Donald Trump sat down with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday, in the lobby of Trump Tower, to discuss his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Trump talked about Hillary Clinton: “the worst secretary of state in the history of the United States”; himself: “I’ve been very successful, everybody loves me”; immigration: “Mexico pushes back people across the borders that are criminals, that are drug dealers”; the Middle East: “I would bomb the hell out of those oil fields”; and himself, again: “Here’s the good news: I’m very rich.”
Trump is like the Malaysian plane, if the Malaysian plane were not missing but excessively visible and loud, and instilled in all who entered its orbit a sense that mortality may not be a mysterious, universal injustice but a welcome escape from future presidential primaries.
It’s not just Trump himself who makes me want to die but the incessant coverage of his ascent by cable news, which always seems to leave out the fact that his ascent is directly correlated to its coverage.
Candidate Trump, currently polling in second place nationally among Republican primary voters, was conceived and birthed and nurtured by the same networks that now spend their hours breathlessly analyzing just how in the hell something like this could have happened and what it means for the future of the GOP primary and, by extension, the country.
For almost two decades, Trump was given enough attention to sustain himself by merely pretending to run for president. In 2000, he floated running as an independent—something he said during Wednesday’s interview he now wouldn’t consider because “Ross Perot, had he not been there, you would have never heard of Bill Clinton.” In 2006, the New York Post reported Trump was mulling running in 2008, again as an independent. In 2010, Trump was publicly saying he might run as a Republican. By 2012, picking apart Trump’s game of campaign chicken had become a national pastime.
The difference now is that Trump really is running, meaning his poll numbers can actually gain him entry to debates and his presence at those debates will force other candidates to respond to what he says (which they’re doing already). Ultimately, he might push the GOP further to the right. In other words, Trump’s mad-lib policies may not be applicable to the real world, but by introducing them as theories, he could wreak havoc for his party.
What’s bad for the country may be good for ratings and clicks, however.
Politico’s Dylan Byers reported Wednesday that since Trump’s June 16 presidential announcement, CNN has “covered Trump more than 400 times on television and on its website,” which is, according to Byers, more coverage than the network has afforded any other candidate of either party.
On Wednesday evening, the network devoted an entire hour to Cooper’s sit-down, the clips of the interview punctuated by analysis from a talking head ensemble cast—Bill Kristol, Paul Begala, Ann Navarro, and Kathleen Parker—that managed to offer no insight whatsoever.
But Cooper is an agile interviewer, and he permitted Trump to get away with nothing.
Asked about a Tuesday Washington Post investigation highlighting the Hispanic immigrants—some undocumented—who are building Trump’s Washington hotel (which will, conveniently for the future president, be finished in 2016) Trump began by evading the question.
“Well, I read the story—and we’re building a great hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, and it’s being done beautifully,” he said. “And by the way, that story does not name any names, I’d love if they could give us a name.”
Cooper countered that of course the Post didn’t catch the names of the workers in the country illegally, to which Trump reiterated, “They have to give us the names,” before laying the blame for any undocumented workers with the contractor he hired. Cooper shot back: “Doesn’t the buck stop with you, though?” Trump admitted, “Yes, it does.”
Cooper’s protests to Trump saying he would invade Iraq to seize its oil fields to pay for his Middle East policies, or that undocumented immigrants are perpetrating violent rapes and murders throughout the country, were met mostly with derision. At one point, Trump told Cooper, “Anderson, you’re not a baby. You’re not a baby!”