Trump, The Ringmaster Returns
The Donald Turns Surrender Into A Media-Enabled Victory Lap
I thought I’d gotten my dates and countries confused.
First, there was the footage of the majestic plane, a Boeing 757 with a Rolls Royce engine, landing from its journey from West Palm Beach. The fleet of sleek black-guzzling SUVs surrounding it on the tarmac. The subsequent race into Manhattan, the closed-off streets, the crowd. The anticipation as one waited for a door to open and …
You might expect the figure emerging from the limo and waving to the crowds to be her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Instead, it’s our former POTUS, Donald Trump. But you already know that.
Try flipping the TV channel and you’ll be hard-pressed to go five minutes on cable news without feeling the sort of satiation and tense anticipation that normally precedes a Presidential Inauguration or a British Royal church ceremony. The last time I recall so much live coverage of someone on the move was when the Queen’s coffin was being transported from Westminster Abbey to her final burial at St George’s Chapel in Windsor. And the time before that was the police chase of OJ Simpson.
The mainstream media can decry Trump all it wants. And it does. Nonetheless, I can’t help feeling that the awe driving the voluminous press coverage of Trump’s indictment – he is the first American president to face criminal charges – is troublingly less than a hair’s breadth away from adulation. Not consciously, perhaps. But when the camera and journalists obsess over someone’s literal every move, whether he’s D-Jing at Mar-a-Lago, golfing, flying to Manhattan, and yes, traveling in a motorcade to face an indictment sans a mugshot and cuffs, the primary feeling that stirs is – this guy is really important.
I just listened to a reporter on MSNBC say, “He’s making history.” Pause. Long Pause. “Not in a good way.” I’m not sure that last part resonated.
No one knows how to manipulate an audience better than Trump. Yet, today we are handing him the stage, the microphone, the props – and a captive audience, regardless.
In the unorthodox manner of his arraignment – no cuffs, no mugshot – Alvin Bragg’s office is also affirming his self-created brand of unconventionality. The list of things he’s done in a completely abnormal way – winning the Presidency, running the Presidency, leaving the Presidency – now includes a New York indictment. A motorcade to take you to court. A mob of supporters. And then a rally for donors in the evening in a Palm Beach mansion.
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