Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone. He does some of the best political writing in the country. He also does some of the worst. Occasionally he does it in the same article.
Let’s start here:
The electoral roadshow, that giant ball of corrupt self-importance, gets bigger and more grandiloquent every four years. This time around, there was so much press at the Manchester Radisson, you could have wiped out the entire cable-news industry by detonating a single Ryder truck full of fertilizer.
Like the actual circus, this is a roving business. Cash flows to campaigns from people and donors; campaigns buy ads; ads pay for journalists; journalists assess candidates. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the ever-growing press corps tends in most years to like – or at least deem “most serious” – the candidates who buy the most ads. Nine out of 10 times in America, the candidate who raises the most money wins. And those candidates then owe the most favors.
Meaning that for the pleasure of being able to watch insincere campaign coverage and see manipulative political ads on TV for free, we end up having to pay inflated Medicare drug prices, fund bank bailouts with our taxes, let billionaires pay 17 percent tax rates, and suffer a thousand other indignities. Trump is right: Because Jeb Bush can’t afford to make his own commercials, he would go into the White House in the pocket of a drug manufacturer. It really is that stupid.
The triumvirate of big media, big donors and big political parties has until now successfully excluded every challenge to its authority. But like every aristocracy, it eventually got lazy and profligate, too sure it was loved by the people. It’s now shocked that voters in depressed ex-factory towns won’t keep pulling the lever for “conservative principles,” or that union members bitten a dozen times over by a trade deal won’t just keep voting Democratic on cue.
Trump isn’t the first rich guy to run for office. But he is the first to realize the weakness in the system, which is that the watchdogs in the political media can’t resist a car wreck. The more he insults the press, the more they cover him: He’s pulling 33 times as much coverage on the major networks as his next-closest GOP competitor, and twice as much as Hillary.
Trump found the flaw in the American Death Star. It doesn’t know how to turn the cameras off, even when it’s filming its own demise.
So there you are, reading the article and nodding your head at the points he is making. Then suddenly just like a bad Walmart shopping cart with a sticky wheel he makes a hard left turn into the Progressive Paranoia aisle.
The problem, of course, is that Trump is crazy. He’s like every other corporate tyrant in that his solution to most things follows the logic of Stalin: no person, no problem. You’re fired! Except as president he’d have other people-removing options, all of which he likes: torture, mass deportations, the banning of 23 percent of the Earth’s population from entering the United States, etc.
He seems to be coming around to the idea that having an ego smaller than that of, say, an Egyptian Pharaoh would be a sign of weakness. So of late, his already-insane idea to build a “beautiful” wall across the Mexican border has evolved to the point where he also wants the wall to be named after him. He told Maria Bartiromo he wanted to call it the “Great Wall of Trump.”
In his mind, it all makes sense. Drugs come from Mexico; the wall will keep out Mexicans; therefore, no more drugs. “We’re gonna stop it,” he says. “You’re not going to have the drugs coming in destroying your children. Your kids are going to look all over the place and they’re not going to be able to find them.”
Obviously! Because no one’s ever tried wide-scale drug prohibition before.
And as bad as our media is, Trump is trying to replace it with a worse model. He excommunicates every reporter who so much as raises an eyebrow at his insanity, leaving him with a small-but-dependable crowd of groveling supplicants who in a Trump presidency would be the royal media. He even waves at them during his speeches.
“Mika and Joe are here!” he chirped at the MSNBC morning hosts at a New Hampshire event. The day after he won the New Hampshire primary, he called in to their show to thank them for being “supporters.” To her credit, Mika Brzezinski tried to object to the characterization, interrupting Joe Scarborough, who by then had launched into a minute-long homily about how happy he was to be a bug on the windshield of the Trump phenomenon.
You think the media sucks now? Just wait until reporters have to kiss a brass Trump-sphinx before they enter the White House press room.
“He has all these crazy ideas, and [reporters] are so scared of him, they don’t ask him any details,” says Michael Pleyte, an Iraq vet who came all the way from Michigan to watch the New Hampshire primary in person. “Forget about A to Z, they don’t even ask him to go A to Trump.”
King Trump. Brace yourselves, America. It’s really happening.
And just like that, Trump Derangement Syndrome claims another victim.