In her frequent appearances as backup host to George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week, anchor Martha Raddatz sometimes seems to be in a hurry to ask all her prepared questions.
She doesn’t always follow up. She often just accepts what she hears and moves on.
But that was not the case Sunday when she interviewed Indiana’s Republican Gov. Mike Pence, who is on the national ticket as vice-presidential candidate behind Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine for the Democrats.
On Friday, Trump—after five years of smears—finally admitted that President Obama was born in the United States, not in Africa or elsewhere, as Trump’s “Birther Movement” insisted.
RADDATZ: “Why did it take him so long?
PENCE: “Well, let me say that the momentum in this campaign is really overwhelming . . . He brought that issue to an end Friday.“
RADDATZ: “Why did it take him so long to say the president was born in the United States, which is a fact?”
PENCE: “Martha, it is a fact. Donald Trump and I both acknowledge that.”
RADDATZ: “Why did it take him to long to put it to an end? It’s not over.”
PENCE: “Throughout this campaign, he hasn’t been talking about it . . .”
Raddatz interviewed Pence on an airport tarmac. Behind them purred the campaign plane. Around Pence’s neck was a red, white and blue necktie next to a little, metal American flag pinned to his lapel.
Her questions went beyond the Birther Movement. She asked Pence what Trump meant when he said Friday night that the Secret Service protecting Clinton should put away their guns.
“Let’s see what happens to her,” Trump said.
Raddatz then told Pence that “Whether he intended that or not, the message sounds a lot like a threat or encouraging violence.”
Pence didn’t like the sound of that.
“That’s absolute nonsense,” Pence said to Raddatz.
On her pundit panel, Dan Balz of The Washington Post wasn’t buying Trump’s dismissal of the Birther issue.
“Thirty-one words,” he said of Trump’s statement. “Could not have been more terse and brief and didn’t answer any of the basic questions.”
Also at the table was Cokie Roberts, who tried to explain why the Birther issue is still alive. It’s not only because Trump would not speak definitively against it as late as Thursday night.
“A lot of white Americans don’t understand how this birther issue is basically, fundamentally, racist,” Roberts said. “It is very well understood in the African-American community . . . it’s a lie. We call it a lie.”
Another panelist, Rich Lowry of National Review, referred to a possible Trump victory on November 8 as “the biggest black-swan event in American electoral history.”
‘He’s a con man. He has presided over a coverup of his own life and we have allowed it in cable news.’
Hand me the remote . . .
FACE THE NATION Kaine made the rounds of the shows and told John Dickerson of CBS that his son is a Marine officer and that “I would trust Hillary Clinton . . . with my son’s life.”
As he did on most shows, Kaine held up two books. One, by Clinton and Kaine, was titled Stronger Together, the slogan of the campaign. The other, by Trump, was titled Crippled America. You choose, he implied.
Kellyanne Conway, who is called Trump’s campaign manager but seems to be his official female television avatar, was asked by Dickerson why Trump changed his mind on his Birther theory and when he did it.
She couldn’t say. Dickerson objected to Trump’s assertion that Clinton and her campaign started the Birther rumors in the 2008 Democratic primary season.
“That’s just not the truth, is it?” Dickerson asked Conway. “Donald Trump advocated something for five years that was a lie. Why did he do that?”
Conway answered “You’re going to have to ask him . . . this is a sideshow now.”
Reince Priebus, chair of the Republican National Committee, stopped by to complain that what he called the “24-7 cable media” is “totally obsessed with negative six-to-eight minute segments on Donald Trump.”
Referring to scathing comments about Trump by former defense secretary Robert Gates in The Wall Street Journal, Mark Leibovich of The New York Times magazine said “There’s this divide between Republicans who actually know who Robert Gates is and those who don’t.”
Leibovich said the Birther dispute was debated only “on the fringes” and that “It’s appalling on its face to actually watch this argument play out.”
“What’s exhilarating to him,” Leibovich said of Trump, “is that this is a great show. He sees himself foremost as a showman.”
MEDIA BUZZ In that Republican elder and former Secretary of State Colin Powell denounced Trump in emails that were hacked, Trump told FOX (FOXA) host Howard Kurtz by telephone that “I’ve never been a fan of his. He really led us down a terrible path . . . They went into a war they never should have gone in.”
As for the media, Trump complained that he is taking “hit after hit after hit. No matter how well you do, they refuse to properly write.”
“I think the media is disgraceful,” Trump said. “I think they’re unbelievably dishonest.”
He gave no examples. Kurtz asked for none.
Trump complained of how his audio clips are chopped up in a way that shortens his statements.
“Very unfair,” he said. Trump gave no example. Kurtz asked for none.
At the end of the interview, Kurtz quickly mumbled that it was recorded before the Birther issue reignited at the end of last week.
Erin McPike, a political analyst, was asked whether Trump should apologize for his Birther leadership.
“Has he ever apologized for anything?” McPike said. “So, stop complaining about it.”
Regarding the revelations in Powell’s emails—he spoke harshly of both candidates—Fox reporter James Rosen told Kurtz the unvarnished comments were “salacious and interesting” and that “even the most prestigious outlets are struggling to lure clicks away from cat videos.”
STATE OF THE UNION Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey served as Trump’s mouthpiece with host Jake Tapper, who noted that Trump called Gates a “clown.”
TAPPER: “Would you tolerate that kind of behavior in a staffer or in one of your children?”
CHRISTIE: “Jake, a completely ridiculous analogy.”
Later, Tapper asked about the Birther movement.
TAPPER: “Do you understand why so many people—including African-Americans—are upset with him over this issue?”
CHRISTIE: “Listen. I made my position on it really clear a long time ago and Donald’s now made his position on it clear.”
Christie called it “a done issue.” Kaine, in the next segment, didn’t agree.
“Donald’s decision on Friday to try and pull the plug and change the subject isn’t sufficient,” Kaine said. “He owes the public an apology. And somebody should ask him ‘Did you believe it? In which case, how gullible are you? Or were you just trying to cynically play to the darkest emotions in American life?’”
Making the biggest impact on the pundit panel was Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, who wouldn’t accept the assertion by former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer that Trump had “closed the deal” on the Birther crusade.
“Not so fast, governor,” Morial said. “The Birther movement was a smear campaign with incredibly racist undertones . . . You just can’t sweep it under the rug.” Later, he added: “It’s part of his legacy. It was deeply offensive.”
During a commercial break, a Clinton ad included Lindsay Graham saying of Trump: “He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot.” Mitt Romney said “Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud.” Susan Collins said “I just cannot support Donald Trump.”
On the screen, letters spelled out “Unfit. Dangerous. Even for Republicans.”
FOX NEWS SUNDAY Early in the show, host Chris Wallace presented the video of Trump discussing Clinton’s Secret Service protection.
“Take their guns away,” he said. “She doesn’t like guns. Let’s see what happens to her.”
To Kaine, his guest, Wallace asked: “Senator, do you believe in any way that Donald Trump is inciting an act of violence against Mrs. Clinton?”
Kaine replied: “I do believe that, Chris. I was stunned when I saw it—although he’s done it before.”
The “before” referred to Trump’s speculation that “the Second Amendment people” would take care of Clinton if she were to be elected.
“He is using language that is an incitement to violence or an encouragement of violence or at least being kind of cavalier and reckless about violence,” Kaine said.
Wallace pretended to be surprised that Kaine had answered his question bluntly and directly.
WALLACE: “What you’re saying is fairly stunning. You believe it’s an incitement to do violence against his opponent in the presidential race, Hillary Clinton?”
KAINE: “I do.”
WALLACE: “Senator, do you think that Donald Trump is a racist?”
KAINE (after pause and sigh): “Donald Trump has perpetuated a bigoted lie.”
Christie showed up later to make fun of Kaine.
“Man, I’ll tell ya, somethin’, boy, when a race gets tight even a guy like Tim Kaine gets desperate,” Christie said, adding that Kaine’s comments were “outrageous” and that “Senator Kaine should be ashamed of himself . . . He owes Donald Trump an apology.”
Christie insisted that Trump “put this issue away on Friday,” an opinion not shared by Karl Rove, on the pundit panel.
“Well, he slipped out of control of his handlers,” Rove said of Trump, as if the candidate were a lion at the circus or the zoo. “He just got full of himself and said things he shouldn’t have said.”
Monica Crowley, another Republican, said of Trump “A big part of his appeal is he talks like a guy from Queens because he is a guy from Queens. Raw authenticity. His mind moves fast. He takes verbal short cuts.”
Later, when asked what advice he would give the candidates, Rove said Trump should “stay away from the ad hoc and impromptu.” He said he preferred the Trump of the teleprompter.
But in the coming three debates—the first next Monday night on MSNBC and NBC—Trump will have no script to read. Everything is ad hoc and impromptu.
MEET THE PRESS When NBC host Chuck Todd interviewed Conway, he told her “You guys, in a press release on Friday, called Birtherism a smear. You used the word smear . . . Does that mean for five years Donald Trump was perpetuating a smear?”
Conway didn’t seem to think it was a big deal.
“Everybody’s stomping their feet again because people get themselves up in this tizzy,” she said.
Later, Todd asked Conway how Trump will implement a blind trust to oversee his affairs if he is elected to the White House.
Before she could answer, she disappeared from the satellite feed. Conway returned after a commercial break and said Donald Trump, Jr., has addressed the question. The Trumps will consult with experts and decide what to do.
A member of the pundit panel was New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who noted the transformation in Trump over the years.
“He was this New York bon vivant, kind of white-rapper-bling-king and liberal,” Dowd said, “and now he is an alt-right conservative, women-should-be-punished-for-abortions, completely different guy. Which would he be as president?”
RELIABLE SOURCES Host Brian Stelter came out blasting Trump.
“Donald Trump is playing a game reporters are getting tired of playing,” he said. “They’re tired of being played.”
Stelter listed last week’s stunts: The disingenuous medical interview with TV’s Dr. Oz on Wednesday; the bragging about stranding reporters at the airport on Thursday; the Friday fiasco that was a bait-and-switch play when Trump’s staff promised answers about Birtherism.
Instead, the press heard a bunch of retired military guys endorsing Trump, who also took time to brag about his new hotel, where he held the “news conference.”
Stelter called the last one “his lowest trick of all.”
Then he showed a brief look at a reporter from the Vice media company being arrested in Houston before a Trump rally Saturday. It has become common for Trump goons to eject young men before rallies if they don’t like the way they look.
On the panel, Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times said reporters are falling into a Trump trap by treating both sides equally.
“You don’t need to do a comparable in order to cover one side,” she said. Sweet added that reporters should stop asking for Trump’s tax returns (he won’t show them) and, instead, ask him specifically for a list of his charitable donations, if any exist.
Nearby was Jeremy Diamond of CNN who said “Donald Trump used to be very accessible . . . that has really changed.”
Carl Bernstein suggested that the Libertarian vice-presidential candidate, William Weld, might drop out of the race if his ticket, with Gary Johnson at the top, takes so many votes away from Clinton that Trump would win the White House.
Then Bernstein ripped broadcast media’s coverage of Trump, which he compared unfavorably to The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.
“We’ve been positively awful in terms of reporting in a coherent way the biggest story of this campaign—the real existing life and record of Donald Trump,” Bernstein said. “He’s a con man. He has presided over a coverup of his own life and we have allowed it in cable news and national news particularly.”
Bernstein suggested TV cable outlets show “a real investigative biography” and that they could “do it in documentary form.”
David Farenthold of The Washington Post said he is still trying to track down that six-foot portrait of Trump that Trump may have purchased with $20,000 from the Trump Foundation.
“When Trump lies,” he said, “we call it a lie.”
Stelter noted that the formerly accessible Trump is now doing interviews mostly with Fox News shows like Fox and Friends and Hannity. They represent his sanctuary network.
SPECIAL REPORT On Fox News, Bret Baier hosted an hour show that focused on the bombings in New York and New Jersey on Saturday and the knife attacks in Minnesota.
There were stories about ISIS terrorists and many more refugees coming to the U.S. because of the civil war in Syria. Tucker Carlson warned darkly of Muslims in Minnesota.
There was no discussion of Trump’s Birther issues or his menacing words about guns and Hillary Clinton. Old news, huh? Nothing to see here, lads. Move along now . . .
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.