The Mussolini scowl, the bluster, the boasting, the BS. Donald Trump…the nation’s anchorman? Nahhhhh!
Old Laser Eyes here.
Thank me later, but I’m on the blather beat—the great Pantheon of Bloviating—so you don’t have to be.
I’ve spent months watching camera-ready candidates (you know their names and MOs) roll out, vamp and strut across their own red carpets like preening celebrities on Oscar night. And here I am, in front of TV on Super Tuesday, conducting my own exit poll, struck again by how much the Oval Office and wannabes have in common with many of the media who cover them.
It’s the ultimate symbiosis, recalling the famous 1974 exchange at a Houston press conference between embattled Richard Nixon and future CBS News anchorman Dan Rather, then the network’s high-profile White House correspondent. The occasion was a meeting of broadcasters at which the President was a guest. And when Rather rose to ask a question, and introduced himself to a mixture of applause and jeers, Nixon deployed his paste-on grin and quipped:
“Are you running for something?”
Rather (after a perfectly timed pause): “No, sir, Mr. President. Are you?”
Big laugh, big metaphor.
They were both running, of course: Nixon from the Watergate debacle that was about to bring him down, and Rather for the top job at CBS News that he later would inherit from Walter Cronkite.
Nixon and Rather were adversaries. Yet on this day, in a sense, they were partners having in common this: both were hood ornaments on the chassis of their own aspirations.
Presidents don’t speak to us and announce “Breaking News!” They don’t report breathlessly “This just in!” On the other hand, aren’t they much like news anchors in other ways that we witness regularly? Not just the largely vapid news kazoos at local stations but also the gravitas-inflated royalty of ABC, CBS, NBC and those zany 24-hour news channels that many of us love to hate?
Think about it.
Don’t we ask both for steadiness and team coverage in times of crisis?
Don’t both ask us to love, trust and respect them, to believe in their infallibility and, above all, to keep them employed? That love, respect and infallibility flow from personas carefully crafted by public relations experts, the steady employment from elections for Presidents and Nielsen ratings for anchors.
Don’t both make TV their medium of choice to nourish this culture of image?
Don’t both command the camera? The Trumpet doesn’t just command it, as we know, he appropriates it, benefiting from acquiescing media that are almost begging to be manipulated.
And finally, don’t we look to both genres for accurate information and guidance? With the election drum roll growing ever noisier, information and guidance from the candidates and their acolytes continues to be largely propaganda and spin. And anchors on Fox, CNN and MSNBC are presiding this election season over horserace reporting at a gallop. As well as that news channel phenomenon, breaking speculation.
“This is what the race has come to,” sighed an MSNBC reporter covering a morning rally at which Trump defended his hands after Marco Rubio had ridiculed Trump’s hands after Trump had relentlessly demeaned Rubio as “Little Marco” and “the little senator.” And so on and so on.
Oh, wait, something huge is happening. I’m watching TV now, and The Trumpet is being introduced in Palm Beach by his fawning new best friend, Chris Christie.
This just in!