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Trump's Bid for the Republican Nomination: Reel Life or Real Life?
August 18, 2015  | By Alex Strachan  | 1 comment

And now for something completely different: a mental acuity test. Who said the following?

“It’s a little bit like, you watch somebody sell their used car and not wash it. You can spend $10 washing the car and get another $200 for the car. I’ve seen guys, they’re selling cars that are dirty, and I say, ‘That guy is a loser.’”

Quick, who said that?

Too easy, I know.

The real question, given the temper of the present political times, is whether Donald John Trump said that during a reality show — a contrived, staged event intended for a mass TV audience — or during the larger-than-life real-life spectacle the Republican presidential race has suddenly become.

Nearly 25 million viewers tuned in to see the first GOP debate (left) on Fox News earlier this month, if one is to believe the numbers.

To put that figure in perspective, that’s just shy of the 28 million viewers who tuned in to see Bill Rancic win the original Apprentice reality show in 2004.

CNN must hope at least that many curiosity-seekers tune in on Sept. 16, when the curtain rises on the next GOP debate, slated for the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

You want perspective? Those 24 million-plus viewers who tuned in to see Mr. Trump berate, belittle and befuddle his opposition on Fox on Aug. 6 outnumber the audience that tuned in to see any of the subsequent editions of The Apprentice, which ranged from a high of 17 million in 2005 to a relatively paltry 5.3 million for The Celebrity Apprentice in 2013.*

The already fuzzy line between reality TV and real life is becoming more blurred all the time, whether pols, pundits and viewers watching at home care to admit it or not.

Mr. Trump’s next scheduled appearance at a debate is set for Sept. 16, when he once again squares off against Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and John Kasich.

Jake Tapper has been tapped as moderator. No Megyn Kelly, this time.

A second group, featuring also-rans who register at least one percent in the polls on the cut-off date of Sept. 10 will settle their differences in a separate debate.

Mr. Trump, a master showman, may be more disappointed than grateful at Kelly’s absence. Like most born showmen,  Mr. Trump understands the value of free publicity, as Mark Twain, P.T. Barnum and other larger-than-life luminaries did before him.

True, one can argue whether it’s healthy for democracy for a presidential campaign to turn into a circus sideshow.

Why spoil the beauty of a thing, though, with mere detail?

These are early days, after all. It’s the summer silly season. There’s plenty of time yet —  a year, in fact — for the debate to take on a more sober tone.

For now, why not sit back and accept the Donald Trump Show for what it is: part carnival act, part political roast as it might have been created for Comedy Central, and part filler entertainment before the real TV season begins in the fall.

See for yourself, for example, if you can spot which of the following pronouncements from Mr. Trump (below, left with Exec. Producer Mark Burnett, Press Tour, Jan. 2015) were made in a reality show or during the real-life campaign for presidential glory.

• “Whoa! That’s the end of that marriage.”

• “You have your finance person and you have your team leader. and the money somewhere disappeared between the hand and the ass. Right?”

• “You’re right, it is my decision.”

• “So as a reward, you have 10 minutes with me. You know, a lot of people would like that opportunity, so take advantage of it.”

• “I never knew you were so short.”

• “Well, we’ve had some disasters, but this is the worst.”

• “I show this apartment to very few people. Presidents, kings. And they walk in, they look around, and they really can’t believe what they’re seeing.”

• You haven’t helped me at all. Get out.”

• “This is called luxury. Trump Luxury.”

• “You don’t believe in the genetic pool? That what you have, you have.”

• “It was a long, boring explanation, and I didn’t want to hear it.”

• “Who chose this stupid concept, of the three?”

• “See the way they’re kissing your ass? That’s what happens when you’re the boss.”

• “You’ve never, ever been duped? I have. I’ve been duped. I’ve been duped many times. Everyone’s duped. You’ve been duped also.”

• “I’ve had some ‘very close friends.’ It’s cost me a lot of money, I’ll tell you that.”

• “You got hit on the head with a little plaster that — by the way, all my life I’ve been hit on the head with plaster.”

• “That was good, right?”

• “I’m starting to think that I may never hire a man again.”

• “I’ll see you back in the boardroom. Somebody will be fired.”

Yes, you guessed right. On all counts.

Mr. Trump made these comments during The Apprentice, in its inaugural season, before the routine got old.

You know, we might not be watching a presidential campaign at all, but rather the biggest, best, boldest, greatest, grandest, most awesomely elaborate, hugest — make that HUGE-est — promo ad for a reality show in the history of the medium.

Got that? Good.

Mr. Trump will see you now.

* Ratings figures extrapolated by TVByTheNumbers and Zap2it.com from data provided at the time by Nielsen.

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Fun column; lotsa good points. Trump can't lose in what he's doing. He's not going to win the Presidency -- maybe not even the Republican nomination -- but his "brand" will be bigger than ever when the dust settles. He may be a financier of sorts and a developer, but his real business is promotion.
Aug 19, 2015   |  Reply
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