Media Is Ready to Grant Trump a Mulligan

If The Apprentice was basically a boardroom version of Survivor, then it shouldn’t surprise people that Donald Trump sees the Republican nominating contest as a game, and that he approaches the game the way a smart contestant approaches an elimination reality game show.

I’m no expert on this kind of strategy, but some things seem universal and obvious, like going after your strongest competitor first, and making a lot of temporary alliances. In retrospect, it’s easy to see why Trump spent all his early energy on the well-funded Jeb, why Cruz chose to be nice to Trump, and why Trump initially returned the favor.

Winning the general election is a completely different kind of game, though, so naturally Trump needs a completely different strategy. And, yes, that means that he has to play a different role. He has to actually be someone else.

And that’s precisely what he’s now promising the Republican bigwigs that he will do. I think Steve M. does a fine job of explaining this, so I’ll refer you to him rather than duplicating his efforts.

The key is that the Associated Press obtained a secret recording of a meeting that took place yesterday between Paul Manafort and top players at the Republican National Committee.

Trump’s chief strategist Paul Manafort told members of the Republican National Committee in a closed-door briefing here Thursday afternoon that his candidate has been playing a “part” on the campaign trail, but is starting to pivot toward presenting a more businesslike and presidential “persona.”

“He gets it,” Manafort told RNC members.

And this introduces a question about our modern environment. Now that every single thing you do and say seems to be captured digitally, it’s harder than ever to get away with flip-flopping, or saying one thing to one audience and something completely different to another one. Something you said on the Senate floor a quarter century ago can be brought up and plastered all over social media to make you look like a hypocrite.

Yet, the diffusion of the way people get their news, and the way that digitization kills people’s attention span (listen to a whole album lately?), makes it easier than ever to spin the news or change the subject and move on from controversy.

These two factors will be in tension as Trump tries to remake himself in front of our eyes, as though we hadn’t just witnessed the reality show of the last six months.

The media’s readiness to give him credit for this is not a good sign.

Let’s try not to forget how this campaign began. It began with widespread boycotts of Trump and Trump’s businesses because his campaign announcement had been so racist against Mexicans.

We’ve gone from that to the media applauding him for “presenting a more businesslike and presidential “persona.””

That’s amnesia, right there, and widespread media-assisted amnesia is Trump’s best hope for November.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.