Trump’s Been Acting Presidential on the Teevee for Years

I’ve been embarrassed to ask about it, but Kevin Drum’s anticipated my need:

To a lot of us, Trump is a celebrity real estate developer who likes to get into petty feuds with fellow celebrities. That doesn’t seem very presidential. But that’s the old Trump. The modern Trump still gets into petty feuds with fellow celebrities, but he’s also the star of Celebrity Apprentice, and that’s how a lot of people view him these days.

You’ve seen the show, right? You’re not one of those vegan weenie lefties who lives in a bubble of art museums and Audubon meetings, unwilling to sully yourself with popular TV, are you? The kind who looks down on regular folks?

Oh hell, sure you are. So here’s how the show works. A bunch of C-list celebrities compete in teams each week at tasks given to them by Trump. At the end of the show, Trump grills the losing team in the “boardroom,” eventually picking a single scapegoat for their failure and firing them. As the show ends, the humiliated team member shuffles disconsolately down the elevator to a waiting car, where they are driven away, never to be seen again. This is the price of failure in Trumpworld.

Now, picture in your mind how Trump looks. He is running things. He sets the tasks. The competitors all call him “Mr. Trump” and treat him obsequiously. He gives orders and famous2 people accept them without quibble. At the end of the show, he asks tough questions and demands accountability. He is smooth and unruffled while the team members are tense and tongue-tied. Finally, having given everything the five minutes of due diligence it needs, he takes charge and fires someone. And on the season finale, he picks a big winner and in the process raises lots of money for charity.

Do you see how precisely this squares with so many people’s view of the presidency? The president is the guy running things. He tells people what to do. He commands respect simply by virtue of his personality and rock-solid principles. When things go wrong, he doesn’t waste time. He gets to the bottom of the problem in minutes using little more than common sense, and then fires the person responsible. And in the end, it’s all for a good cause. That‘s a president.

According to this theory, there’s nothing strange at all about people thinking Trump is qualified to be president. It’s probably stranger, in fact, that people would want to vote for somebody like Ted Cruz who’s never run anything but his mouth. If you want someone in charge of the country who’s rarely if ever in doubt and is sort of an outsized version of yourself in your most decisive mode–you know, a real decider like W. promised to be–why not, especially if he’s a familiar part of your life? That’s he’s willing to beat up on the Mexicans and Chinese and criminals and abortionists and create jobs out of thin air is just gravy.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.