Deflect. Play the victim. Attack. Repeat.
The strategy was familiar, as was the name. But the only thing smooth about Donald Trump Jr.'s appearance on "The View" Thursday was the hair slick atop his head and co-host Meghan McCain's composure.
There they were, the son of a historically unpopular, ethically challenged president and the daughter of a revered Washington legend, seated across from each other, dancing around their fathers' hatred of one another at the Hot Topic table. Their exchange -- indeed, this entire week on "The View" -- proved once again that ABC's long-running chat-fest isn't just a key stop on the campaign trail. It might be American television's closest approximation of the "kitchen table" of stump-speech fame, where we sit, sip and squabble over politics.
By the time McCain refocused the attention, of course, the molten conversation was well underway: Sunny Hostin had called Trump Jr. a liar and Whoopi Goldberg refused to speak his full name.
Trump Jr. was there to promote his father's 2020 campaign -- and his own book, "Triggered," about how hard it is being Trump. "The View" hosts McCain, Goldberg, Hostin, Joy Behar and Abby Huntsman were on a mission to get straight answers from him. Neither side was particularly successful.
Voluminous, verbal bulldozing was Trump Jr.'s non-winning tactic as he talked over all the women on the panel, including the one who came with him. Girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Fox News personality and senior adviser to President Trump's reelection campaign, tried to play mediator while singing the praises of the Trumps; the usually gregarious Behar had to hold her ears and ask Trump Jr. to stop yelling. And since he had no other game plan than Operation Bellow & Gaslight, cross-talk was his answer when Huntsman asked Trump Jr. why he revealed the whistleblower's name in a tweet when it was dangerous to do so, or when Hostin confronted him with a readout of the extortionate phone call at the center of the impeachment inquiry.
McCain's approach was markedly different when it came time for her to address the 41-year-old guest, and it produced one of the few reflective moments in an otherwise loud, argumentative "discussion." She maintained a measured tone when she said the senior Trump had hurt a lot of people on his way up. The Khans, for instance, were a Gold Star Family who lost their son in battle, and he insulted them. She asked if the president might apologize.
Trump Jr. answered with a mess of words, all seemingly from a conversation he was having on a talk show in an alternate universe: "I understand he's controversial. I understand he offended a lot of people. But he took on the establishment, and that's the premier sin in American politics these days."
Was it worth it, though, she pressed, hurting all those people?
And for a minute, Trump Jr. was caught off guard by McCain's very apparent struggle to conceal her own pain. President Trump consistently mocked the war record and integrity of her father, Sen. John McCain, before and after his death. In a loose setting like "The View," which is neither light morning fare nor hard-line politics, that ache was palpable. And remarkably, Trump Jr.'s face belied something close to shame.