CNN’s strategy for coverage of President Trump drones on. This morning on the network’s “New Day,” host Alisyn Camerota moderated a debate over Obamacare between CNN contributor/steady Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord and CNN political commentator Symone Sanders. The news peg for the discussion was President Trump’s threat to withhold federal subsidies to health insurers that provide coverage to low-income customers.
“Obamacare is dead next month if it doesn’t get that money,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal. The dealmaker in Trump wants to use this eventuality as bargaining leverage: “I don’t want people to get hurt. What I think should happen — and will happen — is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating.”
So there appear to be two options under consideration in the Oval Office: One is to continue supporting Obamacare, which has produced an all-time-low uninsured rate in the United States. The other is to strangle Obamacare and push people toward a derivative of the House Republican leadership’s American Health Care Act, which failed after a frenzy of lobbying from the White House. According to the Congressional Budget Office, that bill would have boosted the uninsured population by 24 million by 2026.
The White House’s attempt to gather Democratic votes for a scheme of this sort, said Lord on CNN, qualifies as a historic moment. “I want to say something here that I know will probably drive Symone crazy, but think of President Trump as the Martin Luther King of health care,” Lord argued. “When I was a kid, President Kennedy didn’t want to introduce the civil rights bill because he said it wasn’t popular, he didn’t have the votes for it, etc. Dr. King kept putting people in the streets in harm’s way to put the pressure on so that the bill would be introduced.”
The reaction from Sanders:
“You do understand that Dr. King was marching for civil rights because people who look like me were being beaten — dogs were being sicced on them,” said Sanders, who finished the thought with this: “Let’s not equate Martin Luther King Jr., humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize winner, to the vagina-grabbing president Donald Trump.”
“Oh, boy,” said Camerota.
Translation of Lord’s argument: Any tactic to marshal support for legislation qualifies you as the Martin Luther King of your issue, notwithstanding your record on vagina-grabbing.
Veteran Lord watchers recognize this tactic, though, of course, they never would have predicted this loony wrinkle. What Lord enjoys best is to craft defenses of Trump that rely on history. A memorable instance came in December 2015, after Trump made his much-discussed proposal to promulgate a ban on Muslim entry into the United States. Asked for his take on the situation, Lord argued that, hey, President Franklin D. Roosevelt did something similar, and everyone regards him as a great president. Specifically, he noted that FDR had signed proclamations clamping down on certain populations — including “Alien Enemies — Japanese” (No. 2525); “Alien Enemies — German (No. 2526).” Trump himself appeared to copy Lord’s argument when pressed on the same issue.
There’s a never-ending debate about how television outlets should handle Trump aides like counselor Kellyanne Conway. They have tended to spread falsehoods and absurdities in their interviews, so shouldn’t producers simply stop having them on air? MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, for instance, told this blog, “I don’t necessarily want to hear from the White House on almost anything.”
The likes of Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh McEnany fall into a different basket for CNN. CNN pays for their services in defending Trump. The network has created a market for their stupidities. Jeff Zucker, who runs the place, found that the network’s stable of conservative commentators didn’t necessarily want to go on air in defense of Trump. So he hired a crew of them. And he owns the work that they do on air.