Transformations within the Trump candidacy are ongoing. Unfortunately, the one that is the most worrisome is how the national press is treating him. With respect, that is. This first turned up with the photograph MSNBC uses of Trump on primary nights, the headshot that goes up beside his many state victories. It’s the most complimentary picture of Trump that I have seen, even if he doesn’t currently look like the photo. In it, he has darkish hair, brown, brunette, thicker on the sides with a touch of gray, neatly combed, a winning smile. It is Mitt Romney hair.
There are a lot of photos of Trump, but why this one? So friendly and, I hate to say the word, presidential.
The same photo continued to be used the night Trump won the Indiana primary. And this week’s West Virginia and Nebraska primary triumphs, more or less uncontested. Of course, the audience could see Trump himself after the Indiana win in the lobby of the Trump Tower, giving his victory speech. That night his remarks were subdued, full of love. His hair was the usual blend of orange and copper and brass, yellow, and, from the back, a color favored on birthday cakes, lemony, pound cake-like. Or bad teeth, old piano keys.
My contention is that there is no upside for the network/cable conglomerate, any of them, for not treating Trump with deference. If not immediately The Donald himself, his new staff is praised. See, they are serious guys! The media now seems to understand Trump might actually win. At least, he has a shot, even if one very long, much longer than his fingers.
The same thing occurred in 1980. Until the summer of 1980, the time of the Mariel boatlift, a lot of the establishment press treated Ronald Reagan as a clown, his candidacy as an amusing sideshow. But that all stopped in the summer. By then it was clear that Reagan might actually win, become president. Carter’s administration was falling apart. Castro was sending over all those Trump-like rapists and criminals from Cuban prisons, the mentally disturbed, and, by far, the largest and darkest group of refugees Americans had ever seen coming across the 90 miles to Key West. The proportion of criminals and the disturbed has been estimated at between 2-3 percent, doubtless the same figure for Trump’s marauding Mexicans.
By 1980 the Iran hostage crisis was in its second year, lines had formed at gas stations, we had boycotted the summer Olympics, given away the Panama Canal, and, in April, had helicopters burn in the desert during a botched rescue attempt, etc. So, Ronald Reagan went from being a light-weight Hollywood figure with odd ideas to a remarkable statesman. I was in Key West in the summer of 1980 watching dilapidated school buses being filled with Cubans heading to the underpasses of Miami highways, Arkansas, wherever. But what I read in the daily papers was more shocking, this bestowing of new seriousness on candidate Reagan.
The national press needed to elevate the eventual winner, because Carter had loser written all over him. The titans of the press diminish their own importance if they have to cover a buffoon. Their impulse is to raise him up in their estimation. The Carter-Reagan race is not unlike the current one - Hillary Clinton, of course, being Jimmy Carter and The Donald being Ronald Reagan. Carter was president, but Hillary has been Senator and Secretary of State. Trump, of course, has some fractured Hollywood allure, but has never been governor of anywhere, so we’ve actually, as a country, lowered basic requirements for eligibility to run for the highest office in the land.
President Obama may well be Hillary’s last bulwark, if no crisis beyond the usual turns up pre-November. Carter was beset by Biblical plagues his last year in office and, in contrast, Obama is having what can pass for a good year.
But, you now see it everywhere, the nascent elevation of Trump, the begrudging self-censorship of the pedantry (or punditry), though one can still read demurrals here and there. The press corps, too, along with the flummoxed Republican establishment, is trying to come to grips with the new nominee of the Grand Old Party. I’ve been saying “President Trump” to friends for months, much to their expected horror.
But now people are beginning to say it without irony, because, after the summer, when there are only two candidates to choose between, the odds become, alas, 50-50. No sure bet there.
The HuffPost version ran May 12, 2016: Click here.