Screenshot: C-SPAN

The media coverage of Donald Trump’s reaction to John McCain’s death has been, by and large, extremely dumb. Did he tweet about him enough? Did he call him a great man?????? WHAT ABOUT THE FLAGS????

The shock and horror that has greeted Trump’s total unwillingness to pretend like he and McCain didn’t loathe each other is both predictable and bizarre—it’s the media’s pathological need for Norms To Be Upheld carried to a logical extreme. Apparently, reporters just want Trump to grit his way through an appropriately fulsome tribute to McCain, even if it’s clear that the tribute is fake and meaningless. The appearance of respect is more important to them than its actual presence.

That adherence to what is, at its core, very dumb theater found a kind of apotheosis on Monday when journalists gathered in the White House to hear Trump talk about his meeting with the president of Kenya. ABC’s Jon Karl took it upon himself to ask the questions everyone in America—or, at any rate, all the reporters who loved John McCain more than their own children—was begging to have answered:

This is the perfect TV reporter moment because Karl seems like he’s really “confronting” Trump about something, except that something is completely moronic and pointless.

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“Do you believe John McCain was a hero, sir?” What kind of a question is this? Who is it for? Trump has said quite a few times that he doesn’t think McCain was a hero, so why ask him yet again?

The point, of course, is not to actually hear Trump say anything. It’s not to inform the public of anything it didn’t know—again, Trump has been super-clear for a long time that he thought McCain sucked! It’s literally only so that Karl can say he asked the question. Check out the deeply performative way he says, “Nothing at all about John McCain?” It’s all for the show. This is all so stupid.