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William Rivers Pitt | “Good” Television: Why the Networks Want Clinton v. Trump

Editors, columnists and producers are rubbing their hands together as they do all they can to steer the situation toward a Trump v. Clinton contest.

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Wisconsin in a nutshell: Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont, rumbled over the terra like a giant wheel of cheese and crushed Secretary Hillary Clinton’s inevitability by a whopping 13 points. Sen. Ted Cruz, the Batman villain with a gift for rhetoric and an eye for the jugular, delivered a similar pasting to Donald Trump, defeating him by 13 points as well.

This was a big win for Sanders. Clinton’s Super Tuesday-era string of victories seems like something that happened back when dinosaurs ruled the Earth. Sanders has won seven of the last eight contests, many by huge margins, and he looks to add another notch on his belt as he is the odds-on favorite to win Wyoming this weekend. As for Cruz, Tuesday’s victory all but guarantees a WWF cage match at the Republican National Convention, according to the math. I guarantee that at this moment, Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney are smiling, and plotting.

For more original Truthout election coverage, check out our election section, “Beyond the Sound Bites: Election 2016.”

Clinton and Trump’s response to their respective defeats in Wisconsin was telling. Trump, predictably, went berserk: Cruz is a liar, a puppet, a Trojan horse the GOP elite are using to steal the nomination from The Me. Clinton’s reaction was more subdued, but it is interesting that Politico chose Wednesday morning to publish an interview with her in which she said she wasn’t sure Sanders actually was a Democrat. Expect more of the same.

So this is hell, I guess. It must be, because it’s getting hotter, everything is on fire and Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton still remain the presumptive nominees for the highest office in the land, despite a torrent of mistakes, disasters, defeats and foul public statements on both of their parts that would cause a truly civil society to chase them up a tree. If they win the nominations, they will be the most unpopular nominees in the history of the galaxy.

How is this possible? Easy: The dominant “news” media want this Trump-Clinton contest with such ferocious intensity that slip-and-fall accidents in newsrooms have gone up 6,000 percent thanks to all the drool on the floor. As far as they are concerned, Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders and John Kasich may as well be hobbits: Good at throwing rocks, but very hard to see. I expect Kasich to drop out soon, and wonder if anyone will be permitted to notice.

A perfect example of this phenomenon came some days back, when Chris Matthews went after Donald Trump like a rabid rat terrier during a truly farcical “Town Hall Meeting” on MSNBC. Matthews’ disdain for Trump was so palpable that it was almost oozing out of my poor, abused TV screen (lots of items have been thrown at it of late, and not just by me).

Trump did not disappoint. Women should be punished for having abortions (followed over the next few days by: Well, no they shouldn’t, but yeah maybe, but no, but yeah, but no and yeah and it’ll be great folks, trust me). By the end of his gyrations, heads were exploding all across the country like that scene from Scanners. He proposed littering much of Southeast Asia with nuclear weapons, as well as giving them to Saudi Arabia, the birthing bed of international Wahabbist terrorism. Best of all, he refused to rule out the possibility of nuking Europe because, he explained, “Europe is a big place.”

It was a performance suffused with such electrified nonsense that the collective planet did a slow Stewie Griffin head turn, stared, blinked and then facepalmed with such velocity that rhinoplasty stocks are going through the roof. Trump has gotten away with this kind of crap with dreary reliability, and he’ll get away with this latest blunderpallooza as well, because it’s gonna be great folks. It’s gonna be great, trust me.

… because it’s “good television,” see. Chris Matthews wasn’t trying to undermine Trump’s campaign. He loves it. Hell, MSNBC and the other networks give the guy so much free media that his spending on that front has been minuscule to date. Trump doesn’t need TV commercials. The news shows are his commercials, and every time he says something that would make a pit viper vomit, he just gets more air time and another bump in the polls. Meanwhile, the networks get their ratings and advertising dollars. Good television.

His assumed general election opponent, Hillary Clinton, may not be 40 miles of bad road in the manner of Mr. Trump, but she is no prize, and that is why the media prizes her. She is the God of Unforced Errors, and that also makes for “good television.” Clinton, it seems, absolutely must say whatever will make the current crowd before her happy.

She saw Sanders in her rear-view mirror and recast herself as some sort of Occupy-esque progressive while cashing Citibank checks, and then invoked 9/11 to justify accepting that filthy money. She called Nancy Reagan an AIDS activist, a statement so absurd that it stopped clocks in a 30-mile radius, because she was talking to the Reagan crowd. She went before the AIPAC conference and sounded like a neoconservative Genghis Khan on the warpath. Anything to please the crowd, until the next crowd.

Recent case in point: A few days ago, a Greenpeace activist asked Clinton if she would refrain from accepting campaign contributions from petroleum corporations. Clinton practically took the woman’s head off at the eyebrows while on camera. She’s sick of lies from Sanders supporters! Well, actually, Clinton’s campaign as well as the Clinton Foundation are swimming in petro-cash.

… and there’s this: “It’s time for the United States to start thinking of Iraq as a business opportunity.” Clinton said that in 2011, just shy of 10 years after her calamitous Iraq War vote, and aimed it directly at ExxonMobil and JPMorgan. She has all the consistency of a caffeinated jumping bean, and that’s what will keep a race against Trump close. More good television.

So there you have it. On the Republican side, you have a presumptive nominee who could propose dropping a nuke on London tomorrow because it’ll be great folks, trust me, and a significant portion of the GOP base would stomp and cheer. On the Democratic side, the presumptive nominee inspires, “Well, meh, Hillary can win because Republicans you guys, and Bernie can’t win because Hillary can, I think, and meh.”

Meanwhile, editors and columnists and producers are rubbing their hands together, stomachs growling with anticipation even as they do all they can to steer the situation toward that Trump v. Clinton contest. Some commentators on CNN were visibly pissed on Wednesday morning. They slagged Sanders as if he’d matchsticked their tires in Wisconsin, which, in a sense, he did.

Donald, Hillary and the television. The Sanders campaign continues to offer hope for liberals and progressives who can’t stomach Clinton, and conservatives who look upon Trump the way Tokyo looked upon Godzilla in those old movies have begrudgingly come to consider Ted “Wrecking Ball” Cruz the Establishment Candidate in order to thwart Trump, which is about as weird a thing as I have ever witnessed. Whether they can overcome the firewall erected by a media establishment that wants Clinton v. Trump remains to be seen. It’s going to be a long, hot summer.

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