Sometimes there’s a moment that encapsulates the utter bankruptcy of a practice that is awful but nevertheless has become a widely accepted part of the scene.
An example was Jon Stewart’s appearance on CNN’s Crossfire in 2004 when he eviscerated the television staple of lining up two partisans with opposite views on an issue and throwing them into the ring, gladiator style, for mortal combat. Stewart famously told stunned hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala that their show’s heat-but-not-light-generating bloodbaths were “hurting America,” and that it was time for them to stop.
Such a moment occurred last week when CNN announced that it had hired Corey Lewandowski, the supremely combative, newly fired campaign manager for Donald Trump, as a commentator. The revolving door between politics and the media was spinning very, very quickly.
Now signing up politicos as cable news talking heads is as prevalent as celebrity meltdowns and Twitter feuds. Fox News has long been a full employment act for failed Republican presidential candidates, but operatives of both parties have become an all-too-familiar part of the cable landscape. While some actually do offer valuable insights, far too many simply deliver predictable partisanship that adds nothing to the public’s understanding.
So I’m not wowed by the “everybody does it” defense.
What’s more, the advent of the Big Lewandowski is particularly horrendous. And hopefully it will spark reconsideration of the entire practice. But don’t bet on it.
What’s so bad about the Lewandowski hire? At least some of the talking heads have deep political resumes and have witnessed many aspects of the campaign process. But that’s hardly the case with Lewandowski. His background is largely as a Trump guy. And not so much as a strategist — Trump is his own strategist — or deep thinker, but as a right-hand man, a body man and an enforcer. So there is little reason to suspect Lewandowski will add much insight and perspective to the political dialogue.
In an early interview in his new gig with CNN’s Erin Burnett, Lewandowski seemed to see his role purely as a Trump defender. Strictly coals to Newcastle: CNN already has a couple of designated Trump defenders in its lineup, Jeffrey Lord and Kaleigh McEnany. Despite the fact that Trump kicked him to the curb, Lewandowski is making it clear that he remains a loyalist. And why CNN thinks it’s a good idea to have such designated defenders, for any candidate of any political stripe, is completely lost on me.
Then there is Lewandowski’s stormy relationship with the press, one that mirrors that of his boss. He has blacklisted news outlets that filed stories the Trump campaign didn’t like, among them Politico, BuzzFeed and The Washington Post. He manhandled then-Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields and was criminally charged, although the charges were dropped. He has consigned reporters to a press “pen” during Trump rallies, and dealt vigorously with those who tried, as they should, to roam the premises and interview people — cover news. Last year, Lewandowski had a confrontation with one of his new colleagues, CNN reporter Noah Gray, who was trying to interview a group of protesters. Lewandowski told the journalist, who was simply trying to do his job, “Inside the pen, or I will pull your credentials,” The Washington Post reported.
Source: USA Today | Rem Rieder