Oh, the hand-wringing, the caterwauling and the recriminations as the GOP Establishment frantically tries to repel the vulgarian at the gate of the Republican Party and as the complicit media gets suddenly outraged after feeding hungrily off the Trump Phenomenon.
The most desperate effort to deny the GOP nomination to Donald Trump came today when failed 2008 presidential candidate Mitt Romney -- representing rich, repp-tie Republicans -- went after the Real Teflon Don by repeating just about everything HBO comedian John Oliver said in his takedown last Sunday on Last Week Tonight.
Like Trump rival Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Romney called the “mogul” a con man with a string of failed flim-flams, including Trump University, which is the subject of a civil fraud case brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. (With the possibility of a Hillary Clinton indictment over mishandling of classified material, the nation faces the real prospect of having two presidential nominees in the dock before the next election.)
But if Trump is everything Romney and others say he is – or isn’t – who besides a red-with-rage electorate is to blame for his mind-blowing rise and close-to-complete hostile takeover of the Republican Party?
It’s complicated, but there are two American mainstays most responsible for Trump going from a tireless self-promoter trotting out a potential run at the presidency every four years to a full-blown movement: One is the GOP itself and the other is the media – especially the TV networks and click-crazy digital media that struck gold with a gold-plated, orange-haired loudmouth.
The Republican Party was asleep at the wheel of its Mercedes bus (and National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus should probably resign immediately) as Trump channeled the anger of people sick of being lied to, laid off and underpaid by the One Percenters who own the GOP Establishment and rely on the base to keep their Washington water carriers in power.
So disaffected are Trump supporters that none of the usual turnoffs matter. That’s why the crude, rude New Yorker Trump is beating the sanctimonious, Jesus-hugging Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas for the evangelical vote.
One thing voters need to ask themselves is this: If the Establishment Republicans were dumb enough to let the fortunes of their party get to the point where they are attacking their own front-runner, why should such vessels of ineptness be allowed to run the country?
As for the media, it created Trump. According to The New York Times, Trump’s name first surfaced in a 1973 front-page story saying Trump and his father, who controlled some 14,000 apartments in the city, had been charged with violating the fair housing laws by discriminating against blacks. But by 1976, a Times story – what they call a hum job in the news business – was comparing Trump with Robert Redford. And by the 1990s, The Donald’s love life and antics were standard New York tabloid fare. Then came the hit TV reality show The Apprentice/Celebrity Apprentice, which ran for a total of 14 seasons on NBC and introduced Trump to a national audience.
So when Trump’s candidacy began to take off last year, the media loved it, and non-stop coverage followed. After the first GOP debate of the primary season last Aug. 6 – featuring the notorious faceoff between Trump and Fox anchor Megyn Kelly – broke a television history record with 24 million viewers, the networks began salivating. Besides the 13 scheduled GOP-sanctioned debates (with the 11th on Fox tonight in a Trump-Kelly rematch), there have been a handful of hastily arranged town halls as the nets followed the money.
Nobody has been as bald-faced about the networks’ cynical approach to the Trump candidacy and what he called the Republican “circus” than CBS CEO Les Moonves. At the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco on Feb. 29, Moonves said that the Trump candidacy has been a bonanza for his network.
"It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS," The Hollywood Reporter quoted Moonves as saying. "I've never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It's a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going."
In fact, Trump has received so much coverage that it’s not a leap to say that the media has been the single most generous donor to his “self-funded” campaign, including the candidate himself. According to the Tyndall Report, which tracks airtime on network news programs, Trump stories in 2015 accounted for almost a third of all candidate coverage, surpassing all the coverage of the Democratic campaigns combined. In January, the conservative nonprofit Media Matters estimated that Fox gave Trump almost $30 million worth of free airtime last year.
To be generous, no one saw the Trump Tsunami coming. This perfect political storm is a never-before-seen mashup of can’t-look-away reality TV, social media smarts and a populace fed up with stagnant wages, illegal immigration, political correctness and do-nothing, wooly-mouth politicians. And who knows what it means for the electoral process of the future.
Pols and pundits who have spent years clamoring for an engaged electorate can’t be blamed for drinking heavily as they mutter into their bourbon and branch water: “Be careful what you wish for.”