Media talk past one another after Trump’s grand finale
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Well, the election appears over. At about 12:30 a.m. Friday, Fox pollster Frank Luntz announced to Sean Hannity the findings of his weeklong on-air focus group of supposed independent voters. "The prosecution of Hillary Clinton is successful," said the theatrical Luntz. "They have successfully made the case that she should not be the next president."
"They" presumably referred to the Trump campaign as the Republican Convention concluded with the alternate universes of American TV on striking display. Over at CNN, Republican analyst Ana Navarro, who is at times given to strained and metaphors and analogies, called Trump's acceptance speech "disgusting" and "terrifying."
It was much the same at MSNBC, where it was deemed a vision of scary immigrants and terrorists running amok. Brian Williams offered, too, that it was delivered in a "modified yell." And, this morning, we have both "Morning Joe's" Willie Geist and Bloomberg News using the word "dystopian" — one presumably not on the minds of the 3,000 convention delegates who split for home today. "Trump's America Grows More Ominous Over 13-Month Run," writes Bloomberg's Michael Bender, as if he were Mother Jones' David Corn in his "Donald Trump and the Dark Soul of the GOP."
At Fox, Hannity looked like a kid at Christmas, he was so exultant. Rudy Giuliani called it "one of the greatest acceptance speeches of modern times," while pawing the shoulder of radio host Laura Ingraham. Maybe it had been a long day for gravelly voiced Rudy. But the former New York City mayor, Ingraham, Monica Crowley and Hannity all agreed that the "liberal media" would obviously not give Trump his due. "They lie all the time," Giuliani chortled. "They're part of the rigged system."
Trump campaign boss Paul Manafort, whose somber air suggests a well-attired mob debt collector, made the post-speech rounds with speechwriter Stephen Miller, a 2007 graduate of Duke who seemed star-struck upon encountering Jake Tapper and Wolf Blitzer. Seemingly restraining himself to ask for autographs (at least on-air), he offered a few modest insights into the speech's construction and the primary thematic mandate from his boss: "You can't have prosperity without the rule of law." He stretched to shake Tapper's hand when done. It was harder to reach over to Blitzer. As Mick Jagger says in the song played (oddly, given the lyrics) by the campaign after Trump was done, you can't always get what you want.
As for Luntz, and the research theater that he's mastered, he did append one thought after declaring the devastation suffered by Hillary. Referring to the impact of the convention strategy on those garrulous independents he'd convened all week, "They have somewhat made the case that Donald Trump should be president."
Well, that provided sufficient ambiguity from one alternate universe. The media probably should stick around for the rest of the campaign.
As Roger Ailes exits
Chicago Democratic consultant Tom Bowen hollered my way yesterday: "Democrats get Donald Trump on a kamikaze mission to destroy the Republican Party, the first woman President and Roger Ailes' downfall in the same year? Pinch me, I want to make sure I'm not dreaming." No, he's not dreaming about Ailes, who quite obviously exited yesterday. (Poynter)
The story got a fair bit of attention on the platforms of rivals MSNBC and CNN, whom he beat like a drum ratings-wise even as they fumed about his Machiavellian modus operandi. That included MSNBC beckoning Michael Wolff, a longtime Rupert Murdoch and Fox observer, who linked Ailes and the delegates in the very arena in which he sat.
"Fox News and Roger Ailes have been the most important influence in the Republican Party and the conservative movement for a generation now. You can't overestimate how truly profound Fox has been." Alluding to Trump pledging to be "the voice" of "forgotten" Americans, he said "The Republican voice has been Fox for a very long time." Yes, there was well-publicized feuding within Fox over Trump, and the Megyn Kelly spat (with its heartwarming subsequent act of reconciliation). Fox, he said, is used to "giving orders" to candidates. Not so with Trump.
"But Roger Ailes told me that it would be of incredible financial value to Fox" if Trump fared well "and the money he would make would guarantee him at least another year running Fox News." Could one somehow place a value on Ailes' "distinct" personal involvement? That seems totally speculative, but Wolff put it as $400 to $600 million a year. "He has this connection to his audience I don't think we have ever seen in the television business."
Many hours later, Brian Williams juxtaposed two covers of the Murdoch-owned New York Post: a year ago after Trump made his insulting comments about John McCain ("Don Voyage") and today ("I Am Your Voice"). Murdoch hated Trump back then. And, now, on the same day, Trump was up and Ailes was out. "It's hard to know what this day will be looked back at for: Ailes leaving or Trump ascending," said Rachel Maddow. It seems apples and oranges. Trump might be president, Ailes or no Ailes.
An airport encounter
Former House Speaker John Boehner was having a smoke outside the Cleveland airport Thursday morning and chatting with departing passengers Matt Lauer, whose close-shaven and taut look suggests an understudy to Bruce Willis in yet another "Die Hard" installment, and Al Roker, whose floppy cotton rain hat and red and white striped shirt suggested a retiree serving as the starter at a public golf course in Arizona.
Flying commercial, it turns out, with all us riffraff and going through an airport like this is a new thing for Boehner after many years of privileged status and private charters. The two of us wound up in the TSA PreCheck line, where we talked golf (he uses a TaylorMade M1 driver), the criminal conviction of former Speaker Dennis Hastert and, ah, yes a particular convention. (U.S. News & World Report) The retired Republican Ohio congressman hadn't gone and wasn't going. But he apparently watched Ted Cruz on TV the other night and said "Lucifer is back." (The Daily Beast)
Mark Cuban comes out of his shell
"Mark Cuban went on a brutal tweetstorm Thursday night slamming Donald Trump during the latter's official acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention." (Business Insider) Yes, the "Shark Tank" figure was perhaps making up for not being a political pundit on cable. "In a series of tweets on Thursday evening, the billionaire owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks mocked the Republican nominee's presentation and rhetorical style, and reassured people that Americans were 'nothing like' Trump."
Here's one the press has apparently missed for decades
Did you watch the Trump biographical video narrated by Jon Voight just before Ivanka spoke? Well, it included the line that a young Donald had the choice of taking his graduate business degree and "staying in Queens or making it in the greatest city in the world," meaning New York. Hmmm. Yes, I'm a chauvinist Manhattan native, so perhaps I lost track of the borough of Queens seceding from the city during the 1970s when Donald was venturing forth. Hold it. It was part of New York City then. It is now.
Trump's online following
When you tweet your mom, cousins, summer camp chums and your other followers today, consider this: Trump began his campaign a year ago with 2.6 million Twitter followers and is now up to 10 million. (@JonErlichman)
Said Trump: "Again, I will tell you the plain facts that have been edited out of your nightly news and your morning newspaper: Nearly four in 10 African-American children are living in poverty, while 58 percent of African-American youth are not employed. Two million more Latinos are in poverty today than when the president took his oath of office less than eight years ago. Another 14 million people have left the workforce entirely."
Tweet of day
Shortly before last night's session began, Slate's Jacob Weisberg offered this: "Peter Thiel will be first gay man to come out to a GOP Convention. Too bad he's a democracy-hating, misogynist loon." (@jacobwe) If that seemed harsh, just check the Bloomberg profile of him, titled "The Strange Politics of Peter Thiel, Trump’s Most Unlikely Supporter." (Bloomberg) As for Thiel's actual speech, "He made as enthusiastically milquetoast a pro-Trump argument as he could have. Still, the milquetoast Trump case includes calling LGBT civil liberties a 'distraction' from real issues. Shortly after he said this, Thiel declared himself 'proud to be gay.'" (Recode) This morning, Tucker Carlson called Thiel's oratory "brilliant" on Fox News.
A decadent, gay fascist sophisticate
Twitter permanently banned the account of Breitbart journalist Milo Yiannopoulos, who is "a number of things that most conservative journalists are not." (New York) Count the ways: "He knows his memes. He calls Donald Trump 'Daddy." He openly affiliates with the neo-monarchists and open racists of the alt-right, which he depicts as a happy-go-lucky band of internet tricksters out to poke fun at liberal pieties for the lulz. ...Yet he has also revived an older trope, which may be more indicative of our current moment: the decadent, gay, fascist sophisticate."
What did Gawker think of Thiel?
Thiel, after all, helped put Gawker into huge financial trouble and its boss on the verge of personal bankruptcy by funding Hulk Hogan's successful (so far) litigation. Its take: "Clammy Billionaire Peter Thiel Charms the Republican National Convention With Extremely Fast Speech." (Gawker)
Want to marry a Melania, raise an Ivanka
Writing in Commentary, Daniella Greenbaum opens, "Terrible and terrific journalism have something in common: they inspire thought and provoke a reaction." (Commentary) Agreed. Then she argues that a New York Times op-ed "Why Men Want to Marry Melanias and Raise Ivankas" is full of it in arguing that men are more inclined to champion feminists ideals when it comes to their daughters than wives.
The op-ed contends that the Clintons' marriage is more representative of America since “men increasingly marry women who are their educational and professional equals.” Thus, unlike the Trump-Melania dynamic, the Clintons’ marriage is somehow more relatable for the majority of Americans. She proceeds to bash Bill Clinton for his philandering while not cutting Trump a whole lot of slack, either, in how he relates to women. "He deserves nothing but condemnation in that regard. But to attack his marriage through bolstering the Clintons,’ to attack his choice of spouse without attacking Hillary’s, to attack his division of labor with Melania as evoking old-world sexism without saying the same of Bill’s philandering, is to be not separated, but firmly divorced from reality and intellectual honesty."
Preparing to pivot
"Tim Kaine Seems Likely for Hillary Clinton’s No. 2, but Liberals Balk." (The New York Times) The media will now dump the Republican convention and turn to today's likely news. On CNN's "New Day," former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm went with the conventional pick, Kaine, though she's clearly one of those liberals who'd prefer somebody else; in her case Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, who's got no chance. Have a good weekend and prepare for the 15,000 credentialed press who will see you in Philadelphia for the Democrats starting Monday.
Correction: A previous version of this column misspelled Michael Wolff's name.