Do journalists pay any attention: Our view? Ever since 1965, the "Goldwater rule" had served our discourse well.
According to the Goldwater rule, you aren't supposed to bring psychiatric analysis into campaign coverage. In normal times, that's a darn good idea.
Sometimes the rule has been honored in the breach. During Campaign 2000, journalists served as amateur shrinks concerning the troubling Candidate Gore. Most strikingly, these amateur shrinks wondered why the candidate kept making ridiculous claims "when the truth would have been just as good."
They invented the ridiculous claims, then psychoanalyzed their alleged perpetrator. Displaying our foremost skill, we liberals stared off into space.
As a general matter, the Goldwater rule has served our discourse well. It did so for fifty years. This year, we'd say it started to fail.
It seemed to us that Candidate Trump's behavior was so strange that it cried out for psychological analysis. Unfortunately, the journalists who invented Gore's lies now tended to avert their eyes from Trump's. In line with that 50-year-old rule, they failed to confront his apparent disturbance. We'll all get to see where it leads.
In our view, Trump's election has extended a long process in which our major systems have been breaking down. Our big newspapers were Trump before Trump. In his own ludicrous conduct, he simply jacked their "fake news" culture up a notch.
Concerning the press, we've had a question since Candidate Trump's big win. Did these people pay any attention to anything Trump ever said?
We had that reaction to Frank Bruni's new column. In our view, he starts with a puzzling claim about Trump's stance on Obamacare, although he's hardly the first:
BRUNI (11/16/16): If Election Day seemed to be a dream (or, rather, nightmare) devoid of logic, the week since has done little to render the world more coherent.Regarding The Wall, it sounds to us like Bruni is wishin' and hopin'. It sounds like he's pretending that Trump will turn out to be like all the rest—that he'll backtrack and flip-flop and slip-slide away, and end in the mushy middle.
Donald Trump, exulting in his big win, addressed the question of The Wall. You know, the central pledge of his candidacy, reiterated at every rally. A mighty barrier between the United States and Mexico that only he was potent enough to erect.
And what did he have to say?
That it might be a mere fence in spots.
A fence! Just three days after his victory, he was downscaling, backtracking. At this rate, he’ll be talking at his inauguration about a glorious hedge along the border. By April it’ll be flowering shrubs, with blossoms that spell out “Welcome to America.” And by June? Some sort of new Christo installation, maybe the world’s largest-ever topiary display.
As for Obamacare, it’s apparently not so awful after all. Trump said he liked the part that lets kids stay on their parents’ insurance plans, which is, if you think about it, sort of what Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric have been doing all along. He also liked the part that prevents insurers from disqualifying people for pre-existing conditions.
That wouldn't be our overall bet. That tiny comment about building a fence in spots was a single tiny comment. Does that mean The Wall will turn into a hedge? Maybe Bruni needs a bit of counseling help at this point!
We mention The Wall which may be a hedge to get to the health care matter. Did journalists listen to anything Trump said at any part of this race?
Long ago, Candidate Trump said he wanted to retain the happy-talk parts of Obamacare—for example, the part about pre-existing conditions. He said this in the Republican debate on February 25. He said it in the second debate with Clinton on October 9:
COOPER (10/9/16): You've said you want to end Obamacare. You've also said you want to make coverage accessible for people with pre-existing conditions. How do you force insurance companies to do that if you're no longer mandating that every American get insurance?That doesn't exactly sound like English. But it isn't new for Trump to say that he wants to retain the provision that prevents insurers from disqualifying people for pre-existing conditions. Despite what people like Bruni keep writing, that isn't new in the past week.
TRUMP: We're going to be able to. You're going to have plans—
COOPER: What does that mean?
TRUMP: Well, I'll tell you what it means. You're going to have plans that are so good, because we're going to have so much competition in the insurance industry. Once we break out—once we break out the lines and allow the competition to come—
COOPER: Are you going—are you going to have a mandate that Americans have to have health insurance?
TRUMP: President Obama—Anderson, excuse me. President Obama, by keeping those lines, the boundary lines around each state, it was almost gone until just very toward the end of the passage of Obamacare, which, by the way, was a fraud. You know that, because Jonathan Gruber, the architect of Obamacare, was said—he said it was a great lie, it was a big lie. President Obama said you keep your doctor, you keep your plan. The whole thing was a fraud, and it doesn't work.
But when we get rid of those lines, you will have competition, and we will be able to keep pre-existing, we'll also be able to help people that can't get—don't have money because we are going to have people protected.
Along the way, he and his savants have also discussed the possibility of letting children stay on their parents’ insurance plans. Here's one such statement quoted in the Huffington Post last May.
Nothing Trump has said about this has ever made any sense, of course. But despite the claim which major journalists have been cutting and pasting this week, these happy-talk statements aren't new.
To our ear and eye, Candidate Trump seemed diagnosable. We'd say that situation still obtains. It's a dangerous state of affairs.
That said, our journalists don't seem enormously far behind him. Their part of the system broke down long ago, long before Trump extended the wreckage last Tuesday night.