When it comes to changing the subject, Donald Trump is the world’s greatest deflector.
I may have zero respect for his brain and heart. I may believe he is a ghastly leader and even worse human. The U.S. president has no scruples and is unfit to manage a Taco Bell. If Trump were an electric toothbrush, there’d soon be a class-action lawsuit: “Instead of removing plaque, the Trump2020 gave me gingivitis! And athlete’s foot!”
But when it comes to changing the subject, this guy is the Michael Jordan of diversion dunking. His ability to turn the tables — to get his fans glancing over yonder when they should be staring at what’s in front of their nostrils — is a dark art.
So this week, in the midst of his messy impeachment trial, any reasonable observer could’ve predicted Trump would be on red alert to find something, anything, to distract from the damning facts. In the face of grim revelations from John Bolton’s upcoming memoir, Trump needed to find a new frequency upon which to air excuses and grievances.
He needed to find a patsy. He needed a fall guy. He needed a cheap look-over-there.
And he found it, courtesy of a regrettable weekend clip from CNN.
In the segment, anchor Don Lemon is interviewing guests Rick Wilson (the ex-GOP strategist and fierce Trump critic) and New York Times columnist Wajahat Ali. The clip begins with Lemon discussing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent dust-up with an NPR reporter over a contentious interview on Ukraine.
“(Pompeo) also knows, deep in his heart, that Donald Trump couldn’t find Ukraine on a map if you had the letter ‘U’ and a picture of an actual physical crane next to it,” said Wilson, as Lemon started to giggle while dramatically resting his head on the desk. “He knows that this is, you know, an administration defined by ignorance of the world. And so that’s partly him playing to their base and playing to their audience. You know, the credulous boomer rube demo that backs Donald Trump, that wants to think that Donald Trump’s the smart one — and y’all elitists are dumb!”
Wilson bellowed that last part in a southern accent. Ali then jumped into this MAGA mockery.
“You elitists, with your geography and your maps and your spelling!” he played along.
Lemon was now cackling like a hyena on ecstasy.
And all I could do was wince and shake my head.
By Monday night, the conservative Daily Caller shared the clip with this caption, “America, this is what CNN thinks of you …” Trump, sensing a distraction, retweeted: “Don Lemon, the dumbest man on television (with terrible ratings!).”
Ivanka Trump, also sensing distraction, jumped into the social-media fray, retweeting with her own two cents on the CNN panel: “You consistently make fun of half the country and then complain that it is divided. The arrogance, mocking accents and smug ridicule of this nation’s ‘Real Elites’ is disgusting.”
Was it rich for Ivanka to feign revulsion while pretending she’s not a coastal elite? Of course. Was it ridiculous for her father to take yet another opportunistic shot at Lemon while clearly trying to change the subject on impeachment? Absolutely. Was the conservative outrage wildly out of proportion with what was actually said? One hundred per cent.
But here’s the thing: CNN just keeps giving Trump ways to change the subject.
I enjoy Wilson’s trenchant prose, including his book, “Everything Trump Touches Dies.” He has a nice touch with evocative language. He’s smart and amusing and caustic. But his joke doesn’t even make sense — how would a “U“ and “crane” help anyone find Ukraine on a map? This is a lazy, cruise-control punch line that is lamer than Trump’s fender-bender insult tweets. And dismissing Trump supporters as a “boomer rube demo” is beyond idiotic. Making fun of Trump fans will never change their minds — it will only galvanize their devotion.
Rubes? I’m starting to think Wilson might secretly want Trump to get re-elected, mostly so he can keep surfing this lucrative, anti-Trump wave. And with respect, Lemon needs to be a pro. Right now, he sounds like a teenage girl who wants to gossip about enemies before homeroom. His disdain for Trump has disfigured his capacity to moderate a panel discussion without chortling uncontrollably like he’s in the front row of a new Eddie Murphy special.
CNN, by ridiculing Trump supporters, you only shoved them further away from the impeachment facts.
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You gave Trump a talking point. You gave him a window to escape the airtight subject.
And by doing so, you failed to help the citizens of Trumpville see the light.
You only drove them deeper into the darkness of denial.