Chris Cillizza, a writer for The Washington Post, has always been a bad political pundit. He’s the one who does the gimmicky ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ column, as if politics is some sort of bizarre sport with a Whose Line Is It Anyway?-type scoring system, “Where the rules are made up and the points don’t matter.” But he really outdid himself the night of Trump’s address to the joint sessions of congress:
And here’s the piece he wrote afterward:
This was the best “big” speech he has given as president. It may well have been the best speech Trump has given since he entered politics way back in June 2015. Trump didn’t walk away from his decidedly dark vision of the current state of the country, but his overall tone was more conciliatory and optimistic than I’ve ever heard him.
Trump hit a few very nice notes: His condemnation of threats against Jewish community centers at the start of the speech was a very nice grace note, and his honoring of the widow of the Navy SEAL killed in the recent Yemen raid was a remarkably powerful moment.
Critics will rightly point out that several of Trump’s claims — about the rising violence in America, for example — missed the factual mark by a wide margin. And, at times, Trump seemed to be on the verge of returning to his confrontational self — particularly when discussing immigration and the border wall.
But, top to bottom, Trump delivered both a forceful defense of his nationalist worldview — “My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America,” he said at one point — and a proof point that he can be, dare I say it, presidential when the moment demands it.
All emphases mine.
I’ll never understand pundits—or anyone—who thinks the ability to read from a teleprompter is presidential. And I’ll never understand that final line: “he can be… presidential when the moment demands it.” I’m not going out on a limb when I say all moments demand the president be presidential, in the sense that he should at bare minimum be composed when he appears in public or communicates with the outside world.
So when Cillizza asks this question earnestly:
The answer should be obvious: Because virtually everything else he does is indicative of the behavior of a madman, and the people he has nominated or appointed are largely ill-suited for their jobs and are harmful for the nation—as he has demonstrated about himself over and over and over again. Not yelling during a speech, and keeping his rolling, off-topic ramblings under control for less than an hour is not indicative of any sort of alteration in behavior. Know how we know that? Here’s Trump on his latest tirade:
And, in response, Cillizza made this brilliant comment:
Predictably, people started calling Cillizza out for the bizarre praise he heaped on Trump only a few days ago. As this guy says:
To which Cillizza responded:
I don’t know whether Cillizza realizes it, but this is the kind of tactic Republicans, and especially the Trump administration, have used for years, particularly in response to criticisms that they use racially-charged dog-whistles when talking to their base. “I didn’t literally use that word, so for you to believe there are any implications in my words is ridiculous!”
Cillizza probably doesn’t realize it, though, since he’s not an avowed apologist for Trump—a scroll through his Twitter feed reveals his unwitting disconnect from the reality of a culture he’s heavily steeped in—and because he’s made note of Trump’s erratic behavior, he honestly doesn’t understand how anyone could look at him funny for praising Trump and his speech. When one user asked whether his job was to praise Trump, Cillizza responded:
Which is true enough, but what he and Van Jones apparently missed is that it doesn’t take a whole lot of nuance to say that Trump honoring Ryan Owens was a political play that reeks of exploitation but that will play very well with regular voters. I don’t know how Cillizza or anyone else who hasn’t latched their career to riding the Trump Train of Compliment Showers can’t recognize that it’s highly doubtful the same man who earlier that day shifted blame of Owens’s death to the generals (reported in the newspaper he works for, no less), and who last year attacked a Gold Star family, actually cares about people like Owens.
And if that’s what Cillizza believes, it’s just another piece of evidence that he’s the world’s worst pundit. Move over, Ron Fournier.