It’s the worst and most obvious political snow job in history. The media uses Donald Trump for ratings. Donald Trump uses the media to keep himself front and center in the Republican field, and as an object of two minutes’ hate for his crowd. The media “attacks” Donald, knowing it will solidify his support with his crowd, and the Donald whines and moans about how “unfair” the media is to him ad nauseam. Lather, rinse, repeat.
You get the very clear sense that the media would have absolutely no idea what to cover if Trump were not around. For proof of concept, look no further than the clock Politico kept running earlier today that counted the time since Donald Trump’s last tweet. You can get a sense for how the media really feels about things when the mask slips, and they say what they really think. With respect to Trump, that happened last week when Chris Matthews let slip his nakedly bigoted remark about not wanting to watch a debate between “the two Cuban guys,” Cruz and Rubio.
Even Fox News is not immune. No wait, I said that wrong – especially Fox News is not immune. While Fox claimed that day that Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski had threatened Megyn Kelly over the phone, Bill O’Reilly had Trump on that very same night to discuss… Trump’s decision to skip the Fox News debate.
In the same way, Donald Trump really has no idea what he would talk about if he were suddenly disallowed to claim that the media was being unfair to him. When Trump finally did break his silence on Twitter, and when he held a presser this afternoon in New Hampshire, the “unfairness” of the media was virtually the only thing on Donald’s mind:
I will be talking about my wonderful experience in Iowa and the simultaneous unfair treatment by the media-later in New Hampshire. Big crowd
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2016
The media has not covered my long-shot great finish in Iowa fairly. Brought in record voters and got second highest vote total in history! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2016
Another candidate might have responded to a crushing loss in Iowa by talking about what he was going to do, campaign wise, in New Hampshire. He might have released a new policy plan or retuned his message. With Trump, you get the real sense that he literally does not know what else to say; he has no other tricks in his bag.
The symbiotic relationship between Trump and the media in which they pretend to be enemies while they profit off of each other has been great for both Trump and the media, but it’s been terrible and cancerous for the Republican party. Trump’s voters have decried the media basically 24 hours a day, 7 days a week since the Trump campaign started, never realizing that they, more than anyone, are letting the media choose the Republican nominee.
Trump, and what he represents, and the media’s treatment of him, has completely blotted out the very real and substantive disagreements that exist between the other candidates. Last Thursday’s debate, the first without Trump, was the first time that the substance of the disagreement between Cruz and Rubio on immigration was laid bare. There has been almost literally no discussion on whether Ted Cruz’s tax plan is a VAT, or whether Rubio’s tax plan is better or worse, or growing rift between the Republican candidates on foreign policy strategy.
Trump’s presence in the race, and the media’s obsession with his every utterance, has resulted in a race in which both Cruz and Rubio are being vetted on stupid grounds. Cruz is spending time defending himself against absurd birther allegations and the loan issue that was put to bed 6 years ago. Rubio is being vetted on whether he missed votes in the Senate. These are matters that the average American voter does not give a tinker’s dam about and they will not be the attacks that either candidate would face from Hillary Clinton.
Thus, we are getting no picture whatsoever about how Cruz, Rubio, or anyone else in the field would deal with the likely Democrat challenger; rather it’s a contest to see who can deal with a bloviating oaf who is completely devoid of policy chops or the ability to identify with the over 60% of Americans who strongly dislike him.
Sure, Trump lost on Monday, but he’s not dead yet, and until he’s removed as the dominant force from the race, his presence will have a cancerous effect on the GOP primary. No one is more invested in seeing that happen, for both financial and ideological reasons, than the American media.