Oprah is many things but “very insecure” ain’t one of them.
Just watched a very insecure Oprah Winfrey, who at one point I knew very well, interview a panel of people on 60 Minutes. The questions were biased and slanted, the facts incorrect. Hope Oprah runs so she can be exposed and defeated just like all of the others!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2018
A Twitter pal compared that tweet this morning to Obama’s infamous bit at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner goofing on Trump for his Birther fixation. That was one of the sparks that supposedly lit Trump’s fire to run for president, to prove to the political elite that he was no joke. Now here he is baiting Oprah, who has a much bigger national constituency than most of the Democratic stiffs he’s apt to face in 2020. She’s not unbeatable but if you’re an incumbent president whose job approval is a cinch to be below 50 percent in 2020, who would you rather face? Kirsten “Who?” Gillibrand or a world-famous billionaire whom most of the public really likes? Don’t tempt fate, POTUS.
Take 20 minutes to watch the “60 Minutes” focus group he’s referring to. (Or 10 minutes to read the transcript.) I don’t know why he’s whining about bias; most of her questions are anodyne. The point of the segment is that these same panelists were part of a focus group two years ago during the campaign and have remained friendly afterwards, an aberration in a tribal age. That’s a very Oprah-ish hook — people seeing the humanity in each other despite their differences. To the extent that there’s bias in her questions, it’s in the subject matter, not the phrasing. (The most overtly biased question she asks is, “Okay, so polls are showing that respect for the United States is eroding around the world. Do you care what the world thinks of the United States?”) She focuses on Trump controversies, not Trump successes, but the point of the segment is to show how friends on opposite sides of the aisle negotiate topics that are likely to provoke the bitterest disagreements. “Are you happy with the stock market?” isn’t going to bring that out as much as “What do you think of him calling some countries ‘sh*tholes’?” will.
An interesting bit comes at 17:00 when they’re talking about the time Trump tweeted that Gillibrand would do anything for campaign contributions. That came up in the Facebook chat that the group has maintained to talk politics. One of the women in the group wanted the male Trump supporters to denounce him for it. No dice. Quote:
Jeff: It was similar to a later discussion about Roy Moore. And it was damned if you do and damned if you don’t, because you know, did I think the comment was appropriate? No, I didn’t think the comment was appropriate. Did I think the whole Roy Moore situation was appropriate? No, it was completely inappropriate. But the problem was I felt sitting in that group like the gun was pointed at me and it was “You will denounce,” as a Trump supporter “You will throw him under the bus and walk away or you condone everything he does.”
Matt: This is what I’m talkin’ about.
Jeff: And that was what made you say “This is what, what are we doin’ here?”
Oprah Winfrey: So, for those of you who are not Trump supporters, can you hear what Jeff just said? Can you hear that?
The men didn’t dig in because they supported the tweet, they dug in because they resent forever being asked to apologize for every obnoxious thing Trump says or does. The “denounce!” demand is an attack on their own character more so than it is on Trump’s. Not good for bipartisan dialogue, and Oprah, whose first commandment is “communicate,” perks up over it. (Luntz comes back to it too later in the segment, noting, “denouncement is divisive. And denouncement is the kind of political correctness that so many people reject today.”) I think she understands where the two Trump guys are coming from. To POTUS, though, the fact that she runs through his dirtiest laundry in her choice of subjects — the outre tweets, the sexual assault allegations — is reason enough to dismiss the segment and attack. Even though, by doing so, he’s now guaranteed that it’ll be viewed by many times the number of people who would have seen it otherwise, me included.
Watch out for the one panelist who says she feels safer with Trump as president. When Oprah asks how, she says, “Well, I feel like I can say Merry Christmas to anyone I want wherever I want.”