Americans were treated to a spectacle last night on the CBS newsmagazine program 60 Minutes.
One of the show's veteran correspondents, Lesley Stahl, sat down with Donald Trump to ask him some "tough questions".
Trump leaned forward aggressively and repeatedly berated her and her network for being biased toward his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden.
Eventually, Trump got up and walked away.
As I watched this, I couldn't help but think of a similar situation involving another high-profile CBS broadcaster back in 1988.
George H.W. Bush was seeking to replace Ronald Reagan as president. But Bush had a problem—he had been mocked in the media in the past for being a wimp.
So Bush came out all guns blazing in an interview with Dan Rather. They exchanged heated words. Bush came across as a tough guy. And later that year, he defeated his Democratic opponent, Michael Dukakis, and became president.
On the weekend, Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, also harangued CNN's Jake Tapper in response to questions about the pandemic.
You can see that interview below.
The Republicans are acting like tough guys once again leading up to a presidential election.
I'm betting that these incidents aren't simply spontaneous exchanges. Meadows likely knew that Tapper would be more aggressive than other hosts, just as Bush realized back in 1988 that Rather was the scrappiest of the news anchors.
It's all part of the campaign.
Besides, most Americans don't have much faith in the media anyway, according to a Gallup poll last year.
Only 13 percent trusted the media "a great deal", and only 28 percent trusted the media "a fair amount".
Trust among Republicans was far lower, with only 15 percent having "a great deal" or "a fair amount" of trust in the media.
Most independents—the swing voters that Trump is desperately wooing—mistrust the media, according to the poll.
So picking fights with Lesley Stahl and Jake Tapper will probably pay even greater dividends for the Trump team in 2020 than it did for Bush in 1988, when the news media enjoyed greater respect.
So let's call these confrontations for what they are—political theatre.