So here’s what’s really difficult to understand. It hasn’t happened too often, but there have been instances in the past when presidents have asked the TV networks for a piece of their prime broadcast time and been rebuffed, when one or more of the networks determined that, far from a state matter genuinely in the people’s interest, as ostensibly advanced, the request was motivated by partisan political calculations. The question of this moment in the country’s never-ending political high jinks is whether such calls of conscience by the lords of the broadcast industry are formally designated for consideration only as they might apply to a sitting president. Do others – unambiguously shameless pretenders to the office of president, for example — get a pass for actions similarly rooted in flimflam?
Apparently we’re being asked to accord bona fides as a contender for next year’s Republican presidential nomination to one Donald Trump. His name is hardly ever mentioned, however, among TV’s zillion and one talking heads, without someone’s chortling or a dismissal of this so-called candidacy as theater and nothing more. And not infrequently there’s the admission by one or more scribes/analysts on screen that they’re being had by this guy’s outsized ego. Inexplicably, they keep right on accommodating the buffoonery.
Look, the man has every right to run for president. So do dozens of kooks from around the country who make the trek to New Hampshire every four years to file papers. It settles in as stark reality, though, that the New Hampshire lot get routinely stiff-armed as denizens of the outer margins, and one joker’s bulging pockets and obscene-level narcissus complex render him worthy of serious ink. Even as his facilitators concede it’s all a very outlandish, trumped-up script, so to speak.
So it is that Trump can go talk to a group of loons somewhere and express how buoyed he is by poll numbers showing him leading or tied at the top among the Republicans potentially in the race for the nomination at this stage. Never mind that his rap of choice is some fatuous drivel about Barack Obama’s proof of citizenship and his being the “worst president” in the history of the republic. In other words, Trump’s is a “message” steeped in what has all along reminded us of what most vexes a certain element about this particular president. To wit, how dare he?
Some among the alleged political cognoscenti tell us that Trump’s being mentioned in Republican presidential dispatches is merely a reflection of frustrated voters letting off steam. Well that may be. But how unflattering for pros in the business already making a pitch for popular support and being bested by a guy whose strongest credentials for this tryout might be some carnival barker attributes. How they must hope that this oddball polling mirrors New York’s last gubernatorial campaign narrative, when a likewise well-to-do Republican named Carl Paladino briefly glowed in the dark after a poll showed him just six points behind Andrew Cuomo. The quick fade back to black, as expected, ended the media’s short-lived fascination with the aberrational (not to mention questionable) polling data.
One wonders too about the TV network responsible for contributing, via its Trump-starring reality show, to his surfeit of celebrity. Which face is the network disposed to reveal? Will it be one in which principled chieftains correctly decide that if they have on their hands an egomaniac who seriously fancies himself running for president, then the program should be pulled, trash ratings be damned? Or will it be high fives all around as the suits salivate in anticipation of extra dividends to be paid by this side show?
Just at the time in this country of sizzling debate once again concerning the wealthy and what should constitute their “fair share” of national tax revenues, comes Trump’s in-your-face indulgence to dramatize the rich folks’ club that representational politics seems determined to become. Those are long odds facing anyone, not of the fat-wallet class, who brings to the table in his quest for elective office, only genuine dedication to a public service ideal. The aphrodisiac that is power has been known to mess with men’s minds something awful. The mayor of New York felt himself so duly empowered, even seeking a third term forbidden by law was seen as entirely do-able. Trump obviously thinks himself perfectly capable of walking a money man’s path to the big time. One outgrows the gossip columns and assorted bimbos circuit. And the guy must take himself seriously, having talked this presidential stuff once before. The only trouble is that now, as back when he first did this drill, perceptions, absent his own, haven’t changed much.
In response to Trump’s by now tired rhetoric about demanding to see Obama’s birth certificate, actor Robin Williams quipped that he wanted to see Trump’s hairline. We would settle for seeing no more of the media’s obsession with this round of tomfoolery. It’s a serious time in America, when the new normal figures to be what most of the country would prefer it not to be. Folks in Washington constantly at loggerheads over whose version of a fix trumps the other. If it sounds like this is no time for court jesters in high places, it’s because it is.