August 12th, 2020


The Reality Of the Situation: Trump Might As Well Fully Embrace Reality TV

Bill Whalen

By Bill Whalen

Published May 10, 2016

Vice President Joe Biden has a beef with Donald Trump.

Actually, it’s more like ground beef, cheese and sour green atop a baked tortilla.

A day after Trump posted this photo celebrating Cinco de Mayo with a taco bowl. Biden took to the airwaves to dress down the Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting for what deemed a provocative act.

“He’s a smarter guy than this,” Biden told Washington, D.C.’s Fox affiliate. “I hope he reaches the point where he figures out that it’s not a game show, and that he begins to talk in earnest about where he would take the country were he to win because that’s the kind of debate the public deserves.”

Let me see if I have this straight: the Vice President of the United States is concerned about the presidency being cheapened.

This, after almost eight years during which Barack Obama has:

Appeared on Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee with Jerry Seinfeld.

Did a YouTube sit-down with GloZell Green, a comedienne best known for sitting in a bathtub eating Fruit Loops.

Appeared on Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis (at the suggested of noted political strategist Bradley Cooper).

Did a “Mean Tweets” segment for Jimmy Kimmel Live.

And, of course, the White House selfie stick.

In other words, Obama seemingly has spent as much time trying to be America’s cool dad as he has solving the world’s troubles.

So when Trump comes along and uses words and images that seem non-presidential, there’s a valid counterpoint that he hopes to inherit an office that’s been seriously discounted by the man he aims to succeed.

About the taco bowl incident: maybe it’s time to accept the notion that Trump isn’t so much a mad man as he is an evil genius.

That one photo generated a couple of days’ worth of p.c. outrage from Biden and the like, just as this weekend’s comments about Hillary Clinton being an enabler for her wayward husband will send her Clintonistas into a tizzy.

For a couple of days, after which Trump is bound to do or say something that sparks another round of outrage.

And so he’s done for the past nine months, ever since he tweeted that not so cryptic insult Megyn Kelly’s way.

Why does Trump do it? Perhaps, because that’s how he’s carried himself publicly since well before America met the Clinton.

But also: because Trump’s a creature of reality television. And this how reality tv works: once drama either doesn’t exist or starts to wane, create more of it – even if it’s act, and even if it offends sensibilities.

If this is how Trump intends to win the presidency – by running as America’s first reality candidate – I have two suggestions from this point forward to November.

Turn The Veepstakes Into “The Decision”. In the summer of 2010, basketball great LeBron James faced the first big choice of his career: after seven years with the Cleveland Cavaliers, James was an unrestricted free agent able to sign with any NBA franchise that could fit him into its salary cap.

Most athletes would leak word of their choice the day before a formal announcement, then hold a press conference with their new employer.

But not LeBron.

“King James” cut a deal with ESPN to run a live, 75-minute special called The Decision. James was criticized for over-dramatizing the news; it took years to repair the damage from bailing on a long-suffering sports town. However, it was also the most watched cable show of the night.

The suggestion: Trump should turn his choice of running mate into a LeBron-like special and broadcast it live on network tv (like LeBron, donating the profits to charity). Invite finalists onto the show, thus turning into something Trump knows well: a political version of Celebrity Apprentice. Then announce the “winner”.

There’s nothing more Trump-like than the thought of The Donald telling his new no. 2, live in front of a big crowd: “you’re hired”.

Make The Campaign A Weekly Show. Every presidential election spawns books written after the fact. 1993’s The War Room offered behind-the-scenes footage of the Clinton-Gore campaign.

In 2016, we have Showtime’s The Circus, a documentary series that prides itself in revealing “the intense, inspiring and infuriating stories behind the headlines.”

The suggestion: Trump should turn his campaign into a reality series of its own. Keeping Up With The Kardashians has nearly a dozen participants and at least that many story lines Trump has his own army of a supporting cast: Melania (and cameos by the two ex wives), the three kids and their spouses, the two fellows jockeying to run the campaign (Corey Lewandowski and Paul Manafort), plus the spokeswoman who’s good at creating drama.

Ok, the FEC might have problem with this – in the name of equal time. So let’s give the Clintons their own show. Stumping With Trump meet Minting A Clinton. And run the two series simultaneously on E! and Bravo, so no one can argue about one cable network playing favorites.

All of this is offered in jest, but not so funny is the state of the presidency in 2016. Barack Obama has taken the nation on a deep dive into pop culture. As a result, the office doesn’t have the same dignity; the commander-in-chief seems more interesting in leading a legacy of entertaining, not leading.

Small wonder Trump has gone further than most expected.

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Bill Whalen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he studies and writes on current events and political trends. In citing Whalen as one of its "top-ten" political reporters, The 1992 Media Guide said of his work: "The New York Times could trade six of its political writers for Whalen and still get a bargain." During those years, Whalen also appeared frequently on C-SPAN, National Public Radio, and CNBC.