CNN’s Cuomo, Trump duel in must-see TV
With proper promotion, it could be America's best new morning pick-me-up: Donald Trump vs. Chris Cuomo.
For the second time in recent weeks, Trump and CNN's morning co-host went at it early Thursday in a rather engrossing, if somewhat fruitless, 20-minute rhetorical mano a mano in which Trump again proved a seemingly unique political species.
He's a Teflon piñata. But he can make for great television.
There was so much to ask and deride him about and almost nothing he would concede as a mistake or faulty reasoning. Bash him and he doesn't explode into a cloud of papier-mâché, cloth or CostCo-bought candy, instead circumventing the query or getting a bit down and dirty.
Cuomo was characteristically sharp and disapproving as he probed on various topics.
Unlike your average, compliant morning show host, there's a righteous streak in Cuomo that melds with a sophistication about the political process, whether it involves domestic or foreign affairs. After all, it's been the family business, with two New York governors in the family (his brother and late father) and a seemingly genetic penchant to mix the pragmatic and the moral.
"You making a statement or asking a question?" asked Trump at one point.
Well, Cuomo had much to make a statement about as he interrogated Trump on the Iran nuclear deal, his recent badmouthing of Republican rival Carly Fiorina (disclosed in a Rolling Stone profile, whose pictures Trump "loved") and his views of GOP candidate Ben Carson, among other matters.
Trump rambled on about the Iran deal and how other countries would benefit financially from our largesse. He again called the Obama administration feckless and inept and said he could extract any and all Americans unfairly detained by Tehran.
The two dueled, at times talking over one another, with Cuomo clearly unimpressed by Trump's faux tough guy bombast.
The candidate also predictably turned gratuitous as he said Ben Carson makes Jeb Bush "look like the Energizer Bunny" and badmouthed both the depth of Carson's religious faith and his medical expertise ("He was an OK doctor").
He repeated his earlier defense on "Fox & Friends" of obviously nasty remarks made to Rolling Stone about Fiorina's looks. No, no, he was talking about her "persona," then trashed her record as a corporate executive.
Cuomo wasn't buying it in ways that caused obvious friction even with so practiced and dodgy a performer as Trump (who, as usual, was calling in to the show, as he had to Fox a half hour earlier).
Cuomo exhibited a certain fervor as he suggested that, in general, Trump himself demonstrated "a manner of behavior" that is simply un-presidential.
Trump's response then included a rather typical low-blow, pointedly asserting that Cuomo's approach perhaps explains "why your show is not doing so well."
It went like this for 20 minutes, the two combatants going at it with a certain grudging mutual respect, or at least implicit acknowledgment that the other is a formidable player and needs to be dealt with.
Cuomo's conundrum was self-evident: He clearly doesn't believe Trump could possibly back up much of what he's pledging, be it on the Iran nuclear deal or immigration, if he's elected to the White House. He basically said that Thursday.
But, at the same time, the journalist in him had to underscore that Trump is at 32 percent, leading and rising in the latest CNN poll on the GOP race.
He's galling, but he's in front for the moment. And continuing to gobble up enormous amount of free television time from networks that might just be a sliver more discerning.
Nevertheless, it should make for some more must-see sunrise TV in the next few months.