CNN political commentator Jeffrey Lord was at it again Friday morning. He’s the guy who is paid specifically to hop on CNN airwaves in defense of Donald Trump, no matter how sticky the controversy. On Friday’s “New Day” program, the topic was Trump’s sexist Twitter outbursts at Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) over their respective wives.
“Look, he was defending his wife. His wife was under attack,” said Lord. “He defended her. I find it very strange that for a man to defend his wife from a political attack is anti-women, but there you go.”
With that, Lord distinguished himself once again as possessing at least as much skill in rhetorical distraction as Trump himself. The facts of the wives spat don’t align too well for Lord/Trump: The Make America Awesome PAC issued a Web ad showing a mostly nude photo of Melania Trump. As The Post’s David Weigel explains, the ad was targeted at Mormon voters and warned that Melania Trump “could become first lady unless Utahans caucused for Cruz.”
Even though the group has no relationship with Cruz, Trump ripped Cruz on Twitter, saying he’d “spill the beans” on Cruz’s wife, Heidi. Attack mode at Trump Twitter headquarters continued, as the real estate mogul retweeted a sexist photographic juxtaposition of Heidi Cruz and Melania Trump — a presentation designed to mock the appearance of Cruz’s wife. In an appearance Thursday, Cruz called Trump a “sniveling coward” for his actions.
So, the facts strip Trump of any claim to nobility for defending his wife. Lord had crafted a preposterous defense of Trump. But that’s what he’s paid to do! Remember the Muslim ban controversy? “We have been here before. . . . We need to focus on the fact that Franklin Roosevelt was Donald Trump on steroids, and everybody thinks FDR is a great president,” said Lord, referring to FDR’s presidential proclamations instituting wartime curbs on noncitizen Japanese, Germans and Italians. Master deflection — so glorious, in fact, that Trump adopted it as his own defense.
And after Trump failed to adequately distance himself from a former Ku Klux Klan member in a CNN appearance (he had previously, and subsequently, disavowed him), CNN’s Van Jones said, “When he talks about the Klan, [he says] ‘Oh, I don’t know, I don’t know.’ That’s wrong!” Lord responded, “This whole attitude of dividing by race is still here, and this is how Democrats do the deal,” Lord said. Again, a better-than-Trump defense of Trump.
Asked last weekend about Lord’s work on the network, CNN Washington Bureau Chief Sam Feist gushed about the face-off with Jones: “When they had the conversation about Trump and race, I thought it was fascinating and compelling and it was trending for a reason.” Of Lord, Feist says, “He’s a respected former Reagan official who now happens to support Donald Trump.” Lord served as a political director in the Reagan White House. He now commentates for CNN from his home in Pennsylvania, where he cares for his elderly mother.
Packing panel discussions with supporters of particular candidates has become a CNN strategy. “The point is that diversity of panels is interesting and it makes for interesting television,” says Feist. We disagree; it makes for predictable television. “If you don’t have a Trump supporter on a panel in the 2016 election, you are not representing Republican voters.” With that down-the-middle approach, CNN has asserted ownership over big events in the 2016 campaign.
In any case, Lord’s opponents on CNN panel discussions generally don’t have too much trouble blasting through his polemical holes. “This is not how a man defends his wife,” said Tara Setmayer in her tete-a-tete with Lord over the wives controversy. “You don’t defend your wife by objectifying another woman.”
Lord never got a chance to retort, which is a pity. It could have been historic.