Monday: Reporters spot Seddique Mateen, the eccentric father of the Orlando nightclub shooter, sitting behind Hillary Clinton’s lectern at an event in Florida. They realize this is—at best—an uninteresting story about a poor, junior advance staffer who wanted a diverse crowd in the background of her boss’s speech, and didn’t connect the dots about who Mateen is. But it is a hallmark of modern election coverage that if journalists believe a rival campaign will pretend a non-story is a big story, then they treat it like a big story.
Tuesday: Donald Trump invites his supporters to organize an armed insurrection if Hillary Clinton wins, so, to campaign reporters’ surprise and dismay, the Seddique non-story never really breaks through.
Wednesday: Trump, now in Florida himself, and desperate to turn the page on his assassination-curious Tuesday, lays into Clinton, falsely, for intentionally seating Mateen behind her. Because, as he said, gesturing behind him, “When you get those seats, you sort of know the campaign.”
“How many of you people know me?” he asked, as if to prove the point. Several hands rise, but the one that pops up fastest belonged to Mark Foley, the disgraced former GOP congressman, who resigned in 2006 when the sexually explicit emails and instant messages he’d sent to underage male congressional pages came to light.
As with Mateen, the fact that Foley found his way to the seats behind Trump and reporters noticed and “gee aren’t the optics bad” isn’t a story. But in context it does deserve some attention as the most confident and mortifying own-goal in the history of politics or sports. If you told me Larry David had scripted this, I might believe it.