You're right, yesterday (or as you're reading this, probably the day before) should've done him in. It's what we've all been waiting for: when is he going to say something so stupid, so outrageous, so offensive that, finally and forever, does him in? Even attacking the media isn't doing the trick, OMG.
I'm not gonna argue with you - but I am taking issue with some of your arguments, with all due respect and deference of course. (As a reformed campaign consultant and media spokesperson, one the first lessons I learned is 'don't blame the press.' Certainly, don't attack them.) I know my place. So, let me go through your piece, point by point.
Donald Trump is testing the media. Nope. He's playing you. Has been all along. Especially when he says stupid, outrageous, offensive stuff. Extra-especially when we (here, I use the universal 'we' - the political caste, the media, pundits, consultants, surrogates, donors, delegates - I'm including myself in this group, because I'm lonely sitting on the sidelines) talk about him 24/7 on every possible medium in America. Steaming, live, rebroadcast, retweeted. Personally speaking, I yell at CNNPolitics; that's my culpability in this conversation.
You write, "On Tuesday, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee had the kind of day that, for any other candidate, would be a political nightmare." There was that press conference and everything that went down there - lacking in transparency (ok, lying), calling journalists nasty names (a veteran ABC news reporter no less), and challenging the integrity of a federal judge (may my father RIP... wait, he was only a county judge).
Jonathan my friend, it's not "explosive stuff" - not if we expect it to explode, or even implode. Nonetheless, you're right (again!) that for "any other" political candidate and campaign it would be O-V-E-R. Perhaps some of us subconsciously (for some of us, right-mindedly) want him to be any other candidate. (Forgive the puns, please.) But he's not. And he won't be. He can't be. Because like it or not, he's not another candidate. He doesn't even play one on reality TV.
And herein lies the crux of my argument.
Despite our hypothesizing and handwringing about how this election year is different, unlike anything we've ever seen before: it's untraditional, unconventional, unpredictable, un-presidential (un-everything!!!). But unconsciously, we must expect it to like other election years. I.e. politics as usual. We must be waiting for it.
Wait for it.
We do a lot of assuming too. We assume Trump will stop attacking people globally for their ethnicities (from Muslims to Native Americans); quit calling his rivals' insulting names. We assume he'll work (try, at least) to unify the party, to move to the middle, to be ... Presidential.
Not gonna happen. First and foremost, this whole shit show is working for him. We do seem to see the truth in that; I heard Wolf say it on Wolf yesterday. Secondly, Trump told ya' so; in the same press conference, he said, "I'm not changing." He's definitely not going to change. Lastly, and perhaps most problematically, we don't get it. Who and what? Trump and his campaign, which is basically just Trump being Trump. It's not really even a campaign, as we know campaigns to be.
We're unhappy that we can't make him be any other candidate, we can't force him to be .... Presidential. We're just doing our job asking the kind of questions presidential candidates get asked. Even worse, he's playin' us - he's got us by the balls - so bad that we're stuck defending ourselves for doing our job in the first place.
We're upset it's unlike any other election year. We want it to be, so bad. (Do we really, with the ratings and all the face time we're getting? But that's for another post.)
And the voters! Who are these people voting for Trump? WTF is going on? When are they finally going to see this guy for who he is: a dangerous, unqualified loose cannon? (He is.) A reality TV star, real estate tycoon, billionaire-belonging-to-the-1%, Dishonest Don? (That would be from your Front Page Wednesday, HuffPo.)
#imwithher - a big fan! - but I have to call Hillary Clinton and her campaign on this, too. Really, you're gonna play the politics of the past, expecting Trump Tower to fall? Please don't, especially not in California, my home state, where I toiled in politics for twenty plus years, even for your husband Bill in 1992 and 1996. Sorry girls (and guys), I can't help myself: You're shifting to California, now? Wait, didn't you guys know our primary is next Tuesday? Why the wait?
Still, waiting. And whining about it. Yet, we continue to use every traditional, conventional, predictable, presidential measure and method to try to take this guy down. Gotchya questions and revelations. Talking points du jour, tried and true tactics. Taxes, tabloids, women. The political playbook. Politics as usual. #nevertrump.
But it's not workin' for me. Or any of us. Clearly.
So, getting back to you and your pull out quotes, Jonathan. The pundits and political professionals will rationalize away what we learned about Trump on Tuesday. True that. It will be the subject of endless analysis and meta-analysis, and become a permanent part of the campaign narrative (narrative, that's a media favorite word this cycle), the way it would be for almost any other presidential candidate. The cynics will say it's because some big-time media figures are close to Trump personally -- or because those pundits have it in for his opponents, especially Clinton. Or because they have an interest in keeping the presidential campaign competitive. No doubt Hillary would be criticized or questioned, as you note Paul Waldman wrote. "She'd be crucified." Yes, yes she would. But she would #nevertrump that. She's not a dangerous unqualified loose cannon. She's safe, smart, steady. Trustworthy and likeable, I might add, thank you very much. (And for the real explanation of Clinton's candidacy and campaign, read the piece by Rebecca Traister this week in New York magazine.)
Your points are well taken; can't argue with you there. But I do beg to differ with your concluding comment. "[O]ne presidential candidate isn't getting the same scrutiny as the others. And it's the candidate who deserves scrutiny the most." (That's me pulling out.)
I believe Trump is getting more scrutiny. He gets way more press - live TV coverage, more words in print, more tweets (including his own) than other candidates. He's always on message. He gives great sound. He's infinitely quotable, newsworthy and dare I say, entertaining. (This could be perceived as a bit of media attack. Just a smack on the wrist, but in a good way.)
Donald Trump knows exactly what he's doing. Even as we expound on his media savvy, we the media just don't get how deep it goes. He's so savvy that even when he attacks the media, he gets good press. All publicity is good publicity, as they say. Yep, he's that good. He's a player. A real one, not just on TV.
So, until we take Trump seriously; stop waiting on him to shapeshift into any other political candidate; come to accept that this isn't a reality show (indeed, it's really real), learn to play his game - until we get it! - he'll keep playing us... and winning.
I have a teacher who always says, "I'm a lover of reality. When you argue with what is, you lose. But only 100% of the time."
All we need is 50% + 1. I'll play that game.