Tuesday, February 23, 2016

President as celebrity-in-chief

TV's “The Apprentice” P.T. Barnum-style pitchman Donald Trump is riding the high tide of politician as celebrity. It may lead to an exclusive Pennsylvania Avenue address, but if so, he's not the first to get there. Politics as pop culture entertainment was first harnessed by blue dress intern-chasing “Slick Willie” himself, Bill Clinton. In 1993, a youthfully rakish, shade-wearing future president played the saxophone on the Arsenio Hall Show. He also brazenly told the MTV generation whether he wore boxers or briefs (so Monica Lewinsky need not be consulted on the matter).

Likewise in 2007, Joe Biden's storybook 'first mainstream African-American who is articulate, bright, clean and nice-looking' had the same shiny newness as Bill—and a cool aloofness that appealed to superficial millennials, twice. In all three cases, Clinton, Obama and potentially Trump, all appeal to the lowest common denominator of the American electorate. Bill ran as a baby-boomer, regular guy centrist and won. Likewise, Obama successfully hid his ultra-liberal mind-set, ran on the nebulous slogan “hope and change,” and also won. Now we have Mr. Trump following suit, except his is a red-hot firebrand style of making dubious, wild promises (Mexican-paid border wall-building; expelling 11 million illegal squatters) absent specific plans.

To a man, theirs is the power of image and personality. Indeed, none of the above should be taken seriously or have the opportunity to hold the most important office in the world.

America does not need another unpredictable, “celebrity” egotist as president in 2017. 

Twitter: @DavidHunterblog

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