It’s not like there isn’t real news. We have a quagmire developing in Libya. President Obama is dueling with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on the budget and debt reduction. Syria’s Bashar al-Assad is murdering his own people while Obama wags his finger. Despite all this, the media horde — like a moth to the flame — congregates around the egomaniacal Donald Trump. Some believe that he’ll run for president; others not. (Sometime after he learns about having to cancel The Apprentice and put his enterprises in a blind trust, I suspect that he’ll decide he’s too big for the job of president.) But among serious political observers vrtually no one can conceive that he will be the Republican nominee, let alone the next president.
There are plenty of rationales, none convincing, as to why the media establishment that bemoans the prospect of defunding public broadcasting (the end of serious journalism!) simultaneously chases a contrived story. Trump is not and never has been a serious political figure and, it turns out, has not even been a regular voter. His schtick is to sell himself — bombastic, obnoxious and aggrandizing — not to lead the country or offer solutions to real problems. At least Ross Perot, the last eccentric billionaire candidate, was promoting an agenda other than himself.
If Trump has political views, they are malleable (Pro-choice or pro-life? Whatever.) If he is pressed on his views, he sounds like a bad imitation of Gordon Gekko. His positions, to the extent he has them, are absurd (he’ll “take” Libya’s oil). His economic notions are hardly conservative.
And that’s before we get to his infatuation with birtherism, his three marriages and his fondness for bankruptcy court.
The media offer half-hearted justifications for showering him with coverage. He’s rising in the polls! Well, non-stop celebrity coverage usually does show up in polls that at this stage reflect nothing more than name recognition (ask President Rudy Giuliani). He is a “new face” in the race. Actually, he’s an old face who’s dangling the prospect of a presidential race to garner attention.
Chalk it up to the media’s boredom or hunger for ratings. Conservatives suspect that it’s liberal media’s way of dissing the “real” candidates or painting the GOP as the crackpot party.
Whatever the reason (and there may be more than one), Trump is not a legitimate candidate, and coverage of him isn’t news. Rather, it’s embarrassing evidence of how easy it is for the media to be employed as the PR team for celebrities. (Is the Lindsay Lohan candidacy next?) It also raises the question, once again, as to why much of the punditocracy writes off Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Wis.), whose experience as a tax attorney, state politician and U.S. representative far outstrips not only Trump’s resume but Obama’s public record before he ran for president.
Unfortunately, this shabby performance by most of the media has not dampened their self-regard as unbiased purveyors of truth or their whining about the demise of “serious news.” Perhaps the media will get a grip and return to the serious issues and real candidates on the national stage. But don’t bet on it.