Jake Tapper's Stephen Miller interview is a high point in Trump TV coverage

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
Stephen Miller, left, and Jake Tapper. (Photo: CNN)

Most of the Donald Trump-related TV coverage is now going to journalist Michael Wolff and his Fire and Fury book. Wolff is making the interview rounds, and gave an almost unwatchable interview to Morning Joe on Monday morning — unwatchable because I’d forgotten how nauseatingly self-absorbed Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski are; they barely let Wolff answer one maundering question after another. But the more significant Trump-related interview was a Wolff-less one that occurred Sunday: Jake Tapper’s amazing set-to with White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, on State of the Union on CNN.

Miller, whose permanent affect is that of a peeved possum wedged into a shiny suit, had been dispatched from the White House to defend the president’s honor, such as it is. He spoke in the aggrieved, rapid manner of other Trump TV surrogates such as Kellyanne Conway and Corey Lewandowski, who recite their talking points quickly and loudly in order to escape necessary follow-up questions. When Tapper asked him about Fire and Fury, Miller attacked Wolff with all the subtlety his boss brings to debates, referring to Wolff as “the garbage author of a garbage book,” calling the book “a pile of trash.” (Possums like to poke through garbage.)

Tapper read Miller the tweets Trump issued over the weekend defending himself as “a very stable genius” and asked if such missives help the president’s case. What he got back from Miller was one of the purest and most concentrated formulations of the meretricious hype all of Trump’s TV surrogates have been pumping into American minds since the campaign: “The president’s tweets absolutely reaffirm the plainspoken truth: A self-made billionaire revolutionized reality TV and tapped into something magical that’s happening in the hearts of this country.” Something magical happened to my nose as I savored the aroma of that bull.

Then Tapper made a crucial decision: He called the interview to a halt. As Miller continued to hector Tapper with more gush about “the truth of Donald Trump” instead of answering questions, Tapper stopped trying to be heard over his guest. “Stephen, there is one viewer you care about right now, and you’re being obsequious and a factotum in order to please him. I think I’ve wasted enough of my viewers’ time.”

This was a great thing for Tapper to point out: That Miller’s primary intention was to deliver verbal violence against a perceived enemy of his boss — to have Trump, sitting in the White House glued to the TV, witness his deputy fighting a hollow fight with a member of the media. Tapper was correct: That’s a waste of our time. It would be great if more TV news outlets did the same whenever the White House sends out the same talking heads to make the same points, over and over and over again. Better yet, stop booking these people: TV news folks are always complaining about lack of access to the president — give the president’s men and women less access to the airwaves. It might change things.

State of the Union With Jake Tapper airs Sundays at 10 a.m. on CNN.

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