Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Our Men on Their Side

For the moment, Trump’s mammoth rallies — the defining feature of his campaign and, arguably, his presidency — are a thing of the past. The closest approximation to them are the president’s daily coronavirus briefings to the press. When I suggested as much to Parscale, he bristled. “I actually completely 100 percent disagree with that,” he told me over the phone. “I think that’s a media talking point. I think that he does not say the things he says at rallies. I think his focus has been completely on the American people. He hasn’t talked about Biden up there.”

In fact, he had — and in his briefing two days later, as if on cue, Trump mocked his likely Democratic opponent again. “He’s probably not even watching right now,” he told the assembled reporters — “and if he is, he doesn’t understand what he’s watching.”

It’s true that the briefings lack the rallies’ theatrics: no soundtrack of “God Bless the U.S.A.,” “Only in America” and “Macho Man”; no red sea of MAGA caps; no supportive audience to boo Trump’s media inquisitors. But the White House briefings represent a different kind of home-field advantage. Trump can brag, on live TV for as long as he wishes, about his administration’s “tremendous” and “great” and “best” response to an “invisible enemy” that no one could see coming, and bully the reporters who suggest that he should have. Parscale was in fact promoting a petition on the campaign’s website demanding that the daily news conferences continue to be covered live by the networks. According to the campaign, the petition had garnered upward of 371,000 signatures. Parscale insisted that this was not a political gambit. He simply wanted “people to see what I see”: a presidential version of Donald Trump.

Of course, the daily spectacle of Trump being only who Trump can be, even as the death toll mounts and the economy craters, has made his monopoly on the media’s attention seem less than all upside for Parscale’s campaign. During a weekly call with Trump surrogates on April 1 that was described to NBC News, Parscale urged them to do more than simply praise the president, saying, according to the source, “This is an opportunity for you to really establish a narrative on Biden.” Tim Murtaugh, the campaign’s communication director, reminded me that during the 2009-10 swine-flu outbreak, Vice President Biden misstated how the flu might spread. (Biden had suggested it could be easily contracted on airline flights.) This was proof, Murtaugh said, that Biden “has a poor record when it comes to handling a public health crisis.”

Of course, the rallies were not covered by all major networks and the major cable outlets.  Mostly they ran on FoxNews, until it got bored with them.  Meanwhile, Parscale wants to run against Biden's anti-crime legislation of the 1990's:

But, I asked, if the coronavirus claimed a hundred thousand American lives this spring and summer, would any voter be all that interested in a 1994 crime bill? “I think it’s a little early to make that prediction right now,” Parscale replied. In the meantime, the Biden campaign was already using Trump’s own briefings against him. One ad showed footage of Trump not-so-reassuringly recommending an antimalarial drug whose effectiveness in treating Covid-19 was wholly unproven at best: “Let’s see if it works. It might and it might not. I happen to feel good about it. But who knows? I’ve been right a lot.”

Sure you have.  Just like your boss, right?

And either the journalist never brings it up, or it's too recent, but there's no mention of Trump's poll number plummeting even as he's on TV every day for hours (or would be if the majors would carry every word he says from the White House, which they don't), nor the disenfectant debacle that even Trump felt, or that Biden is beating Trump in the polls even though Biden is doing almost NOTHING and Trump, as I say, is on TV daily.

Or maybe that's just another media talking point.  I certainly hope Parscale thinks it is, anyway.

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