By Mark Sumner / Daily Kos
In a lengthy interview broadcast on Sunday evening, Leslie Stahl presented Donald Trump a long series of questions. Though she occasionally got answers—many of them unrelated to what was asked—and many of those answers were deeply laced with equal parts ignorance and arrogance, the most horrifying part of the whole event was how familiar it all seemed. 60 Minutes with Donald Trump seemed much like every other minute with Donald Trump. And that’s a problem.
In all the questions she asked, Stahl discovered … nothing, really. Trump hates the press. We knew that. Trump is ready to claim that he knows more about science than the scientists. We knew that. He says he understands the military better than his generals. We knew that. When pressed on any issue he resorts to attacking the “unfairness” of the press rather than provide a straight answer. We knew that.
Though the interview did serve as a reminder of Trump’s readiness to pretend to knowledge he doesn’t have, his utter inability to admit the truth even when caught in an obvious lie, and his horrifying incoherence in attempting to describe even the simplest facets of policy, there was perhaps just one moment that broke through.
Pressed beyond multiple repetitions of whining about the media’s meanness, Trump declared “I’m president, and you’re not.” Besides being the only, regrettably, truthful thing said during the interview, the phrasing adopted the self-serving arrogance of a first-season Saturday Night Live in-joke. Then and now, it was a statement meant to dismiss all questions by declaring a post-Papal level of infallibility. The only difference is that when Chevy Chase said it, it was funny.
Besides the reliable level of lies, the most notable thing about Trump’s responses was just how empty they were. The press is unfair… somehow. Politicians are deceptive … in some way. Negotiations with other countries are hard … sometimes. The level of detail behind any of Trump’s statements was such that all of the facts revealed in the interview could be inscribed on the head of a pen. With a crayon.
The worst thing about Trump’s 60 Minutes interview was that it showed how statements that in the past would have been followed by 60 Minutes reporters following up, cracking down, and ultimately confronting someone who was shamefacedly forced to admit their lies, simply … went past. Trump’s lies and exaggerations have become so vast and commonplace that Stahl barely blinked at blatantly untrue declarations again and again. Trump didn’t just pass one enormous lie and misstatement after another, he made them boring.
Trump claimed that before he settled in the White House, America was headed for war with North Korea. He said the trade deficit with China is $500 million, and that China meddled in the 2016 election. He said he knew more about NATI than General Mattis. He said that climate was not a sure thing and that “it could go back;” whatever that means. All of these things were simply lies.
Trump’s interview showed that he’s unwilling to listen to anyone, even subject area experts who he selected as advisers. It shows he’s unable to admit a mistake, or confess to a lie, when faced with the truth. And it shows he’s utterly unfit for office. But again … we knew that.
Mostly this interview, like several by the New York Times, showed the pointlessness of interviewing Trump at all in a traditional sense. You can’t ask him questions and expect answers. There’s no information to be gained. Unless an interview with Trump takes the form of an interrogation, with the interviewer prepared to present the truth on every point and pin Trump down on his lies, it’s not worth proceeding.
And really, maybe it’s better to just leave it to actual prosecutors.
Trump on offering $1 million for Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test: “I didn’t say that.” This is him saying that: pic.twitter.com/G2vRiQU0PA
— Tommy Christopher (@tommyxtopher) October 15, 2018