PHILADELPHIA–Perhaps Jeffrey Lord is drunk on hollow praise.
Back in March, the CNN political commentator, hired specifically to float pro-Donald Trump opinions on air, battled fellow CNNer Van Jones over the Ku Klux Klan. The on-air clash came on CNN’s coverage of Super Tuesday, days after Trump, in an interview with Jake Tapper, failed to disavow David Duke, a former grand wizard of the KKK. Looking to defend his candidate from attacks over this outrage, Lord sought to pair up the KKK and Trump’s opponents — the Democrats. “They were the military arm, the terrorist arm of the Democratic Party, according to historians. For God’s sake, read your history,” said Lord.
Obviously unprepared for such pap, Jones stumbled a bit in responding, “Listen, I’m not, I don’t know — I don’t care who –” he said, before finding his bearings: “I don’t care how they voted 50 years ago. I care about who they killed.”
That’s just a quick-and-dirty summary. The Jones-Lord matchup went on and on, drawing praise from observers who viewed it as compelling and as a distillation of national racial tensions. In fact, it was an off-point clown show driven by a guy determined to drag red herrings across CNN transcripts. That guy is Lord, lest there be any confusion. Any focus on the partisan affiliation of grand wizards decades and decades ago is nomenclatural obfuscation, as the Daily Show’s Trevor Noah pointed out in a bit on Jones-Lord: “A lot of people like to skip over the fact that when it comes to race relations, historically Republicans and Democrats switched positions. Yeah, Republicans were basically Democrats and the Democrats were basically Republicans,” said Noah. The Post’s Janell Ross wrote that the descendants of early KKK members “moved to the modern-day Republican Party as the Democratic Party and its establishment made the decision to become a progressive party, advancing the full social, political and economic inclusion of non-white Americans.”
Any such arguments apparently haven’t impressed Lord, who on Tuesday night brought this line of thinking back to the CNN set as a large crowd of pundits were analyzing the proceedings at the Philadelphia Democratic National Convention. “I’ve never understood why after 176 years of writing political platforms the Democratic Party doesn’t simply say, ‘We were responsible for slavery and segregation. We apologize. Let’s name the injustice — we were responsible for creating this culture of race in this country and we’re sorry.’ I mean, I just don’t understand what’s wrong with that,” said Lord.
After he finished that point, Jones flashed a devilish smile.
Yet commentator Paul Begala took on the rather simple job of vacating Lord’s point. “Historically, that’s absolutely right. Democrats were not only the party of slavery. They were the party of segregation and Jim Crow and lynching and all of that. I have to say, we kind of got over it, Jeffrey. We just elected a black man twice. We’re now the party that earns, earns, 90-plus percent of the African American vote by dint of hard work and advocacy.” And that was that.
Paying commentators like Begala to rebut the arguments of paid commentators like Lord is intrinsic to the CNN biz model in campaign 2016. On one, twisted level, the network is providing a public service by showing the American public just how a committed Trump supporter can tie up a conversation in non sequiturs. With a whole crew of Trumpites on the payroll, however, CNN has amply delivered that point already.