The media schadenfreude over Donald Trump’s loss to Ted Cruz in Iowa and his narrow margin over Marco Rubio has been almost as loud as Trump’s screams that he was robbed.
“The Emperor has no clothes,” says USNews.com. “Dead Clown Walking,” the New York Daily News front page crowed. On Fox, Brett Baier’s and Megyn Kelly’s delight was palpable—Trump has had to admit that skipping their debate hurt him. And this old tweet of Trump’s, quoting golf pro Walter Hagen, is flying across Twitter like famous last words: “No one remembers who came in second.”
But in those corners of the media universe where Trump’s dominance had slowly, inexorably, become an article of faith, it’s been… awkward.
Because we’ve been here before. Over the summer, most pundits laughed at the notion that Trump could be a serious candidate. But as his every lie, insult, and threat to beat up protesters only boosted his poll numbers, these same pundits, fearing they’d been made to look like fools, began to overcompensate by hopping on the bully’s bandwagon.
This evolution is nowhere more evident than on Morning Joe, where co-host Mika Brzezinski went from refusing to even mention Trump’s name last summer, so tawdry did his candidacy strike her, to joining Joe in scorning those pundit chumps who couldn’t see the Trump light. The two co-hosts snickered, they snorted, even at their regular panelists, practically kicking sand in the face of the 90-pound-weaklings who weren’t with the program.
When Trump skipped last week’s Iowa debate because Megyn Kelly was moderating, Joe not only railed against Fox but took on Trump’s misogynistic tone. After running a mash-up of Kelly’s perfectly legit criticisms of the mogul (“He doesn’t get to control the media”), Scarborough said, “I would rather set myself on fire in front of the Fox News studio than go on a debate stage with that.”
Joe’s instinct to fall in with a bully was so strong he even forgot his forcefully stated opposition to any pol who wouldn’t state unequivocally that Obama was born in the USA.