CNN media analysts lament: What's there to cover after Trump?

Oh, I don’t know — maybe how Chris Cuomo took gifts from his brother Andrew and then promoted him relentlessly on CNN’s prime-time air? How the press rolled over for 64 days without a presidential press conference, and then played softball with Joe Biden? The border crisis? Anything not related to Donald Trump or Fox News?

Granted, Brian Stelter and Jim Acosta are out of practice at that sort of journalism, but chalking it up to “post-Trump stress disorder” is hilariously revealing:

STELTER: Hey, I’d love to hear from both of you how D.C. journalists are adjusting to the Biden era. Jim, this is your first weekend anchoring here on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Do you feel like your rundown, your lineup is really different than it would have been in the Trump years?

ACOSTA: If you asked if I was run down, I thought you were talking about how I felt during the Trump era. No, I think that, you know, listen, I think we’re all dealing with post-Trump stress disorder, you know, either than that happy Easter as he was saying in those statements a few days ago. Listen, you know, as Annie was just saying a few moments ago, there are questions about why aren’t Republicans getting on board with these Biden proposals? There were Republicans getting on board with overturning the election just a couple of months ago so we shouldn’t have high expectations for that.

But in terms of stacking show and what comes first and second, Brian, you and I both know this all too well, we did cover the news before Donald Trump came along and we did it pretty well. And, you know, there is plenty of stuff in the news and it doesn’t have to have Donald Trump in the headlines for us to continue to exist, especially when he’s putting out statements, you know, when he was president, he was doing things that were beneath the office of the presidency. Now he’s doing things beneath the office of the post presidency. He’s not going to change. But we need to change with the times.

STELTER: Right, he’s still saying he was robbed. I don’t think anybody is listening except for the hard core base. But it is important to note, the big lie is still alive and well in the pro-Trump bubble. I can feel like it went away after the riot when reality reared its head. But no, the lie is out there in the pro-Trump bubble. Annie, what is it like for you? It is okay to cover the president without mentioning the ex-president?

KARNI: I think it is. And it is fading quite quickly. I think Biden benefited from a comparison to Trump especially during the impeachment trial. It showed the ex president at his worst. That wasn’t bad for people to remember why they voted for Biden, that they wanted a return to normalcy. But now I think they’ve really moved away. I mean, the White House, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary won’t engage about Trump in the briefing room. We saw Trump do little bit in the press — sorry, Biden in the press conference.

But it’s not — you know, it’s not up there. And what the challenge with this White House, this White House is not factionalized the way the President Trump White House was. This White House is not personality-driven as much as the Trump White House was and that’s partly because they’re more disciplined but because of the crisis of the moment. There’s not a lot of disagreements about what they should have done first. It’s pretty clear that they had to do the American Rescue Plan first. So the size of the crisis has helped them be more on the same page. That there’s not factions to pry and that is where the leaks come from when there are two sides that want different things and they try to press that in the media to win.

The challenge for us, now is penetrating a more disciplined administration and what’s easier than it was in the Trump White House is they are so focused on not getting off their plan, not being distracted by news of the day, even if it is another crisis, even if it’s a mass shooting, they are delivering on a plan and they don’t want to be pushed off of it. So it’s not going to —

STELTER: Including by the media.

KARNI: — a tweet that takes us into a new director for tweets. Exactly. It is not going to be a tweet that takes us into another direction. We know what direction they’re going in. So that makes it a little more clear what is consuming the people that matter in the White House, we know. But is it harder to penetrate and have people talk unsanctioned to us? Yes, it is a little bit more difficult.

Notice how this gets framed, too, as all about Donald Trump. Almost three months after Trump left office and longer since he had access to any social-media platform, Trump’s still living rent-free in their heads. They even get nostalgic for Trump’s tweets at the end. And the attempt to make themselves into victims of “post-Trump stress disorder” is especially pathetic. They weren’t in combat, like many brave journalists — Stelter works in a studio and Acosta gets a comfy seat the White House.

For a show that’s supposed to provide analysis of the media, the irony is palpable.

Of course, focusing on Trump allows CNN to avoid scrutinizing its quasi-payola scandal with the Cuomo brothers, and lets them go easy on Joe Biden. How long can Reliable Sources keep up that strategy? Perhaps they’re really angling for a Trump comeback, which would no doubt rescue their plummeting prime-time ratings. This looks less like post-Trump stress disorder and more like unrequited love, combined with a heapin’ helping of avoidance.