Donald Trump & His Enablers: John Nichols Calls Out Trump-Obsessed Media for Wall-to-Wall Coverage

March 16, 2016
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John Nichols

political writer for The Nation and co-author with Robert McChesney of the new book, People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton moved closer to securing their respective party’s nomination with a series of victories Tuesday night. In the Republican race, Trump won Illinois, North Carolina and Florida—where his commanding victory pushed Florida Senator Marco Rubio out of the race. Trump also has a narrow lead over Senator Ted Cruz in Missouri. Trump’s one loss was in the key winner-take-all state of Ohio, where Ohio Governor John Kasich earned his first victory of the race. We speak to The Nation’s John Nichols about the results and the media coverage.


TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton move closer to securing their respective party’s nomination with a series of victories Tuesday night. In the Republican race, Trump won Illinois, North Carolina and Florida, where his commanding victory pushed Florida Senator Marco Rubio out of the race. Trump also has a narrow lead over Senator Ted Cruz in Missouri. Trump’s one loss was in the key winner-take-all state of Ohio, where Ohio Governor John Kasich earned his first victory of the race. In order to secure the Republican nomination, Trump now has to win 54 percent of the roughly 1,100 delegates still up for grabs. During his victory speech at Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, Trump pointed to the influence last year’s attacks on Paris had on his campaign.

DONALD TRUMP: So, we started, and something happened called Paris. Paris happened. And Paris was a disaster. That was—there have been many disasters, but it was Paris. And then we had a case in Los Angeles, where it was in California, where the 14 young people were killed. And it just goes on and on and on. And what happened with me is this whole run took on a whole new meaning—not just borders, not just good trade deals—and we’re going to make the best trade deals you’ve ever seen. We’ve got such endorsements from Carl Icahn and the smartest people in business, and these people are going to be negotiating our deals, and they’re the best in the world. We have the best business people in the world. They’re going to know—we’re going to have such great deals. We’re going to do so good with trade. We’re going to do so good on the border. But it took on a whole new meaning. And the meaning was very simple: We need protection in our country. And that’s going to happen.

AMY GOODMAN: Earlier in the evening, Ohio Governor John Kasich addressed a crowd of supporters in Ohio after winning his home state.

GOV. JOHN KASICH: Now, I want you to know the campaign goes on. And I also want you to know that it’s been my intention to make you proud. It’s been my intention to have young people all across this country watch somebody enter into politics, even though I labored in obscurity for so long, people counting me out, people in Ohio saying, "Why don’t they ever call on him?" OK? We get all that. But we put one foot in front of the other. And I want to remind you again tonight that I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land. ... We’ve got one more trip around Ohio this coming fall, where we will beat Hillary Clinton, and I will become the president of the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: The Associated Press is reporting, even before Tuesday’s results came in, a group of conservatives began planning to meet to discuss new ways to stop Donald Trump, including a brokered convention or rallying around a third-party candidate.

Joining us now is John Nichols, political writer for The Nation, co-author with Robert McChesney of the new book, People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy.

Welcome to Democracy Now! In our next segment, we’re going to be talking about the Democrats, John. And we’re also going to play a speech that was not played on either—any of the three major news networks last night. They played every single address of the winners and the losers, except Bernie Sanders’, inexplicably. They instead, while he was starting to speak, kept talking about who they were going to be going to soon, who was, yes, the winner of the night of the Republicans in a broad sweep, Donald Trump. Talk about what happened last night, how significant is the sole victory of John Kasich in Ohio, but Donald Trump, looks like, sweeping the rest. At the time of this broadcast, Missouri is a little too close to call, though he is ahead.

JOHN NICHOLS: That’s exactly right. Look, you summed it up, in a sense, in that comparison right at the start, where you said, you know, here, Bernie Sanders, who remains a viable contender, is not paid attention to, because they were waiting to make sure they didn’t miss a second of Donald Trump.

AMY GOODMAN: They were waiting. He hadn’t even started speaking.

JOHN NICHOLS: Yeah. It’s a speech by an actual candidate who, by the way, is winning more primaries than all these Republicans who are trying to take down Trump, is not going to get anywhere near airtime, because we have a fully Trump-obsessed media. And they live for it. And if Trump might come on any time in the next 10 minutes, nobody else get near that camera time. And this is the explanation for why Trump is doing so very, very well. He is surfing a wave of media attention. Even when he does something wrong, he still is wall-to-wall. And he knows that most of our media is a dumb beast. He just feeds it. And the fact of the matter is, if he says something that’s obnoxious, if his supporters do something that’s obnoxious, if something horrible happens, he’ll just feed them something new the next day and be right in the middle of it.

We see the playout, literally, on Tuesday, because here he had easily the most controversial weekend of his campaign, I would argue—he’s certainly had many of them, but over the weekend you saw literal, you know, deep concern among all sorts of people about how his rallies have gotten so out of control, violence, cancellation of a rally in Illinois—all this discussion about where Trump is taking all of this stuff, and yet, does he get knocked down? Does he fail? No, he sweeps across major states—Florida, North Carolina, which is, by the way, a very important state as we head toward the fall race, and an easy win in, you know, these key states. But also, then, Ohio, he does lose to John Kasich, but would note he did really well. He was very competitive there. He’s probably going to win Missouri.

And so, this is a candidate who continues to dominate the Republican field. He is not dominating it because he’s all that popular. This is a fascinating thing. He’s playing—he’s gaming the rules here in some amazing ways. This is a guy who’s getting 35, 40 percent of the vote in a lot of these states. But so, most people don’t want him, but he is dominating.

AMY GOODMAN: And the significance of John Kasich winning his own state and the only state he has won so far—

JOHN NICHOLS: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —but a winner-take-all state, and what it means actually, even though he does not have a lot of delegates—a bit more than 60 for this win—what it means for the convention, and what a brokered convention looks like?

JOHN NICHOLS: Sure, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, the rules—it’s very hard to understand both the Democrats and the Republican Party rules.

JOHN NICHOLS: Well, understand—they kind of write their own rules along the way. One of the things is, we sort of obsess on the rules that are in place, but, remember, conventions are the party. Once you’re there, you have a lot of flexibility to alter and change things. And so, here’s what’s important about the win in Ohio by Kasich. Historically, winning your home state was nothing, right? I mean, it’s sort of—you’re expected to win your home state. Bernie Sanders won Vermont. People did not think that was a definitional moment in the 2016 race. But in this case, our media, again, is so—

AMY GOODMAN: Although Illinois, though Hillary did take it, it was close.

JOHN NICHOLS: Very close.

AMY GOODMAN: And she was very nervous she wasn’t going to.

JOHN NICHOLS: Oh, and I think—

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, Rubio didn’t and then dropped out.

JOHN NICHOLS: Yeah. Well, that’s right. You do have to win your own state, historically. Now, Hillary Clinton has many home states, so we should be conscious of that. But that here’s the important thing, though: Again, our media today is so Trump-obsessed that—they’re both obsessed with him, but they’re also obsessed with the opposition to him, so this win for Kasich becomes a huge deal. And everybody is going to talk about it, and everybody’s going to focus on it.

But the question really becomes: Where does he go next? In many senses, his best next state has already passed. It was Michigan. He was supposed to do really well there. He talked about it a lot. And he did not make it in Michigan. He didn’t pull it off there. In fact, he didn’t do all that well there. And as he heads out on the trail, the reality, Amy, is that it’s very unlikely that Kasich’s the likely alternative. The likely alternative is Cruz. Now, the problem for the Republican establishment—and, frankly, for a lot of the media that covers it—is that they know that Cruz is, in many ways, as unpopular or more unpopular than Trump.

AMY GOODMAN: Why is he unpopular?

JOHN NICHOLS: People don’t like him. I mean, I’m not—I don’t know the guy that well. I’ve covered him quite a bit. But there’s an awfully lot of evidence that he just doesn’t rub people the right way. And in politics, that’s sort of part of the game.

AMY GOODMAN: What about—

JOHN NICHOLS: I should say also he is a very doctrinaire player, and I think the—we should go beyond personalities. That’s silly, in some senses. His willingness to shut down the government, his willingness to go to extremes, I think, unsettles even some conservatives.

AMY GOODMAN: What about a man from your own state, from Wisconsin, Paul Ryan? CNBC headline, "Paul Ryan Won’t Categorically Rule Out Accepting GOP [Nomination]." Though he didn’t run, he’s declined to rule out accepting, if a deadlocked party convention turns to him this summer. He will be chairing the Republican convention, would become a leading prospect if delegates decided to turn to someone outside the current field.

JOHN NICHOLS: Oh, yeah, he is the leading prospect, there’s no doubt of that—the immediate former vice-presidential candidate, the guy that they all think is their sort of young favorite. But more than that, this is an interesting thing, not talked about much: He has headed the trust that the RNC sets up to raise money in anticipation of the November race for president. So he’s been out literally raising money, supposedly to give over to the candidate. He has better contacts with all the financiers of the Republican Party than anybody else. So he’s a very logical establishment pick.

But here’s the problem. I mean, the notion of imposing a candidate if Trump comes in there with an overwhelming plurality of the delegates, that’s really messy stuff. You look at a Trump rally now, and you think the floor of the Republican National Convention is going to be a calm place in that circumstance? You’re imposing somebody? I think—I’ve been around Paul Ryan a lot. I’ve covered him in a lot of settings. I think he’s a wise enough man to know that’s a—he could only do that in a deal with Trump, not forcing it. And that’s one of the interesting things. This last week or so, he’s been on the phone with Trump quite a bit. Trump talks about it all the time.

And we should understand, above all, Paul Ryan is the number one enabler of Donald Trump. He is the leading figure in Congress, much more than McConnell. He’s the camera time guy. He’s the guy, the immediate former candidate for vice president, their key man on economics. At a number of points, he’s had a chance to call out Trump. He mildly rebukes Trump on some of the worst stuff. But then they always ask him, "Well, would you support Trump if he’s the nominee?" "Of course I would." So...

AMY GOODMAN: John Nichols, we’re going to break, and then we’re going to come back to this discussion, but we’re going to look at the other side of the aisle, at the Democrats, though, you know, these days it looks like aisles weave around a bit, that Republican, Democratic lines, they sometimes get blurred. John Nichols is a political writer for The Nation, co-author with Robert McChesney of the new book, People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.


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