I have never seen Donald Trump‘s faux-‘reality’ TV show, and indeed knew of Mr. Trump only from news reports in which he surfaced as some sort of real-estate mogul, or was mentioned as perhaps a candidate for the Presidency in some tongue-in-cheek way. So I was bemused to see him on stage in early August with a crop of self-appointed ‘candidates’ for the nomination of the Republican Party.
It is somewhat ludicrous, of course, for a man (or, in these latter days, a woman) to seek a nomination, since the very word ‘nomination’ implies someone else making the decision. The whole point, originally, was for others to decide you are worthy enough to be named, ‘nominated’; indeed traditionally once named you had to be seconded by yet another. Yet here we have a crowd of erstwhile contenders practically begging to be so denominated, like a flock of pigeons scurrying for a handful of thrown peanuts. And amongst them, large and nonchalant, clearly at home on a TV set, is Donald Trump.
The stage was for an ersatz ‘debate’, in fact a serial interrogation by engaging TV ‘personalities’ (as they used to be called in radio), styling themselves as ‘journalists’ (though as far as I can tell, none of them write much of anything). I call it ersatz, since it was far removed from a classical debate, in which one opponent duels another with verbal ripostes, as Lincoln and Douglas did, before the age of the microphone.
The pundits refer to these new-fangled ‘debates’ as ‘cattle shows’, and that is apt, since it is on large-screen TV and we can see every pore, pimple, and capped tooth (I recommend an old-fashioned, small CRT TV, which obscures the fine detail).
In any event, this was my impression at the time, which I posted in a comments thread on the estimable Powerline Blog:
Donald Trump reminds me of the guy at the end of the bar who’s been pontificating to anyone who would listen for hours, spouting slogans and bromides and personal affronts, and making no more sense than you’d expect after six or seven beers. With his red face, he rather looks like that guy, too.
Mister Trump was clearly out of his league on that stage. He could not answer a question coherently, and had no command of either principles or facts. Fortunately we were treated to only 60 seconds of babbling at a time. Any longer, and someone would have had to call the bouncer.
I hope the fools who are elevating the Trump in the polls will now see what a chump he is, and give him the hook.
Subsequent appearances on cable news have only reinforced my initial impression. The news shows like nothing better than whatever seems most like a horse race, so they are fixated on trumpeting (as it were) incessant telephone polls, which (since no rational American ever answers his land line any more) have to be perfectly meaningless except as a gauge of “Have you ever heard of _____.” Mr. Trump of course was already a TV celebrity (except in my house), so everyone who did answer his land line had heard of him, and those who had seen him probably thought he was funny, so he quickly became a poll star, which of course meant that he was suddenly ‘winning’ the race!
Something similar happened a few years back, when the Governor of Arkansas, Mr. Clinton, was running for President and the opponent was the sitting President, George H. W. Bush. But there was this other fellow, a brash, nasal, fast-talking little fellow, an entrepreneur named H. Ross Perot. The comparison was inevitable; another Powerline comment:
Donald Trump reminds me more and more of H. Ross Perot. As I recall the Little General got off the ground with glib slogans and metaphors about the economy–we had to “look under the hood” and fix what was wrong. Then of course he had to come up with more concrete ideas, and ended up doing 30-minutes “infomercials” outlining his plans. I always had the sense that they were made up, ad hoc, out of whole cloth. It was never quite clear what the foundations of his ideas were, or if there were any.
The question was, whether there was any substance to this modern-day Perot. I thought not:
Now we have this large, somewhat engaging red-faced buffoon, wandering out of the bar and badgering anyone who will listen with opinions, insults, homilies, and various truck he’s picked up from hanging around golf courses and TV studios. So now that he’s managed to get the chattering class of pundits talking about him, he’s got to come up with some infomercials or the equivalent. Most of the solutions to the problems of immigration, entitlements, taxes, healthcare, and foreign policy have been making the rounds of conservative and Republican
media for years, so it’s easy to come up with ‘white papers’. It doesn’t mean there’s any thought, expertise, or conviction behind any of it.
But remember, Perot may have been a Potemkin candidate, but he got Bill Clinton elected, along with the shrew who now threatens us all.
H. Ross Perot was a spoiler, and so may well be Donald Trump. The shrew of course is the operatrix of the once-and-former Clinton administration, who somehow has managed to keep her feet firmly planted in the Democratic Party maelstrom, and now is trying to convince us she is due for a coronation as our first female (‘woman’ is not an adjective) President.
The speculation in some circles is that the election of Mrs. Clinton is really Mr. Trump’s intention. But it is doubtful that he is self-sacrificing enough or subtle enough for such chicanery. Assuming Mrs. Clinton’s ship will not run aground on the shoals of scandal (fervently to be desired), it may be that the best we can hope for is that Donald Trump will suddenly decide he is really wasting too much money on this tomfoolery, and given the pressure to suddenly look serious, will conclude it is really no fun at all. /LEJ
UPDATE (17Sep15): After watching the second faux-debate (posted on Powerline):
Trump was as clearly out of his league as in the first debate. As was Dr. Carson, but The Donald made a complete fool out of himself. In this respect he played right into the hands of CNN and Jake Tapper, who kept pitting the others against him. Giving Trump more time only exposes his vacuity. I see no reason to change my opinion from the first ‘debate’—Perot redux.