“Many of those comments are made as an entertainer because I did The Apprentice and it was one of the top shows on television. Some comments are made as an entertainer and as everybody said, as an entertainer is a much different ball game.”
-- Donald Trump on "Fox News," trying to explain things like ridiculing Carly Fiorna's face
Well, there's a news flash. Go figure! Being an entertainer is a much different ball game than being President of the United States. Who knew?
I have a feeling that Mr. Trump's opponents at the next GOP Presidential debate on CNN will bring this quote up. Until now they've been a bit wary about being outraged and challenging most of Donald Trump's other over-the-top offensive comments, out of fear of the Republican based not liking that they criticized the man (profiles in courage for presidential candidates, indeed...) but this is different. This isn't Donald Trump saying something egregiously offensive that the GOP base seems to agree with, this is telling that base, "Hey, guys, I've been screwing around with you. I don't believe these things. It's just all a game to me."
That's fodder to your opponents. That's red meat to the carnivores waiting, watching to attack when the chance comes and eat you alive. Or it should be, but given the lackluster response thus far from the Republican candidates, who knows? But I do think it will be brought up, and brought up a lot, to the point of piling on now that there's an opening, now that they smell blood. But if it isn't -- and again, given the history of this gaggle of high-minded candidates on the podium, who knows? -- it sure will be by Democrats if Mr. Trump somehow gets the Republican nomination. Though getting that is still unlikely, and just made more so.
"Many of those comments are are made as an entertainer."
And as obvious as they may have been to some (read: non-Republicans), when you're dealing with a loving base that supports you even more as you make racist, misogynistic, thoughtless, divisive comments then it's not unreasonable to think it wasn't obvious to all. They weren't watching just an "entertainer" putting them on, they were watching a presidential candidate who supposedly understood them, who said what they believe, who was just like them (a nifty trick for a billionaire egotist), who they were throwing themselves all-in with.
So, being told, "Nah, it's just for the gag. I C'mon, I was putting you on," that has the potential of driving yourself off the cliff.
Talk about a "Ha! Gotcha" moment.
Many analysts were wondering what Donald Trump could possibly say that would outrage his supporters, given how nothing seems to have outraged them yet. Little did one think it might be him saying, "Just kidding. I didn't mean it."
So, why on earth would Donald Trump say that?? Honestly, I don't know. I suspect it's related to him recognizing that he went too far when talking about GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina and saying, " at that face! Would anyone for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next ?!" (Why that is SO much worse than calling another woman a fat pig, or Mexicans racists, or ridiculing a heroic soldier who had been tortured, who knows? But one thing is that the way he phrased it and kept repeating it gave him less wiggle room to explain it away. His first attempt at explaining that he just meant her "persona" didn't fly, so he was boxed more into a corner.)
And so now he says, I don't mean much of this garbage. The problem is, if he is now telling people that he doesn't take this seriously, why should they?
By the way, for the record, when The Apprentice was cancelled by NBC, it was #113 in the ratings. The year before, #75. In most circles of society this is not "one of the top shows," unless of course you live in Upside-Down Land. To be fair (a concept that tends to pass by Mr. Trump), it did well it's first three years, but that began 11 years ago, and it plummeted each and every year. As for Celebrity Apprentice, the best it's ever done in the ratings is #46. Last year, it was #67 -- and that was after NBC had held it off the air for two full years because its previous rating had been #84. The show has had an impressively-long run...but that's vastly different from that run being as "one of the top shows". In fact, when he went All Bombast at this year TV Critics Association winter press tour and told these knowledgeable experts that Celebrity Apprentice was the "#1 show on television, the Hollywood Reporter wrote, "...he exclaimed to a room of muffled laughs." You see, these people actually knew that the show not only wasn't #1, it didn't even win its Monday night time slot. So, when people know what you're trying to fool them with, the result is ridicule. But then, no doubt Mr. Trump had just been talking as an entertainer. And as you know, as an entertainer is a different ball game.
And so it is. It's T-ball for seven-year-olds at a picnic. President of the United States? That's the major leagues. A very different ball game, indeed.
And now Donald Trump has told his adoring supporters he didn't really mean it.
When worshiping admirers see their hero fall from grace, the results risk being ugly. A lover scorned is not a pretty sight. If you never read or saw Sinclair Lewis's Elmer Gantry, spoiler alert: the revival preacher's tent goes up in flames.
With Donald Trump, his vaudeville act is still such a bizarre wild card. He can't be written off yet, especially from just this. But he had an uphill road ahead even without telling his acolytes that he was just fooling around with them. How his opponents handle this gaffe of obvious honesty is the next thing to watch.
It certainly didn't end well for the Wizard of Oz when the curtain got pulled back and revealed who he really was. But at least there, the Wizard didn't pull the curtain back himself.
Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
But then, there was never really a reason to pay attention to that man in front of it either.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor