Early the next morning after Dave Brat defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary, Chuck Todd interviewed the victor by phone on MSNBC. Brat said he thought his first chat with Todd would be a chat about the successful campaign. But Todd had other things in mind. He peppered him with questions about policy issues.
His first question was on immigration. His second was on how unfriendly Brat was to “Wall Street Republicans,” (unlike Cantor, goes the subtext). His third was on minimum wage. Dissatisfied with the economics professor’s answer, he asked him about it again. Still dissatisfied, he asked him again. And again. And again.
Then he moved on to trade agreements, asking, “In general, what are your view of trade agreements. Are you open to big trade agreements or not?”
After that he went on to foreign policy. Would Brat be in favor of arming Syrian rebels? Brat reminded him that he hadn’t really expected an in-depth policy interview.
Todd responded by asking him whether he considered himself “an interventionist or an isolationist.”
I actually thought Brat did fine in the interview, but many political journalists thought he should have handled the six minute interview on six serious policy issues with more aplomb. Reviews from various media were harsh.
Here’s one of the impressions the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple took away from the interview:
* A media novice. After Todd asked about whether he’d arm the Syria rebels, Brat said, “Yeah, hey, Chuck I thought we were just gonna chat today about the celebratory aspects. I’d love to go through all of this but my mind is just. … I love all the policy questions, I’m happy to do more but I just wanted to talk about the victory … and I wanted to thank everybody that worked so hard on my campaign and I’m happy to take policy issues at any time but I just wanted to call out thanks to everybody today.”
Chuck Todd is the ultimate issues guy. How can you go on his show and wave off a question on substance? When asked whether MSNBC had extended any “celebratory” promises to Brat, MSNBC spokeswoman Lauren Skowronski replied, “No promises were made to Brat in advance of his interview on The Daily Rundown this morning.”
Chuck Todd is the ultimate issues guy! So imagine my surprise when the very same Chuck Todd interviewed Donald Trump by phone for the first time on Meet the Press this weekend.
The ultimate issues guy literally didn’t ask a single “issue” question apart from what Trump thinks about Black Lives Matter. And Trump isn’t running for a seat in the House of Representatives. He’s running for president.
For his time with Trump, though, Todd asked the following questions:
- Why do you think you’re resonating so quickly in the Republican field?
- Why do you believe there is this sort of polarizing view of you?
- Why did you downplay your expectations on debating?
- How would you advise a candidate to debate you onstage?
What is this? Seriously, what kind of silliness is this?
In what world do you put a random economics professor from nowhere through some economic and foreign policy ringer but handle a man with decades of international media experience with kid gloves? I don’t get it. Next up, on Trump’s lack of a detailed platform:
- I know your campaign says you have them. “There’s a tax plan on the shelf ready to roll out, an education plan on the shelf ready to roll out.” When the public is going to see this, sir?
I fear it gets worse:
- All right. Very quickly, two more questions. 1) The news about Joe Biden thinking about challenging Hillary Clinton. Who would you rather face: Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden?
- So you don’t have much to say about Joe Biden it sounds like? You were a donor to, you’ve given him money in the past–
Needless to say, this line of questioning did not faze Donald Trump one bit. It didn’t elicit anything interesting either. Neither did the discussion of Black Lives Matter, the one “issue” Todd did broach.
If David Brat had to be ready for tough policy questions within hours of his primary victory over Cantor, I’d love to hear the journalistic defense for whatever this interview was.