Donald Trump: Media Moron
Releasing the 60 Minutes interview is more proof that Trump is not a media mastermind
One annoyingly persistent element of Trump era political analysis is pundits attributing strategic acumen to Donald Trump’s media strategy despite all of the available evidence to the contrary.
This tic reared its incorrect head once more when Trump decided to release the unedited footage of an interview with Lesley Stahl scheduled to air on Sunday during 60 Minutes. A number of Democrats and media-types wondered “what’s the secret plan?” Some speculated that Trump was trying to pre-but the story. Others suggested it was an attempt to fire up his base by attacking the media.
None of that is correct. There is no plan. There is no strategy. Trump is not a marketing genius or a media mastermind. He is a moron with the strategic sense of a temper tantrum-prone toddler. The release of the 60 Minutes footage is just more evidence of that fact. I want to lay out some of the reasons this decision was stupid in the hopes of dispensing once and for all with the notion that Donald Trump has any idea what he is doing.
Streisand Effect on Steroids
If Trump had the self-discipline and impulse control to just leave well enough alone, the 60 Minutes interview would have been a blip on the collective radar. There is no question that the CBS news magazine is still the gold standard in media real estate. It has prestige and airs on Sundays immediately following NFL games with huge audiences. But in this media environment, this close to the election, the political impact of one bad interview would have been flushed out of the system by the next morning.
Instead, Trump has been relentlessly and inadvertently promoting the interview. Thanks to his tweets and the ensuing news coverage, the number of people that tune in will almost certainly go up. By releasing the footage, Trump also turned a one day story into a four day story. Just to pull the curtain back on the secret sauce of political communications — generally the goal is to lengthen the lifecycle for good stories and shorten it for bad stories. Trump did the opposite.
This is the Streisand Effect on steroids.
Donald Trump has tried to make strength a part of his political brand. He is running for President as a “strong man” that can stand up to foreign powers, the corrupt media, and anything that threatens white people. The 37 minute video of his conversation with Lesley Stahl is a case study in abject weakness that undermines his message less than two weeks out from the election.
Throughout the interview, Trump is whining and complaining about calmly delivered, substantive questions. At no point does Stahl raise her voice or do anything unprofessional. It’s a totally normal interview. The inquiry that ultimately leads to his ending the interview is not a personal attack or a mean-spirited jab. It’s a simple question about his second term agenda. Trump couldn’t answer it, so he quit.
Once again, savvy political professionals do not promote content that communicates the exact opposite of their message. If Trump is too weak to handle tough questions from a reporter, how can we trust him to protect us from a pandemic, foreign enemies, or literally anything else.
Putting Health Care Back on the Front Burner
In total, Trump was scheduled for about an hour of questioning by Stahl. Because of commercials, a typical episode of 60 Minutes is actually 44 minutes long. This Sunday’s episode also features a similar interview with Joe Biden. Therefore, the vast majority of Trump’s interview was going to end up on the cutting room floor. It’s very possible that an aside where Trump says that he hopes the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act would never have seen the light of day.
Trump posting the interview on Facebook with that comment included gave Democrats a huge gift. Health care is political kryptonite for Republicans. We would like nothing more than the opportunity to talk about health care for the next ten days. Trump just made it that much easier. Once again, it’s not a masterstroke to post on Facebook the exact message with which your opponent most wants to bludgeon you.
Making Trump’s Media Mistakes Matter
Releasing the raw footage of this interview is yet another in a long running series of Trump media mistakes. But mistakes only matter if we make Trump pay for them. Laughing at his stupidity and dunking on him via tweet is enjoyable, but ultimately inconsequential. Here are some ideas on how to make him pay:
Post the entire interview on Facebook and encourage people to watch it. It’s devastating.
Send this clip of Trump rooting for the overturning of the Affordable Care Act to voters concerned about health care.
Share this video of Trump looking like a whiny wimp.
Trump is a moron, but he can still win this election. That says more about our political system than it does about him. When Democrats imbue his impulsive decisions with mythical magic, we help his cause. It’s never a good idea to make your opponent seem much more capable than they actually are. In fact, it’s a terrible idea.
Let’s stop doing it.