In the end, history may record that the most revealing thing about President Trump’s rally in Tulsa last night was the way it was covered by the all-news networks. CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News had plugged the event as if it were the Pro Bowl. The anchors and reporters vamped for hours with pregame analysis and on-the-scene color shots as the big kickoff approached. And then the moment arrived and the time for commentary ended and … only Fox went ahead and aired the rally.
I had my remote doing laps, hopping from one channel to the next. On Fox the president would be mugging and bellowing as his crowd went wild, and a few clicks away on the two liberal networks I’d find an anchor—Nicolle Wallace, Wolf Blitzer—encircled with pundits, Hollywood Squares style. In a split-screen frame or a corner box, you could see the president prowl and the commotion erupting soundlessly. Meanwhile the anchor and pundits reassured their viewers that the spectacle they weren’t letting them hear was appalling.
What a choice for Saturday-night viewing: You could watch a preening blowhard surrounded by lickspittles chirping on cue, or you could watch Trump at his rally.
Trump had high hopes for the rally, his first since the coronavirus pandemic (“the Covid,” in Trump lingo) began. At a White House gathering Thursday afternoon, the president said, “We’re going to be in Oklahoma. And it’s a crowd like, I guess, nobody’s seen before. We have tremendous, tremendous requests for tickets like, I think, probably has never happened politically before.” The unusual use of I guess and I think is a signifier of the president’s false modesty: he knew, with Trumpian certitude, that he was going to break some attendance records in Tulsa.