President Obama kept telling Chris Wallace there would be no political influence in the federal investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails. But Mr. Wallace declined to accept the answer.
“How many times do I have to say it, Chris?” Mr. Obama said. “Guaranteed.”
Later in the conversation, in discussing political polarization, Mr. Obama said “Republicans, they have their own TV station.”
This brought a warm smile to Mr. Wallace’s lips.
“Go ahead,” he said with a jaunty wave of his arm. “You can say ‘FOX (FOXA) News.’”
For the record, the President didn’t speak those words. It was his first appearance on Fox News Sunday in his eight years of office.
“Better late than never,” Mr. Obama said.
This was the first time in five months Mr. Trump made himself so scarce on a Sunday morning.
His meeting with Mr. Wallace—recorded in Chicago—was one of the highlights on a day when Donald Trump, the leading Republican Presidential contender, declined to appear on any of the public affairs shows. He was the missing elephant in the room.
According to Brian Stelter on CNN’s Reliable Sources, it was the first time in five months Mr. Trump made himself so scarce on a Sunday morning.
Perhaps he was busy with the major shakeup and expansion of his campaign staff. That’s what all the hosts and guests gabbed about, wondering how Mr. Trump might recover his momentum in the New York primary after losing in Wisconsin last Tuesday night to Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
One solution might be Paul Manafort, brought onto Team Trump last week as convention manager.
The cable chatter has it that Mr. Manafort will outrank Corey Lewandowski, Mr. Trump’s belligerent campaign manager who manhandles women journalists when they get in his way.
Mr. Manafort didn’t discourage the notion that he holds high rank when he appeared with Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press.
“Donald Trump is running the campaign,” Mr. Manafort said, “and I’m working directly for Donald Trump.”
On Face the Nation on CBS, Dan Balz of The Washington Post told host John Dickerson “They’re clearly in the middle of a transition in that campaign. They have been out-foxed, our-circled and out-run by the Cruz campaign.”
He was referring to delegates scooped up by Mr. Cruz in local conventions that Mr. Trump didn’t know about.
“Can they get their act together in this hand-to-hand combat?” Mr. Balz asked, regarding the Trump campaign.
To explain all this on ABC, reporter Tom Llamas mixed metaphors with the best of ‘em.
‘Trump realized he needed to bring in a hired gun… But the nail on the coffin was the loss in Wisconsin.’
“Trump realized he needed to bring in a hired gun,” he said on This Week. “But the nail on the coffin was the loss in Wisconsin.”
Behind all this, there loomed the question that will only grow darker like summer thunderclouds over the next few months until the convention in Cleveland that begins July 18.
If neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Cruz collect the required majority of at least 1,237 delegates for the nomination, might the “Establishment” Republicans decline to nominate either of these two men who are feared and loathed in their own party?
Might they go through multiple ballots and choose instead some non-campaigning compromise candidate like House Speaker Paul Ryan who last week put out a “Speaker’s Video” that looked a lot like a campaign ad?
Later in that show, Alex Castellanos explained it all to George Stephanopoulos.
“Trump’s going to be short,” he said, regarding delegates. “He’s going to recede, probably, on the second ballot. But Cruz’s value evaporates when Trump is no longer a threat. So there’s a good chance this convention does not turn to Ted Cruz and we get into a devolutionary process.”
“Trump folks say ‘I don’t want a Cruz guy,’” he explained. “Cruz guys say ‘I don’t want a Trump guy.’ And you begin to look for the least threatening candidate.”
Which might be why Ohio Governor John Kasich was smiling so much on CBS when talking by remote camera to Mr. Dickerson.
“You’re going to see significant changes in the delegates’ voting after the first ballot,” he told Mr. Dickerson. “We’ll have a full-court press. I am the second choice of both the Cruz people and the Trump people.”
Mr. Kasich—who used to host a Fox show—displayed his TV chops, squaring his shoulders, leaning forward in his chair and moving his face closer to the camera lens.
“I’m the only person who consistently (in the polls) beats Hillary Clinton in the fall,” Mr. Kasich said with growing emotion, waving his hands. “Are we going to pick somebody who can’t win? That would be NUTS.”
Speaking of nuts, Meet the Press sought the wisdom of tele-prophet Glenn Beck, a TV performer so off-the-wall that even Fox had to say goodbye to him.
When Mr. Todd asked Mr. Beck about the possible reaction to a successful “draft Ryan” effort, Mr. Beck predicted “the end of the GOP”
“I think it would be very bad,” Mr. Beck said. “People would feel very betrayed… they’re angry and that’s something we don’t want to add fuel to.”
The conversation turned to Roger Stone, a Trump supporter who threatened “Days of Rage” at the Cleveland convention if Mr. Trump is not honored as expected.
“That’s really not a good thing,” Mr. Beck said. “We don’t want to play into the anger and the hatred and the vitriol. We’re in this together, Martin Luther King said we’re either going to live like brothers together or we’re going to perish together like fools.”
Highlights and Lowlights
FOX NEWS SUNDAY Mr. Wallace asked about Mr. Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court, a bid the Republican Senate refuses to even consider. They say they will wait for a new president.
“Never has a Republican president’s nominee not received a hearing, not received a vote,” Mr. Obama said.
Regarding the current Republican presidential candidates, he referred to irresponsible threats like carpet-bombing innocent civilians in the Middle East, suggested by Mr. Cruz.
“That is not a productive approach to defeating terrorism,” Mr. Obama said.
‘You can’t change us. You can kill some of us but we will hunt you down and we will get you.’
As for Mr. Trump’s promise to ban all Muslims from entering the country, Mr. Obama said “That is not a good approach to defeating terrorism.”
Mr. Wallace raised an issue often heard on his network: That Mr. Obama reacts too calmly to terrorist attacks, going on with his plans. The President tried to explain he does not wish to induce panic or fear, as ISIS wishes.
“You can’t change us,” he said, spelling out his response to the terrorists. “You can kill some of us but we will hunt you down and we will get you.”
Asked for his best moment as President, Mr. Obama said it was passage of the Affordable Care Act for health insurance in 2009. His worst, he said, was the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre of young school children in 2012. His greatest accomplishment, he said, was “saving the country from a great depression.” His greatest disappointment? Libya, he said.
Speaking of the American system of government, Mr. Obama gave a miniature homily.
“If you have faith, it works,” he said. “It will beat any other system, given we are human and given Original Sin.”
As soon as the panel took over, Karl Rove snarled “It was really inappropriate, I think, for the chief executive of the United States to comment on an ongoing investigation.”
Mr. Rove reached back to 2008 to say Mr. Obama failed to prosecute two guys dressed up as Black Panthers at a voting booth, as if that was relevant.
Anne Gearan of The Washington Post spoke of Mr. Obama’s rationale for lack of public emotion or swift military vengeance after terror attacks.
“He gave a nuanced defense of essentially why he acts the way he does and says the things he does,” she said.
MEET THE PRESS Mr. Manafort—Mr. Trump’s new man—stopped by Mr. Todd’s desk to say Mr. Stone is not an official representative of the campaign and it is not the policy of the campaign to threaten delegates. Then he dropped the other jackboot.
“But it is Ted Cruz’s style,” Mr. Manafort said. “And that’s going to wear thin very fast. You go to the country conventions and you see the Gestapo tactics, the scorched earth.”
Mr. Todd was surprised.
“Gestapo tactics?” he said. “That’s a strong word.”
“We’re going to be filing several protests,” Mr. Manafort said. “They are not playing by the rules.”
A lively panel discussion included Molly Ball of The Atlantic who said Bill Clinton’s shouting match with Black Lives Matter protestors was an extension of Hillary Clinton’s frustration.
“She feels she has bent over backward to accommodate every demand of the Bernie Sanders people,” Ms. Ball said. “The ideological liberals, the left wing of the party, the activists. Every time they have confronted her, she said ‘You’re right! I believe what you believe! We’re all together! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!’ Finally, she’s snapping back and he’s snapping back.”
On another issue, Joy-Ann Reid reflected on the irony of Mr. Beck—who once said Mr. Obama hated white people—has “now decided to take on this King-ian role in his own mind to bring the country together.”
STATE OF THE UNION Jake Tapper opened his CNN show with video and audio of the confrontation between Bill Clinton and the Black Lives Matter protesters.
“He’s not only a former President,” Ms. Clinton told Mr. Tapper. “He’s my husband and he does take defending and protecting me very seriously. And I appreciate that.”
‘I appreciate Bill Clinton being my psychoanalyst,’ Mr. Sanders said. ‘It’s always nice.’
In that Bill Clinton said there might be some subconscious sexist double standard in those who oppose his wife, Mr. Tapper brought that up in his conversation recorded with Mr. Sanders at a little red table alongside the East River with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background.
“I appreciate Bill Clinton being my psychoanalyst,” Mr. Sanders said. “It’s always nice.”
For policy, this interview offered few new ideas. Mr. Sanders pretty much gives pieces of his stump speech to just about any question.
But the scene was kind of poignant. Here was this Vermont Senator, in his eighth decade, back on the soil of his native Brooklyn, probably at the pinnacle of his political life, a visibility that could dwindle as soon as next week.
The ferry boats went by. You could see patches of blue sky fighting stubborn clouds. It was a chilly spring day with a little breeze. Mr. Tapper turned the conversation to how Mr. Sanders is Jewish and has contended further toward the Presidency like no Jew before him.
And yet Mr. Sanders offers support for Palestinian Arabs that most Gentile candidates would avoid.
“Treat the Palestinians with dignity and respect,” Mr. Sanders said. “Whether you’re Jewish or not Jewish, I would hope that every person in this country wants to see the misery of never-ending war and conflict ended in the Middle East. In Gaza, right now, poverty. Unemployment. Their community has been decimated. You can’t ignore that fact.”
In the panel discussion, Van Jones tried to explain why Black Americans are offended by the term “super-predator” and the strict crime bill passed in 1994 under President Bill Clinton, who defended it last week.
“What Bill Clinton did could not have been worse,” Mr. Jones said of the spat with the demonstrators. “He just ripped off scabs… ‘Super-predator’ became a five-syllable term for ‘Those black guys doing crack.’” He said whites and blacks use drugs at the same rate but blacks go to prison for it six times more often.
Nina Turner added: “In the African-American community, we have feelings as well and we still live in a country where race is front and center. As Ice Cube said, [My skin is my sin.’”
THIS WEEK Much of the ABC show was devoted to a debate about the new laws being passed in some southern states permitting the “religious freedom” of commercial enterprises to discriminate against LGBT customers.
Kristen Waggoner, arguing in favor of the homophobic backlash, warned of transsexual people using rest rooms with small children present. “We have a perversion of the notion of religious liberty,” she said.
She was opposed by John Corvino, the chair of the philosophy department at Detroit’s Wayne State University.
“There are absolutely no cases of transgender people trying to use these laws in order to commit assault or to threaten people’s safety in bathrooms,” Mr. Corvino said. “Whereas, there are many cases of transgender people suffering bullying and assault and violence because they can’t have a safe and comfortable bathroom to use.”
The segment began with news that Mr. Bruce Springsteen—that’s right—has canceled a concert in North Carolina to protest one of these bigoted laws. ABC didn’t interview The Boss himself, but sideman Stevie Van Zandt handled the explanation.
“You’ve got to hurt people economically to have them do the right thing morally,” Mr. Van Zandt said. (As Homer Simpson once observed to Paul McCartney: “Rock stars. Is there anything they DON’T know?”)
FACE THE NATION Good to see old black-and-white footage of the contested Republican convention of 1952, when Dwight Eisenhower took the nomination from Robert Taft.
On the panel, they spoke of the current contest. Ramesh Ponnuro of National Review joked about how “not qualified” was the meanest thing that Mr. Sanders and Ms. Clinton could say about each other on the Democratic side.
“How happy would (Republican National Chairman) Reince Priebus be if ‘not qualified’ was the worst insult on the Republican side?” he said. “I’m a conservative but I want to defend the Socialist candidate. There have been a lot of cheap shots at that Daily News interview.”
Critics said Mr. Sanders was not specific enough about how to break up the big banks when he sat down with the tabloid.
“When Senator Sanders says we’re going to put a cap on the size of the banks and it’ll be up to them to figure out how they meet that cap, that’s a totally legit answer,” Mr. Ponnuro said.
As for Mr. Trump’s early warnings about not being treated fairly by the Republicans, Mr. Ponnuro said: “Well, look, if he gets a majority of the vote, the majority of the delegates, he is going to be the nominee. And I don’t think the concept of majority rule is all that difficult or archaic for people to understand.”
Toward the end of the show, it was back to black-and-white film again, this time showing Jackie Robinson. Mr. Dickerson interviewed the master documentarian Ken Burns, whose Robinson piece airs Monday and Tuesday on PBS.
Mr. Burns visited President Obama and his wife for interviews about Mr. Robinson and couldn’t help but notice that Mr. Obama has done for the Presidency what Mr. Robinson did for Major League Baseball.
“Two couples, Jackie and Rachel and the President and the First Lady,” the poetic Mr. Burns said, “sort of hurtling through different times and spaces and yet—for a moment—they’re uniting for a second. Jackie and Rachel, the President and the First Lady, sort of merge and they also seem utterly human.”
MEDIA BUZZ Funny opening with a scene from Saturday Night. Donald Trump is beating up a voter. The voter says “I’m voting for you!” The Trump character listens, considers it and resumes punching… Interesting clip from Fox’s Neil Cavuto about Mr. Trump and his sour grapes Tuesday when he accused Mr. Cruz of cheating. “I think he (Trump) acted like a baby,” Mr. Cavuto said. “There’s a time to be magnanimous. You lost, you lost. Move on. Shut up.”
‘I hear this a lot,’ he said. ‘Do we really want this guy as president? It’s starting to backfire…’
Heidi Przybyla of USA Today refused to take the bait when host Howard Kurtz held up a Time Magazine cover showing Mr. Cruz’s face and the words “Likeable enough?”
KURTZ: “Is this the media elite kind of looking down its nose at Ted Cruz?”
PRZYBYLA: “I think its fair. This is the central question. He made a lot of enemies (in the Senate and in Washington). His brand was obstructionism and confrontation.”
She alluded to a sad reality of modern journalism. According to internet traffic metrics, readers ignore stories that check facts presented by candidates.
“It doesn’t get the clicks,” she said. “It doesn’t get the traction.”
Mr. Kurtz and other Sunday hosts held up the editorial page of Sunday’s Boston Globe which ran a lampoon of a front page after Mr. Trump is in the Oval Office. It reports of deportations, riots, a plunging stock market and a war on the media.
“Does this go too far?” Mr. Kurtz asked.
Charles Gasparino, a Fox regular, spoke of Mr. Trump’s tenuous support in the GOP.
“I hear this a lot,” he said. “Do we really want this guy as president? It’s starting to backfire… ‘Do we really want this as our president, a guy that’s, you know, that’s sometimes, unhinged, unfortunately.’”
RELIABLE SOURCES Among several good guests of Mr. Stelter on CNN was Bob Hardt, political director for Time-Warner Cable/News NY1, which will host Thursday’s Democratic debate in Brooklyn on CNN.
“This has been a spectacular story to cover,” he said of the campaign. “These story lines write themselves. This is like a Tom Wolfe novel that we’re devouring.”
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.