going concern. “Do we have steaks? We have Trump steaks. He said the steak company, and we have Trump steaks. And by the way, if you want to take one, we’ll charge you about, what, 50 bucks a steak?”To us, this bizarre behavior provoked an obvious question—is Donald Trump mentally ill? That said, Chait hadn't yet described the full-blown craziness put on display that night.
As Chait proceeds with his account, so does the apparent lunacy of Trump's behavior that night. What follows didn't occur in a dream. It happened in a prime-time victory event staged for the national press corps:
CHAIT (continuing directly): It was not only a blatant lie, but a lie that required no sophistication at all to see through. One did not need a grasp of economics or public policy to understand that Trump Steaks is a no-longer-extant product. There are no advertisements for these steaks. They are not available for purchase anywhere. They do not exist. Trump simply had his staff purchase a bunch of steaks at a supermarket and display them on a table, and call them “Trump Steaks.” But—and here is the most incredible detail of all, the one that reveals just how blunt the Trump con is—his campaign did not even bother to completely remove the wrappers from the steaks they purchased. The steaks still had the labels from the local butcher from which they were purchased.Yes, you read that correctly! Trump had posed beside a table piled high with those great Trump Steaks. Except the steaks in questions weren't Trump steaks, a fact which was visibly obvious—and the truth gets even worse.
In fact, there are no Trump Steaks at this point; Trump Steaks no longer exist! The candidate had decided to pose beside a table piled high with raw meat while discussing the greatness of a product which no longer exists.
At the time, we asked a fairly obvious question—is Donald Trump mentally ill? On Tuesday, this question again came to mind again when we saw Trump linking Cruz Senior to Lee Harvey Oswald.
At long last, is there no end to this crazy man's craziness? The very next day, we're fairly sure we saw Preston praising Trump for his new, improved decorum.
In fact, a fair number of cable players criticized Trump last night for the weirdness of the Oswald play. That said, we think the weirdness of that behavior might serve as a defining event for those who want to understand their failing nation's failing political culture.
To a large extent, we think Chait's aim was true in yesterday's post. In that crazy appearance beside those Trump Steaks, Candidate Trump displayed the art of the con, and that's how Chait defined it. That said, he also displayed the craziness which has largely swallowed American discourse in the past several decades.
Let's be fair to the pundits! If a journalist was truly concerned with Trump's behavior, it would still be hard to deal with a person as crazy as Trump.
That said, many journalists don't seem to be hugely concerned with Trump's apparent craziness or with his apparent lying. We'll offer one possible reason:
The crazy dissembling which rules our discourse largely started with the press and within their horrible guild.
Liberal pundits like Chait are happy to note Trump's apparent lying and his love of the con. They will never note that Trump is building on a style of dissembling which was largely invented and normalized within their own broken-souled guild.
Trump has said many crazy things in the course of this campaign. But so have many major "journalists" over the past twenty years.
The art of the con has long been central to the way our political "journalism" works. One example: In his relentless behavior in 1999 and 2000, Chris Matthews was every bit as crazy and dishonest as Candidate Trump has been in this past year.
At the time, Matthews was waging war against Candidate Gore and against Candidate Hillary Clinton; she was running for the Senate against Matthews favorite Rudy Giuliani. Matthews' craziness matched that of Trump, as did his ugly name-calling and his endless dissembling.
We've posted the highlights many times. To review just two crazy days in the life, see the fairly detailed report we posted in June 2008.
Even at book length, it would be hard to capture the full extent of Matthews' craziness and dissembling during the years when he served the interests of CEO Jack Welch—the years when his salary suddenly jumped from $1.2 million to $5 million per year.
Matthews was crazy, and crazily dishonest, for a good many years. He was visibly crazy about the troubling number of button's on Gore's three-button suits. Assuming even minimal comptence, he viciously lied, again and again, about what actually happened at the Buddhist temple.
During this period, the poisonous influence of Maureen Dowd was also sweeping through the press. That said, this poisonous pair were just the tip of the pre-Trump journo iceberg.
Chait will tell you all about Donald Trump's crazy cons. He won't describe the way this destructive culture got its start within our "political journalism."
To this day, the Chaits won't tell you about the scripted insults and invented facts which constitute the recent history of our failed journalistic culture. That culture is built on the art of the con. Trump has simply advanced that culture beyond its pre-existing boundaries.
Tomorrow, we'll return to the new invented fact our heroes aren't talking about. People are dead all over the world because of the silence of players like Chait as this noxious culture took form in the recent past.
Nothing is going to change about this. The art of the con now lies at the heart of our post-journalistic culture. This unfortunate fact is true on both sides of the aisle.
Tomorrow: The liberal world and the art of the con