Interlude—Todd pretends to interview Trump: Is it true? In the realm of journalism, was 2015 really "the year of the liberal?"
That's what it says around here. We don't mean that as a compliment.
Last week, we offered a tiny overview of the claim that 2015 was the year of liberal dumbness. This week, we'll start exploring the claim that 2015 was also the year of liberal narrative.
The dumbness, and the turn to liberal narrative, work quite well together. That said, our liberal dumbness has been dominant for decades now, most often expressed through our inertia and our silence.
Our liberal silence has helped to spawn the awful imitations of journalism we've seen in the past several days. Those imitations are all around as we move toward November's possible win by Candidate Trump.
As the week begins, let's focus on the horrid performance staged by Anderson Cooper last Thursday night. Cooper pretended to stage a "town hall meeting" on the subject of guns, with MSNBC offering its latest dosage of live fresh Trump, cast as the bait in its corporate counter-programming.
That "town hall meeting" on CNN was as bad a cable event as we've ever seen. First, though, a quick review of yesterday's Meet the Press, where Chuck Todd once again pretended to interview Candidate Trump.
What happens when a figure like Todd pretends to interview Trump? Believe it or not, this was yesterday's first line of questioning, with Trump being asked—we kid you not!—if he plans to quit the race:
TODD (1/10/16): You know there's this running conventional wisdom about you, with some in the establishment that now say, "OK, he's here to stay. But if he doesn't win Iowa, he'll leave. He'll leave the race."Really? Is there really some "running conventional wisdom" in which "some in the establishment" are now saying that Candidate Trump will quit the race if he doesn't win Iowa?
TRUMP: I'm not leaving. No, I'm not leaving. You and I had this discussion about two months ago where you said, "Would you leave?" I was in number one. I've been in number one just about since I joined up, right? June 16. Amazing! We've had a lot of fun. But you asked me that question.
TRUMP: I started talking about, "Well, maybe here, maybe there, if this happens."
TODD: There's no maybes anymore?
TRUMP: There's no maybes. There's no maybes. I'm not leaving.
TODD: You're going straight to the convention?
TRUMP: I'm going all the way. If I don't win, I don't win. Maybe that can happen, but I'm leading every poll big.
Actually, no—there isn't. That was imitation questioning, as was most of Todd's lengthy session with Trump, in which Todd conducted a string of superficial pseudo-exchanges on an endless range of topics.
How superficial was the "discussion?" Just take a look at this "question" and answer:
TODD: You have said you think President Obama is a terrible negotiator.Seriously, that was Todd's complete "question." Quoting the bulldog host in full:
TRUMP: Obama is one of the worst negotiators I've ever seen on everything except when it comes to dealing with the Republicans. It's unbelievable. The Republicans fold every single time. They don't get—this last budget was terrible.
But you look at the Iran deal, you look at these deals, I always bring up Bergdahl. We get a traitor, they get five people that they've wanted for nine years and they're back on the battlefield trying to kill everybody, including us. And we get a dirty rotten traitor. So let just tell you. That's the way—that's the kind of deals we make.
The Iran deal—we give them $150 billion, we get nothing out of it. We don't even get our prisoners back.
"You have said you think President Obama is a terrible negotiator."
More accurately, that was a "prompt in the form of a question"—an invitation for the interview subject to say the exact same things he always says about the topic in question.
("I always bring up Bergdahl," Trump said, with perfect accuracy. On a journalistic basis, why prompt him to do it again, for perhaps the ten millionth time?)
Todd scattershot his way through a long list of such superficial pseudo-exchanges. He was able to focus on nothing at all, as we see in this rambling example:
TODD: On Tuesday, we're going to hear the President say the state of our union is in some words strong, vibrant, all this stuff. What would you say? One year from now it could be you giving this speech to Congress, a version of it. We don't call it "State of the Union" in the first one, but a joint session speech.Trump wants to fix our health care system, which is going to fail very soon. But how would he fix our health care system? Also, what is his reason for saying it's going to fail?
How would you describe the state of the union right now?
TRUMP: Now, or in a couple of years?
TODD: Now. Or in a year.
TRUMP: I think now it's a mess. Our military—
TODD: You'd go up there and say the state of our union is a mess.
TRUMP: I wouldn't say that. You're asking me for an opinion. No, Obama will say what he's going to say. But I think right now the state of our union is a mess. We can't beat ISIS, our military is falling back, it's not being properly taken care of, our vets aren't being properly taken care of, Obamacare, as you know, is going to fail very soon and probably in '17—our health care. We don't have borders, we don't have anything.
I think if I'm there in two years and I'm making a speech I say we're getting better fast.
TODD: In that first speech to Congress, you're going to lay out your first hundred days agenda. What are those four issues?
TRUMP: I want to build our military bigger and better and stronger than—
TODD: That will be your number one. That's number one.
TRUMP: I want to take care of our veterans. I want to take care of them, they're being taken care of horribly. I want to fix our health care system. I want to create borders so that we have a country because right now we don't a country. We have borders where people just walk across and do whatever they want to do and then they have babies and the babies become citizens and we have to take care of them.
We're going to do many, many things and we're going to make America great again. That's what I want to do.
Needless to say, Trump wasn't asked. At the point shown above, Todd simply scattershot his way ahead to the next superficial pseudo-exchange.
Todd always "interviews" Trump this way, presumably for business reasons. As the lengthy pseudo-session ended, Todd cheerfully said this:
"All right. Mr. Trump. Until we meet again."
We'd suggest that may be a "tell." By all accounts, an appearance by Candidate Trump swells a TV show's ratings. This helps a program make money.
Highly paid corporate "interviewers" want Trump coming back again. As a result, they fashion this type of imitation session.
In our view, that lengthy Meet the Press interview was imitation—Potemkin. That said, it was an act of intellectual genius compared to the Potemkin "town hall meeting" Anderson Cooper and CNN staged last Thursday night.
In theory, the session had been called to explore important policy issues concerning guns. Cooper had a well-known guest for his "town hall meeting"—President Barack Obama.
The session started at 8 PM Eastern; it ran for an hour and twelve minutes. As counter-programming, MSNBC ran a live address from Vermont by the aforementioned Candidate Trump.
On MSNBC, Trump's speech consumed the last half hour of the chatter show, Hardball. At 8 PM Eastern, MSNBC kept running with Trump for the first twelve minutes of the Chris Hayes show, presumably hoping to keep eyeballs from wandering over to CNN, where Obama was now being featured.
On The One True Liberal Channel, it was 42 consecutive minutes of Live Fresh Trump, ending around 8:12 Eastern. At that time, Hayes was allowed to proceed with normal programming, although he did so in split-screen format.
On MSNBC, Hayes shared the screen with Candidate Trump, who continued to orate.
In what way was Cooper's "town hall meeting" an example of imitation journalism? Because we thought the session was so egregious, we'll save that question for tomorrow, offering only these glimpses:
In a very famous play, a very famous figure—MacBeth himself!—quotes a ghostly voice saying this: "Sleep no more! MacBeth does murder sleep."
We'd say that Cooper murdered discussion in Thursday's "town hall" event.
By its selection of thrilling celebrity guests, CNN murdered the very nature of the "town hall meeting." It also managed to make the gun discussion look like a war between two rival tribes—one tribe black and urban, the other tribe white and conservative.
By its selection of guests and by the egregious behavior of Cooper, CNN managed to create as dumb a discussion as we've ever seen. For his part, Obama contributed his arguably over-long answers. But the questions to which he was asked to respond were among the dumbest we've ever seen. That was the fault of Cooper and CNN, not of Cooper's guests.
Cooper's reaction to all this turmoil was appalling, unwell. That said, imitation discourse is all around us. It paves the way for Candidate Trump's potential eventual win.
Our own liberal dumbness, down through the years, has played a large part in creating this unseemly cultural framework. That said, was 2015 also the year of liberal narrative?
Yes it was! But before getting there, we have to attend to this mess.
Tomorrow: An imitation town hall meeting, complete with imitation questions and imitation host
This afternoon: Once again, right on page one, the New York Times pretends