The two most disliked and distrusted people in American public life have somehow wound up as the presumptive presidential nominees of the Republican and Democratic parties, and this bizarre turn of events is being brought to you live and in color by what’s left of the Fourth Estate, one of the many public institutions that are even more widely disliked and distrusted. Presumptive Republican nominee Donald J. Trump took shrewd advantage of this awful situation on Tuesday, luring his enrapt media scribes into an anti-press conference trap that thrilled his die-hard supporters.
By now all the “reality show” analogies have become hackneyed, and we’ve resorted to calling it a post-reality or surreality show, but there really was something undeniably recognizable about that irksome television genre on display through the whole affair. It was the part of the campaign when the “Real Housewives” of wherever tell their rivals what they really think and their fans cheer and their anti-fans jeer, or where the big mogul tells some faded B-lister that “you’re fired” on “Celebrity Apprentice,” and we must admit that the desultory end of the American experiment does make for riveting YouTube watching. Trump seems to have got the better of it, judging from the reviews on the comments sections of almost everywhere on the internet, but that’s not saying much.
Trump started out by dropping the name of basketball star LeBron James and bragging about his huge and better-than-Eisenhower-and-Reagan victories in the Republican race before waxing indignant over some press stories that had questioned whether his much-bragged-about fund-raising for veterans had actually been true, and he had some honest-to-God veterans on hand to swear in the most angry way that they’d already got their cut, and he had an unusually detailed list of donations that he claimed had been made, and at least for the moment no in the press seem to have any response. Those chastened media might come up with something yet, given the shaped-shifting nature of Trump’s detailed lists, but no matter what they’ve got it will be doubted, and Trump’s point that he has at least raised more for veterans than the presumptive Democratic nominee will still be true, and his complaint that the hated media won’t much note that fact will also be valid, so we can see why his supporters see it as another huge win by the hero who always wins hugely.
The press corps, meanwhile, was just awful. One reporter asked why Trump objected to “scrutiny,” he told her she was a “real beauty,” and seized the opportunity to note that he was being scrutinized for raising money for veterans. He further described the entirety of “the political press” as the “most dishonest people,” went on a bizarre rant about how he was accurately quoted about an ill-advised joke about the crowd size at one of his events, in keeping with his strange defensiveness about anything involving size, and described a particular reporter from the American Broadcasting Company as a “sleaze,” and no one could supply a quote-worthy riposte to any of it. At one point he asked about that gorilla that was killed at the Cincinnati Zoo, and any sympathy for the media was surely lost.
Even Trump’s most cautious fans were thrilled by it, but even with the public’s widespread disregard for the ill-defined “media” we suspect his skeptics were not impressed. As much as we loathe the presumptive Democratic nominee, and those media that have enabled her awful career, we can’t help noticing that the draft-dodging presumptive Republican nominee’s enthusiasm for veteran causes is conveniently newfound, nor forget that he regards those veterans who endured wartime captivity as a bunch of losers who got caught, no matter what heroic sacrifices they made, and all that hooey about how he hoped to keep his generosity a secret because one of his many awesome qualities he doesn’t like to brag is conspicuously ridiculous.
So far as we can tell these “reality shows” always feature such awful people, and are brought to you on-tape and in-color by at least equally awful people, and we’re dreading the season finale.
— Bud Norman