I believe that Bess Levin at Vanity Fair is the latter day Hunter Thompson, whose book Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 I referenced in yesterday’s Post.
Bess’ writing is funny, sharp, knowledgeable and politically astute. The following piece about Trump’s take down by Lesley Stahl and its ongoing drama is illustrative of her reportorial skills.
Her reporting is amongst the best of the sordid political effort by Trump to salvage his disastrous presidency.
Excerpted from Vanity Fair 10.21.2020 – Bess Levin
As you’ve probably heard by now, on Tuesday, Donald Trump abruptly walked out of an interview with 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl and then failed to return for a previously scheduled appearance he was supposed to tape for the show with Mike Pence. Later he tweeted a surreptitiously recorded video of Stahl not wearing a mask and shamed her for not adhering to the protocols he’s ignored for the past seven months, seemingly trying to damage the credibility of the widely respected journalist before their sit-down aired.
Obviously, none of this is normal; according to the Washington Post, the president was unhappy with Stahl’s tough line of questioning regarding his disastrous handling of the coronavirus pandemic, his feud with Dr. Anthony Fauci, and his attacks on Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, in addition to the fact that she pointed out how his absurd claims about Hunter Biden, as well as the Obama administration spying on his campaign, are bullshit. And while the interview isn’t set to air on 60 Minutes until Sunday, the president has apparently decided he might just preempt the network and humiliate himself, releasing the train wreck early.
It’s not clear what “electoral intrusion” is, but it would seem Trump believes that asking legitimate questions of someone campaigning for another four years in office constitutes some kind of crime, and it probably won’t be long before he demands that Attorney General Bill Barr indict Stahl. Per the Post.
When Trump first walked in, Stahl looked at him and said, “Are you ready for a tough interview?” The president believes 60 Minutes will cut the interview in an unflattering way and has been talking all afternoon about how to preempt the footage, said the person familiar with the circumstances. After 45 minutes, Trump looked at staff members and said, “I think we’re done, do you guys agree?” Stahl believed the walk with Pence was still going forward, but Trump left the room and later complained to aides that [Joe] Biden would have an easier interview and that 60 Minutes would “cut it up to make him look bad,” according to an aide.
While three aides told the Post that the president overreacted and someone with knowledge of the interview said it contains no bombshell revelations, Trump reportedly “complained about it all day.” And because he’s a sociopath, he “told aides he wanted to go after Stahl and brainstormed ideas after the session with a group of aides in the Oval Office,” as though he literally had nothing else to do with his time other than plot his revenge on a journalist.
As for why the White House has its own recording of the interview, CBS was told it was for “archival purposes only,” and not that it would be used by a vindictive president who’s worried that people might find out he’s crazy and incompetent right before the election.
The president is now trying to claim he schooled Stahl, or something, by tweeting a photo of her looking at a bunch of blank papers he says show all the work he’d done on healthcare.
For those of you keeping up at home, this is at least the third time Trump has tweeted photographic “evidence” of something that’s just been a bunch of blank paper, the other times being when he signed “documents” with nothing on them from Walter Reed and when he held a press conference shortly before being inaugurated and claimed a pile of folders filled blank sheets of paper contained his “business plan.” In 2016, he made a big show of signing stacks of papers that he said were his tax returns, and while it’s not clear if the pages were blank, they were most definitely fake considering that was one of the years he paid basically nothing in taxes.