This is the best blow by blow analysis you’re going to hear of not only the failed interview of Donald Trump on Meet the Press this Sunday, and what a blown opportunity that was, but also of the failure of television journalism as a whole to deal with the Trump phenomenon and the political situation in this country today.
Trump threw a monkey wrench into political journalism, particularly broadcast journalism, when he came on the scene in 2015. The institution of broadcast journalism simply was not structured for one such as Trump and the mechanism broke down immediately. I remember reading an editorial in the Dallas Morning News, which made the analogy to a photocopier. “It’s like trying to make a copy of something three inches thick and made of cardboard. Of course it won’t go through. The machine simply was not designed to handle something like this.” Neither was TV journalism, which began pandering to Trump, who is a master of TV. TV created Trump the Candidate, like Victor Frankenstein made his own monster and now they don’t know how to stop it. The first step, as Schmidt points out, is to change the style of the interview to take place in real time, to “extemporize” and not just check all the boxes.
Schmidt called the Big Lie, “the lie that is poisoning the headwaters of our civilization.” This is not hyperbole, this is plain, unvarnished truth. And the broadcast media either can’t get it, or they flat out don’t want to address it. Jonathan Swan did a first rate interview with Trump a few years back. He nailed him with facts. Bret Baier did a very good interview with Trump, not as good as Swan’s but still very creditable. Baier was also fact based and he didn’t allow himself to be thrown off base or steamrolled. Kristen Welker did.
Welker, as Schmidt points out, allowed Trump to maneuver her into articulating the stance of the Democratic party. Welker became the Democratic proxy and Trump did his MAGA propagandizing and that was the show. The show may have had a different producer and director in the credits, but it was produced and directed by Donald Trump. He got exactly what he wanted. Again. Like always.
The broadcast media keeps falling for Trump’s ploys over and over again. They are seriously about to eclipse Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football. Trump is never going to change. He’s always going to pull the football. The media has to be willing to then grab the football from Trump, tackling him if necessary, and bringing the game back into a game of rules and making things fair.
Trump is a con artist, a manipulator, and a cheat of epic proportions. None of that came through on today’s Meet the Press interview because Trump got the host on the defensive. And now it looks like the show, maybe the entire network, is on the defensive. They just don’t get it and it’s glaringly obvious.
Mehdi Hasan. Nicole Wallace. Ali Velshi. Joy Reid. Jen Psaki. Rachel Maddow. Katie Phang. Stephanie Ruhle. Ayman Mohyeldin. There is no shortage of NBC talent that would have done a million times better.
— CharM (@Vladdiefan) September 17, 2023
The way the broadcast media covers Trump has to change. And it needs to happen stat. Maybe this is the watershed moment we’ve all been waiting for, and finally the networks get the wakeup call. A legitimate interview with Trump can’t be an occasional phenomenon that is lauded as extraordinary because it is. It needs to become the norm.
The talent is there. Can the broadcast media turn back the clock to the days of Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, that crew and actually get the biggest story of our time reported truthfully and in context? Democracy may depend upon it. It is that crucial. Donald Trump must no longer be given “an unimpeded avenue with meek and occasional interjections about what was real and what was not,” as Steve Schmidt said. Trump’s attempting to recreate 2015 again. And so far the media is playing right along. If this doesn’t come to a grinding halt now, I fear the consequences.