This leftover from yesterday perfectly exemplifies the political impulse to twist tragedies into political arguments — even when the two aren’t at all related. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) apparently felt that we had spent enough time discussing the near-destruction of an 800-century-old wonder. Why not turn the Notre Dame fire into a turgid metaphor about Donald Trump and put the focus where it is for the, oh, 23 other hours of the day?
Yeah, there’s nothing creepy and manipulative about this at all (via Townhall):
Everyone: “Let’s stop talking about Trump for a minute & focus on this historic burning church”
Rep Steve Cohen: pic.twitter.com/RJVtwt7SGY
— Ken Webster Jr (@KenWebsterJrSho) April 16, 2019
In an MSNBC interview on Tuesday, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) made the following pun at the president and Notre Dame’s expense, ranting about how Trump has upended the Constitution and the rule of law.
“It’s as bad as that fire did to Notre Dame,” Cohen said. “He’s torching the entire structure of government and the people’s respect for it, and the Congress needs to act.”
Lest we forget, this is the same guy who told Trump to encourage then-Republican congresswoman Marsha Blackburn to jump off a bridge.
Cohen’s a bit of a troll, to be sure, but this impulse hasn’t been limited to him. Every major news story eventually goes through a Trump filter whether it relates to him or not. To some extent, Trump encourages it with his own tendency to interject himself into breaking-news narratives. During the Notre Dame fire, Trump tweeted out an oddly specific piece of firefighting advice that turned out to be a very bad idea:
President Donald Trump’s suggestion for fighting the massive Notre Dame fire did not get good reviews.
Tweeting that it was “so horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris,” Trump added: “Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!”
Professional firefighters called Trump’s proposal impractical at best. Deploying the kinds of airplanes used to fight forest fires would be dangerous in an urban area, they said, noting that force of the water could knock the building down and threaten firefighters on the ground.
This was more of a presidential message:
….in my conversation yesterday with President @EmmanuelMacron of France. I also wished both Pope Francis and President Macron a very Happy Easter!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2019
Trump was hardly the only person tweeting out bad advice in the middle of the story, but as the Leader Of The Free World, ignorance gets a lot of attention. That’s what Trump craves, and he doesn’t seem to care all that much whether the attention is positive. In essence, Cohen’s giving Trump all the oxygen he seeks by making everything about Trump.
Perhaps after the Mueller report runs its course, news cycles will regain some semblance of sanity and priorities. Don’t bet on it, however.