It was kind of like Bruno Kirby's character from Good Morning, Vietnam interviewing J.T. Walsh's character, the bitchy, tight-assed Sergeant Major Dickerson. Illustrating how debased our culture has become in recent months, the President of the United States sat for an interview with Fox News Channel's Jesse Watters.
Yes, the most insufferably unfunny cable news personality -- the possessor of the most punchable face on television landed an interview with the most punchable face in politics. Watters has clearly grown tired of accosting homeless and mentally ill people and stalking high school principals, at least for now, and has instead graduated to interviewing the most mentally ill, reprehensible, grotesque, monstrously incompetent American president in the history of the world.
Among other points of discussion, Watters asked Trump about Rachel Maddow's airing of two pages from Trump's 2005 tax return, acquired via investigative journalist David Cay Johnston.
Trump replied, “They’re bad people. There is something wrong with them. They leaked them. It’s illegal to do what they did, I think. I always heard that a tax return is a very sacred kind of a thing. You don’t leak them, you’re not allowed to. It’s criminally offensive.”
Technically, Maddow and Johnston didn't leak the documents, they merely broadcast and published documents that someone else -- possibly a Trump insider -- leaked. So, once again, words have no meaning to Trump who doesn't know the difference between leaking and reporting. (See also, "The leaks are absolutely real, but the reporting is fake.")
Trump was asked whether he'd “go after these leakers hard." Trump jumped in, “We’re thinking about it. We’re looking at it.”
Ironically, Trump added that leakers and reporters “don’t respect the law."
Trump's predictable whining aside, there's a valuable lesson here. Simply put: the left has to be extra careful not to make Trump into a victim. And that's exactly what Maddow and Johnston did. It's as if they published a clandestinely attained photo of Trump's penis, but the photo turned out to show an average-sized penis and nothing embarrassing or incriminating. In other words, if you're planning to expose someone's private information, you'd better be sure there's an especially newsworthy reason for it. This is especially important if you're operating as the resistance to Trump -- you'd better be sure reporting like this is at least a stand-up double, otherwise it makes people feel sorry for an otherwise horrendously vulgar man.
The system is so heavily weighted in favor of grading the GOP, and especially Trump, on a the world's most lenient curve. Any small opening like this allows Trump and his disciples to play the victim of the mean, vindictive, Trump-derangement-suffering news media, and, of course, the news media invariably plays along. From the beginning, Trump has been operating on a different set of rules, allowing him unprecedented latitude to do anything, and behave any way he wants.
Sure, his latest approval numbers from Gallup show his popularity sinking fast (37 approve, 58 percent disapprove). But given Trump's roster of horrors, his numbers should be much lower. But we can't place all the blame on the news media and stupid, stupid Trump voters. The left and the Democratic Party has to be more careful about not handing victories to Trump, and the left needs to do a better job of selling our values to voters craving strong, realistic leadership. For now, as Aaron Sorkin wrote in The American President, voters are drinking the sand, thinking it's water in an oasis.
It's a shame it had to be Maddow because she's been doing the most incredible reporting of the Trump presidency so far. Her nightly shows are required viewing for voters on both sides who value American sovereignty -- voters who have an interest in safeguarding our elections and, now, the Executive Branch of government from Russian influence and meddling. The good news is that it should mostly blow over in time. But in the near term, it provided a brief gulp of fresh air for the Trump White House during perhaps its most disastrous week yet.
We have reality, facts, science, math and the CBO backing up nearly everything the Democratic Party has to say these days, and we're still losing badly. We can do much better than this.