Twilight of the Trump Surrogates

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·Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
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Election Day is almost here, and no matter which candidate you’re rooting for, I think you will admit two things: one, that Donald Trump has sent before the cable-news TV cameras more, and far more aggressive, surrogates to argue for his presidency than Hillary Clinton has, and two, that after Nov. 8, you’re hoping never to see any of them on the air again. If any group of people has overstayed its welcome, it’s this crew, so let’s take one so-close-to-last look at these winners, shall we?

Corey Lewandowski He’s the kid who learned that, when faced with a more formidable foe — say, anyone armed with facts to contradict Trump fiction — the best thing a little guy can do is walk up to the opponent and punch him or her in the throat. Lewandowski does the verbal equivalent of that sucker punch every time he goes on CNN’s air, and you can bet it’s the kind of dirty fighting that CNN prez Jeff Zucker loves: Lewandowski was hired by that network as a commentator, and spent the early part of his time there still receiving compensation from the Trump campaign from which he was dumped.

Scottie Nell Hughes Probably the Ultimate Trump Surrogate, she ticks all the boxes: the eyes that alternate between empty gaze and wild desperation; the speech pattern characterized by incessant delivery of talking points that sound memorized, delivered in the same semi-shout whether she’s speaking in turn or over someone else. Her interruptions begin the moment anyone in a TV studio — and you get the feeling that could include a stagehand’s off-camera murmur — says anything positive about Hillary Clinton or negative of Trump. A particular bête noire of Don Lemon’s on CNN.

Jason Miller Trump’s senior communications adviser has a little goatee on the lower third of his walnut-shaped face. His machine-gun responses usually begin with a defensive-before-the-fact, “Well, look, Mr. Trump …” Miller is perhaps best known for having gone to a Las Vegas strip club the night before the final debate, taking along a few campaign colleagues and even a couple of members of the media. Why? Because it’s Trumpland, baby! Watch him refuse to let CNN’s Wolf Blitzer get a word in during this appearance, about 3:45 into this clip.

Kayleigh McEnany The Tracy Flick of Trump Surrogates, McEnany always comes prepared to be a relentless defender of the candidate’s most egregious behavior and the campaign’s most dubious talking-points. In the waning days of the election, she seems to be trying out for a post-campaign job as the host of her own show. Watch how she starts talking directly to the camera here, to the point where Don Lemon has to remind her it’s his show and not hers.

Michael Cohen Yet another attorney for Trump surrogacy, Cohen is the one who always looks like he’s sucking on a lemon, making a reverse smiley face, as though he’s miserable being there but is going to make the host just as miserable as he seems to be for asking him a question, or for watching him. He’s most famous for being unable to respond to CNN’s Brianna Keilar’s point about then recent polling by using the childish retort, “Says who?” over and over here, before Keiler silences him simply by repeating her answer.

Jeffrey Lord That mane of white hair, his patrician demeanor — he’s so classy! Well, sort of: Lord is the Trump surrogate who decorates his false claims and exaggerations with a superficial show of manners. He clearly knows what he’s up to; note that in this clip, just before launching into an absurd recitation of (nonexistent) Pennsylvania vote fraud, he precedes it by describing how he’s going to utter his untruths: “Let me say in a serious manner here…”

Katrina Pierson The tea party vet is famous for wearing a necklace made from bullet casings, and, when criticized for it, responding blithely that next time she’d wear a necklace with dangling fetuses. Yes, she’s that crudely aggressive. She does not stop until a host tells her she really has to be quiet now. As in this clip, during which Fox’s Megyn Kelly and the guest try to stanch her ceaseless flow, to little avail, about 2:45 in.

Boris Epshteyn Semi-not-famous as the co-anchor of “Trump Tower Live,” a Facebook-streaming Trump-surrogate-palooza posing as a local access cable spoof, Epshteyn comes on like the kind of fellow who, once the camera light blinks off, would be glad to take you behind an ally and show you how a real man settles an argument. Instead, when the camera light is on, he resorts to his candidate’s standard method of not answering questions he doesn’t like or know the answer to by shifting the topic — always, always, always — to an unrelated Hillary Clinton topic. Watch as MSNBC’s Joy Reid gives the perfect summation of all Trump surrogacy methods, four minutes in: “If I ask you a question about Donald Trump and you give me an answer about Hillary Clinton … either you don’t know the answer to my question, or the answer to my question would not help your candidate, or you’re not here to answer my question, you’re here to give talking points to help your candidate.” Touché!

Is there any doubt that, after the election, we’ll look back on this and realize what a mess we’ve made of political discourse by engaging in this kind of false debating? That cable news shows are as much to blame for this as the surrogates they book? I would not bet on it. Like so much that’s gone on in this campaign, giving direct answers and engaging in principled discussions seems to have vanished as thoroughly as Sean Hannity’s dignity.

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