Chris Cillizza Gets Taken to Task for Facile Column

Longtime readers of my blog know that I am not a member of the Chris Cillizza fan club, but I don’t think I’ve been as succinct in my criticism as Soledad O’Brien was last night.

I added Charles Gaba’s tweet because it’s both hilarious and illustrative of the problem with Cillizza’s no-stakes analysis of our nation’s politics.

And that’s really the problem with Cillizza’s latest piece, because I actually think he has a point and did a fairly decent job of presenting it. Trump’s presidency is a lot like a reality show and people are captivated by it even if they don’t generally like it or feel good about themselves for tuning in. If Cillizza hadn’t poisoned his own well with too many of these substance-free pieces of “analysis,” he probably wouldn’t have been savaged for making these observations.

I read the piece twice just to be sure, but I don’t think it’s inaccurate nor do I see that it suffers from any glaring misunderstanding about what makes reality television work. It could even be funny if the risks and consequences of having a man like Trump in the Oval Office weren’t so dire. What it’s not is actual analysis. It’s not useful to anyone. The only analytical statement in the whole piece is ludicrous:

The medium and long-term impact of running a White House and, therefore, a country, on the principles of reality TV remain to be seen. People can’t tear their eyes from the spectacle, sure, but lots and lots of them say they don’t like what they see.

Trump is betting that in a few years enough people will vote to renew the show, captivated by what possibly could come around the corner next — whether they can admit to themselves how much they like the show.

In other words, Trump’s White House is a hot mess because it’s all part of a deliberate strategy to create a car wreck so compelling that people will reelect the president just to see how much worse it can get. That might be Trump’s best hope, but it’s not a deliberate strategy. Trump’s presidency is a disaster because he is a terrible, insecure, hateful person who has no idea what he’s doing. Real analysis either explains the past or predicts the future. Cillizza offers weak snark and an up/down grading system. As Soledad O’Brien pointed out, that’s not what people need.

Cillizza is genuinely sorry a lot, but he doesn’t seem to make any adjustments to his approach.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.