So far the Trump Family convention in Cleveland isn’t turning out the way the press expected. Instead of having to cover 1968-level street violence, the media has been obsessing over two executive-suite soap operas: Melania Trump’s plagiarism and Roger Ailes’s ouster from Fox News over charges that he has sexually harassed female employees.
Both are preoccupations of a politico-media professional class that is becoming less relevant as Trumpism replaces the obsolete ideology of modern Republicanism. Why do you need a corps of independent analysts when there’s no policy to analyze?
Like Ailes’s demise, the issue of plagiarism is close to the heart of anyone in journalism. But the plagiarism of a potential first lady protected by layers of Trump quickly became a gotcha without a get, joining the ranks of stories like Trump’s wavering over Pence as his VP or Trump’s kids finally convincing him to fire reporter-bruising body-man Cory Lewandowski (who landed a paid gig at CNN)—that is, it’s irresistible to insiders, but just more PC nitpicking to anyone who has found in Trump their own primal scream. Wednesday morning CNN’s Chris Cuomo accused Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort of “lying about” Melania’s speech. It was the sort of confrontational interview that might have, just months ago, gone viral as an example of truth-to-power speech. But now, after Trump has crushed all doubters, Paul Man-the-Fort snuffed it out with an uncomfortable truth, telling Cuomo, “You’ve spent seven minutes talking about something that’s not relevant to anybody but you in media.”
Later that morning the Trump campaign nevertheless released a letter from Meredith McIver, a Trump Organization staff writer who has worked on some of Donald’s books, apologizing for inadvertently injecting Michelle Obama’s words into Melania Trump’s speech. McIver explained that Melania, who “has always liked” Michelle Obama (!), had read bits of her 2008 Democratic convention speech to McIver over the phone as they worked on the speech. Somehow the words made it unchanged into the text. McIver felt terrible about it, but when she offered to resign, Trump would have none of it. Yet another slap-down to all the pundits who cried that heads must roll.
Better to make lemonade, Trump figured. “Good news is Melania’s speech got more publicity than any in the history of politics,” he tweeted, “especially if you believe that all press is good press!”
Nothing cements the idea that fact-based journalism is the work of out-of-touch media “elites” than a failed gotcha. A Daily Show tweeter was apparently trying to extend the apoplexy over plagiarism by showing that some lines from Don Trump Jr.’s highly successful speech Tuesday night echoed those in an American Conservative piece from May. I have to admit that when I saw the TPM headline, “Here We Go Again: Language In Trump Jr.’s RNC Speech Recycled From Article,” I too wanted to keep apoplexy alive. Only problem was that Don Jr.’s speechwriter and the article’s author are one and the same, Frank Buckley, which means here we don’t go again.