Harry Enten of Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com titled a recent post “The More ‘Normal’ Trump Can Make This Race, the Better His Chances.” This is obviously true, and hence every effort by the media to treat Donald Trump as a “normal” presidential candidate brings us closer to the potential destruction of our democracy. And yet we can see it taking place at virtually every level of our media.
Silver recently estimated Trump’s chances of victory at about one in three. Remember, we are talking about a psychopathic narcissist whose alt-right agenda offers so many threats to the well-being of our country and the world, they defy simple enumeration or categorization. Even Republican political professionals are amazed. Scott Reed, chief strategist for the US Chamber of Commerce—who also managed Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign, among others—finds it “really quite amazing that after the Trump adventure this is still a competitive race.”
The media deserve a good deal of blame here, not only because of the billions of dollars’ worth of free airtime television networks have given to Trump but also because of their insistence—against all evidence—that he is someone other than the person he clearly presents himself to be.
On September 7, NBC perfectly demonstrated how entrenched the forced normalization of Trump has become. Matt Lauer’s disgraceful performance during the “Commander-in-Chief Forum,” held aboard the battleship Intrepid, proved so egregious that it may have shamed others into taking the Trump threat more seriously. Given a chance to sound presidential and equal in stature to the former secretary of state, Trump made one offensive, idiotic, and demonstrably false assertion after another. Lauer challenged none of them. At the same time, he treated Hillary Clinton’s e-mail choices in office as the most significant national-security issue of the campaign, devoting a third of his questions to her to the topic. (Had the forum taken place four days later, the global threat would have been pneumonia.) Not only were the veterans in attendance reduced to pointless props; so, too, were the issues themselves, since Lauer apparently did not know (or care) enough about them to ask a single intelligent, informed question of either candidate.
It should surprise no one that Lauer’s performance was defended on Fox News by media darling Megyn Kelly and the once-respected media critic (now right-wing shill) Howard Kurtz. Although both Kelly and Kurtz are dishonest, neither is stupid. And so instead of seeking to defend Lauer’s performance on its merits (or lack thereof), they adopted Roger Ailes’s tried-and-true method of changing the subject to attack the so-called liberal media. “You can’t win” with the “left-wing press,” which insists on “kill[ing] Trump,” Kelly insisted. Kurtz also demonstrated how powerfully he has internalized Ailes’s modus operandi, praising Lauer’s “solid job” and adding that the allegedly liberal media believed the host “should have smashed [Trump] to smithereens.”