Watching the CNN Town Hall telecast last night left me still scratching my head this morning. I guess I really don’t understand a lot of my fellow Wisconsinites’ admiration for Donald Trump. Perhaps the talking heads are right, and it’s largely that Trump is not at all like anything or anybody else that’s come out of or been involved with Washington. As far as I’m concerned, the performance of our national government has been abominable for decades.
But I still don’t get Trump’s appeal.
The CNN telecast started last night with a produced opening that was more like a come-on for some wrestling event: a horrible announcer, with a style of delivery we call “puker” in the broadcast biz because they sound like they’re puking out each word instead of just speaking, narrated a montage of images designed to make us think we were about to view some sort of cage match between three brawlers.
That’s the way a lot of media love to portray national elections: they focus on the competitive aspect, the polls (who’s “up” and who’s “down”), and avoid at all cost any lengthy discussion involving ideas of substance, because that’s just deadly boring.
I sat through the opening hour of Ted Cruz, and he gave the kind of responses that scores of other candidates for national office give, with the appearance of thoughtfulness and reflection, and then a carefully-worded limited response. I don’t agree with a lot of his positions, but he gave lengthy answers, not just sound-bites crafted by a staffer who conducted focus groups.
Then, for the second hour, they brought out Trump.
I realize the crowd at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee was probably 99% Republican-leaning people, and I didn’t expect that there’d be many truly challenging questions from the crowd. As Trump and Anderson Cooper got in their 15 minutes of arguing about Trump’s campaign manager’s behavior at a recent Trump event, I began to notice the facial expressions and body language of the crowd as they reacted to Trump.
Every time Trump said something you’d never hear another candidate for office say, the crowd ate it up. When Anderson Cooper said Trump was acting like a 5-year-old regarding (for lack of a better term) “wife-gate”, the crowd quickly took Trump’s side. Never mind that “he started it” IS a five-year old’s reaction to being called on the carpet for fighting; the crowd loved it when Trump actually behaved like a five-year-old arguing with Cooper.
On to questions from the audience.
They brought out a couple of cops who were actual heroes (I hate the way that word is so overused today) in the attack on the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek a few years ago. The officer who was shot more than a dozen times in the gunfight asked Trump how the rights of minorities could be protected while still aggressively fighting radical Islamism.
Trump, of course, never answered the question, but deflected it and rambled on about something else, which apparently was designed to not disrespect the hero’s question, but rather talk around it. Trump is really, really good at that. Kind of like the kid we all knew in high school who didn’t do his homework but could BS his way through an answer regardless. At least it wasn’t the kind of thing we’ve heard so much from politicians in the past couple decades, the “dismiss and redirect” technique of responding with “what you’re really asking is….” and then changing the question and giving their canned response.
The question from the man who said he was CEO of a cheese company was particularly telling. The guy talked about not being able to hire enough qualified workers for his many open positions, and how would Trump solve the problem.
It boiled down to education, according to Trump, and his idea would be to take all the federal money allocated to education and sending it back to the states, which he said were far better able to decide how to spend it than Washington. That, of course, drew huge applause from the crowd, just as it was designed to do.
If that cheese CEO had his wits about him – or if the moderator, Cooper, had really done his homework – either would have said on follow-up “you know what? That would never work in Wisconsin, because we have a governor who absolutely refuses to take any money from Washington. He’s turned down hundreds of millions of federal dollars, for everything from expanding rail transportation to expanding Mediicare coverage. He just won’t take federal money, so your solution wouldn’t work here”.
Another question from a man who said he ran a dairy operation, milking five thousand cows. First of all, that’s not a dairy operation; it’s what’s now called a CAFO – concentrated animal feeding operation, and commonly referred to as a factory farm. The man’s question was about the immigrants necessary to run his operation, and how could Trump help solve the problem of letting the “good ones” stay while keeping out the “bad ones”.
No surprise, Trump deflected, talked about grape growers in California who have similar issues with migrant workers. He also said it was a “seasonal problem, like yours”. I’m not sure why the “farmer” or the moderator didn’t interject “since when is milking five thousand cows a SEASONAL business?” but they didn’t.
Again, the ‘sconnies there – who should be aware that their governor won’t take federal money, and that milking cows is not a seasonal business – lapped up the Trump non-answer and applauded him, every time.
I know, I know – it’s a friendly audience; it’s not a “debate”; but geez, doesn’t anybody challenge such obviously uninformed responses?
By this time, I was tired of watching the proceedings, and I didn’t stay tuned to watch how Governor Kasich would handle the ‘sconnies. I turned off the TV and went to sleep.
And, no surprise, the main takeaway from the Milwaukee event on the national network news this morning was the ongoing pissing match about whether Trump’s campaign manager lied, and how badly was the lady reporter injured when he grabbed her. Or didn’t. Or whatever.
They did mention the three-way repudiation of the pledge to support the Republican nominee, no matter who it is, but that news was secondary or tertiary to the pushing and shoving donnybrook.
After all, there was compelling security-cam video of that…..and that’s what drives news coverage. The "visuals".
Tuesday will be an intesting day in Wisconsin.