I began watching the Sunday talk shows again last weekend because of Antonin Scalia's death, which propelled the U.S. into an exceptional time in our history. We'll be living with the consequences of how the next Supreme Court appointment is made for a long time.
Watching one of the shows today reminded me of how terrible political reporting on television can be.
On CNN's State of the Union, host Jake Tapper asked Donald Trump 10 questions:
By my count that's seven straight horse-race questions that are solely about who's leading and who's trailing, one policy question with a follow-up and then a nice softball question that lets him say something nice about his wife.
Trump is the Republican front-runner and the favorite to win the GOP nomination. There's a great deal of importance in the media getting beyond his vague policy statements to pin him down on actual things he would do as president. Making America Yuge Again is not a concrete policy objective.
Tapper had an opportunity to do this, but he thought the bulk of his time with Trump was better spent with such queries as "Are you unstoppable?"
That's the kind of dumb-ass question a non-journalist would never ask. Political reporters ask them all day long.
The one time Tapper delved into Trump's actual policies on health care and the individual mandate, we got to see that Trump is completely out of his depth. After he took insurance away from millions of Americans by killing ObamaCare, the only things Trump could suggest are to let states compete and offer healthcare savings accounts.
The answer Trump gave was as floundering and repetitive as the Marco Rubio debate answer when he was accused of being robotic. Trump twice repeated that we're going to have great health care if he's president, and three times said people won't be dying in the streets.
Or the sidewalks: "They're not dying on the sidewalks, and they're not dying on the streets if I'm president," he said. "They're just not."
Unless he shoots them, I guess.
The Sunday show reporters should ask candidates as many questions about policy as they do about winning and losing. If they did, it would be clear to millions that Trump's a bag of hair whose ideas never go beyond braggadocious posturing.