Whoever has been making it a habit to watch Bloomberg Politics' "With All Due Respect" -- the vlog that Michael Bloomberg pays Mark Halperin and John Heilemann lots of money to produce, because it's really, really, really part of Bloomberg Politics' strategy and not at all a huge mistake -- sure got a treat this week, as the show is now new and "improved."
I mean, in the first place, it's a lot longer now. And that means there are more minutes to fill with such political wisdom as Halperin's observation that "[Marco Rubio] is on everybody's list as a possible nominee." Which is totally true, by the way! Rubio, in running for the nomination, has really etched his name on everyone's list of people running for the nomination, much in the same way that the Jacksonville Jaguars are "on everyone's list as a team that will play professional football for at least sixteen weeks this year."
It's trenchant stuff, but it hardly ends there. See, "With All Due Respect" landed their biggest guest yet for this important week of the show's existence: Donald Trump, a guy who helped reopen the Wollman Ice Rink in New York's Central Park.
He is also running for the Republican nomination, which means that Halperin and Heilemann got to ask Trump the sort of very important questions that you'd want well-paid political reporters to put to a real live presidential aspirant.
Here is a long list of the questions these two men -- each of whom receives over $1 million in pay from Michael Bloomberg -- asked Trump, given this opportunity:
- "[The Wollman Ice Rink] is a great New York institution. So is "Saturday Night Live" -- you are doing it next week. Nervous? Excited? How are you feeling about it?"
- "So this rink was once the largest ice rink in the world, now there's a lot of rinks bigger than this obviously, this was back in the '50s when it was built."
- "Do you skate yourself?"
- "What do you do for exercise if it's not ice skating?"
- "Seriously?! No exercise?!"
- "Here is a question that I've been wanting to ask you for a while: We almost never get to see you eat, What do you like to eat? What's Donald Trump's favorite stuff?"
- "What do they have in [the ice skating rink pavilion to eat]?"
- "You need to do some more exercising!"
- "Are you like, a normal eater, like three meals a day?"
- "What's the food you like that you know you shouldn't eat but you just can't resist?"
- "How many pieces of bacon would you eat normally, in one sitting?"
- "New York City's baseball team, the New York Mets, lost the World Series to the Kansas City Royals. Is that because the Royals are great, or because the Mets kind of blew it?"
- "You've got a son, you've got grandkids, what do you do to make them laugh?"
- [Referring to things you might do to make a child laugh.] "No funny faces?"
- "This rink ... you were talking in extraordinary detail about how the ice gets made, the freon versus this and that, have you ever driven the Zamboni?"
- "Really?! What was that like?"
- "What are the things you've achieved since your father passed away that you think he'd be proud of?"
- "What do you think [your dad would] think about you running for president?"
- "Was [your dad] political?"
Wow. I just want to point out that "What do you like to eat?" is a question that Halperin has "been wanting to ask" Trump "for a while!" Also, these two reporters are really pretty excited about talking about how ice gets made, especially when you consider that most people do it by freezing water.
In fact, Halperin and Heilemann are both really fascinated by the ice rink, so the show ends up taking a deep dive into Trump's role in successfully getting the Wollman Ice Rink back up and running. But does all this talk about ice rinks have a payoff? Oh yes, my friends, oh yes.
HALPERIN: People who say Trump's got no experience, he can't possibly be president, because that's not what the president's about, [this ice rink] was a government problem, the city couldn't get this thing built, so what are examples of things now that that aren't getting done that you think you could bring the same skills to if you were president, just the way you got this thing done?
TRUMP: I'll give you one example, wars. Wars aren't getting done. It's the same thing. You look at ISIS...
Right. It's the same thing. As an ice rink. O-kay!
Hey, just so we're clear:
HALPERIN: Your critics would say you've just compared building an ice skating rink to stopping wars, and that that is the same thing.
TRUMP: It's all the same.
Sure. Perfect. It's totally the same. As Trump says, it's all about efficiency. And then he starts talking about "General Oriano," who is "leaving," but not before pointing out that the U.S. military is "the least prepared we've ever been."
Ordinarily I'd point out that it's General Odierno, that he left a few months ago (to JP Morgan, naturally), and that he said that "the service is in danger of becoming too small for an increasingly dangerous world" because of deep budget cuts, but I guess that wouldn't be efficient. At any rate, Halperin and Heilemann don't know enough to challenge these contentions (like Odierno's name), and the moment slips by anyway. But who cares? The point is, displacing ISIS is really just as easy as restoring an ice rink, that's just science.
Halperin and Heilemann make a few more attempts to mine this opportunity for substance. For example, Trump is asked about Marco Rubio, who's generally held by the political media to be the GOP's "establishment" hope, and thus an important rival to Trump. As you might expect, Trump writes Rubio off as "highly overrated," an "overrated person," a "lightweight" who is "nowhere in the polls," and "totally driven by what the public thinks."
Trump also explains that he would have done a much better job attacking Rubio for missed Senate votes than Jeb Bush did during the last debate. As you might expect, the obvious question -- "Well then why didn't you?" -- manages to elude Halperin and Heilemann.
There is also a section of the interview where Heilemann asks Trump about corporate tax inversions, and the most amusing part of this interlude was how concerned Heilemann was that Trump might be angry at the gigantic American corporations who dodge taxes overseas. Rest assured, Trump is not, but Heilemann was so worried about the feelings of these corporations that he wouldn't let go of his concerns easily.
"When you say it's a serious problem, what you're saying is, the law is the problem, not the company's behavior?" Heilemann asked Trump.
Heilemann really just wanted to be sure, so he offered a follow-up: "It's not bad what Pfizer is doing?"
That led to a lengthy disquisition in which Trump never says a disparaging word about Pfizer. But Heilemann, dogged pursuer of the truth on behalf of a major pharmaceutical company, circles back, just to make sure: "So you're not criticizing Pfizer at all?"
Nope, Trump sure isn't!
Of all the disparaging things Donald Trump has said about his fellow Americans, the other contenders in the race, and Halperin and Heilemann's colleagues in the media, it's Pfizer that Heilemann bends over backwards to ensure isn't the target of Trump's needless unkindness.
At least someone's earning that paycheck! Halperin's contribution to this section on corporate tax inversions is to silently nod his head 53 times.
Jason Linkins edits "Eat The Press" for The Huffington Post, and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast, "So That Happened." Listen to the latest episode below: