Coverage overkill of one guy’s campaign

Donald Trump reacts during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee.
Associated Press / Jeffrey Phelps

Maybe it’s too much to expect that some of the media organizations committed to a 24 / 7 concentration on the buffoonery of the leading GOP presidential contender, would have the fortitude to acknowledge how much they’re responsible for the current “laughing stock” phase that has laid siege to politics in America. If media outfits, be they among the “respectable” or otherwise, stand by this willingness to dance to every tune called by an impish caricature of a candidate for national office, it speaks volumes about the appetite still existing for the pseudo event as news and, with it, continued erosion of the standards that defined serious journalistic practice.

This is not to be construed as suggesting that the antics of Donald Trump be altogether ignored by the media. Having gone through the motions of presenting himself as a candidate for the Republican nomination, he qualifies for some attention, as far as the electorate being made aware of what would he bring to the presidency. But haven’t we by now gone past the time that a halt could be called to the charade, or whatever the game is that’s been played, since this guy announced he was running? Why are there elements of the establishment still making believe that this is a serious candidate for president? Surely it’s not enough that Trump says so…he and the half-wits who keep telling pollsters he is their idea of who the so-called “leader of the free world” should be. Intelligent people with decision-making authority for “managing” coverage of this important presidential election of 2016 should have no compunction about dealing with the Trump candidacy on a realistic level, which is to say, as the side show that it is. And stop acting like puppets pulled hither and yon by a puppeteer typically taking bows as the self-styled leading attraction in the carnival.

There’s no way a reasonably savvy caller of the shots on coverage of this ongoing act shouldn’t, by now, be dealing squarely with the scam and sham of it and pulling the plug on an inordinate amount of free advertising a con artist has literally demanded as his due. So yes, he’s showing up in polls as the top choice of Republican voters (supposedly dethroned recently in Iowa by another joker, Ted Cruz, with slim-to-none chances of being elected president). But leading a crowded GOP pack changes none of the core fallacy of a Trump candidacy, foremost being that he is not about to win any presidential race. Media honchos know this with no less certainty than does the Republican Party’s high command. Why, then, this pretend game of treating Trump like he’s the real deal?

Are media houses, aware though they must be, not prepared to confront the inevitability of the Trump flameout simply because the sensationalism factor trumps all, so to speak? Hasn’t there been enough already out of the Trump camp since this road show began, that has been bizarre, offensive, even flat-out scary, coming from an operator who fancies himself capable of landing any prize he covets? It’s frankly difficult to imagine why there would be any further shock-value curiosity on the media’s part, given what’s been rolled out thus far. The guy has an aversion to truth-telling that seems always auto-pilot ready (“thousands upon thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the 9 / 11 attack); he has insulted women, immigrants (non-white, notably) and individuals, groups, causes of all stripes; he deduces that President Obama’s sympathies with ISIS terrorists are borne out by his not calling them out in the manner he should. And a whole lot more.

So why, media movers and shakers, why this outsize fixation with a gasbag whose routinely inflammatory rhetoric is, at this point, getting really tired? He’s the GOP leader in polls, they would offer by way of justification. Which isn’t, in fact, rational enough. Trump has polled ahead of other Republican aspirants because he’s the darling of the ignorami. No one with even minimal facility for determining what does and doesn’t make sense would see Trump as the least bit presidential. The Republican establishment, while knowing this all too well and frequently declaring that Trump’s outlandish views and pronouncements aren’t reflective of the party, also knows that the assembled humanity aboard Trump’s bandwagon is indicative of a hard-right demographic that figures prominently in the GOP profile. The GOP’s far-right imprimatur brings it face-to-face, in episodes like this Trump pickle, with a nightmare of the party’s own making.

Media folk, for their part, could give themselves a dose of principle, respond to the chicanery with only the most basic coverage requirements, and quit being pawns and patsies for anyone for whom running for president equates with just another hustle.

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