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Jeff Simon: Omarosa makes waves on the way to the best-seller list

Jeff Simon

Omarosa Manigault Newman is the greatest star ever created by reality TV. Her closest competition would be the Kardashian family – living symbols of American narcissism and conspicuous consumption – and Richard Hatch, the winner of the first season of "Survivor," who parlayed his nude insouciance into a prison sentence for tax evasion.

I've unashamedly been a supporter of reality television's entertainment value – in particular the early days of "Survivor" and "Big Brother." But I wouldn't watch a Bachelor or Bachelorette or "Housewife" show if I were laid up for a month in hospital traction.

I refuse to accept even a smidgeon of blame for the crazy reality show of current Washington, even though I do think both American TV critics and American TV audiences have a lot to answer for. So much could have been nipped in the bud. I only watched one full episode of Donald Trump's and Mark Burnett's "The Apprentice" and I hated everything about it.

That we were actually asked to watch contestants scrambling, conniving and backstabbing to win the favor of a billionaire addicted to mounting his last name in gold was absurd to me, at best. That each episode ended with a nauseating schadenfreude moment when Mr. Big, from his network-bequeathed Chair of Entitlement, dispatched some weekly schnook by saying, "You're fired," was deeply unpleasant to me.

Surely TV critics and American TV audiences should have collaborated on killing it quickly, right at the outset. But no, the show not only became a hit, but in our century's second decade, swallowed the country. I confess unending bafflement.

Its biggest contestant star – Omarosa (one name) – became the show's reigning villain by modeling herself as closely as possible on what she knew at the time about Donald Trump's public reputation. Add to that fact, the not-inconsequential fact she was a former beauty contest entrant – and remember, of course, Trump's beauty contest businesses. She didn't win, but his partiality to her cause is easily understandable.

Then things got really weird.

When reality TV swallowed us all up to our knees, Omarosa became a high-ranking employee of the White House in modern America's most embattled administration.

We know Omarosa modeled herself on Trump from her new book, "Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House" (Gallery Books, 334 pages, $28), which will be a surefire best-seller and deserves to be. No, I'm not saying that because of the author's appearances flogging the book all over cable TV news – or the accompanying White House tapes she made to prove her insider-ism.

It is a compellingly – and perhaps compulsively – readable book despite its fatiguing moments where Omarosa afflicts us with those parts of her life that are more significant to her than they will ever be to us.

When, after being fired from the White House, she went back to reality TV on "Celebrity Big Brother," we had that utterly astonishing television moment where a former presidential intimate – in hushed tones – told her fellow celebrity reality show contestants that White House matters were going to get far worse than they could imagine. It was the Cognitive Dissonant TV moment of the year, I thought.

Her book begins with her melodramatic firing by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly in the Situation Room (a place apparently designed for total security during moments of national trauma) and ends with her telling America that we're in a "deep valley," but has faith we'll all move upward. She says she is a "patriot and I love my country enough to criticize her when it strays from its better self."

How do we survive, in the view of the woman who worked for both Clinton and Trump? "All we need to remember is that Trump loves the hate. He thrives on criticism and insults. He delights in chaos and confusion. Taking to Twitter to call him names only fuels him and riles his base. To disarm him, starve his ego; don't feed into it."

She warns all of us to watch what we say out in the world because, unbeknownst to us, you may be "speaking to a closet Trumplican. As I traveled the country, the most unsuspecting people whispered to me that they voted for him. People of all shapes and sizes, backgrounds, races, religions. It's dangerous to group all his voters into one box and insult them when you could be listening to them and understanding their point of view and finding common ground instead."

She advises us, on the other hand, to "rest assured that there is an Army of people who oppose him and his policies. They are working silently and tirelesssly to make sure that he does not cause harm to the republic. Many in this silent army are in his party, his administration and even in his own family."

Those last five words are a reality show all by themselves, but I must confess that, among many others, it's illuminating to read Omarosa on the subject of Melania Trump. Her take on Melania matters may be the best we're likely to encounter.

Yes, Omarosa is an easily dismissible reality TV villain whose presence in two Washington administrations – Clinton's and Trump's – didn't end in glory. But what has to be admitted – even by all members of Washington's frostiest commentariat – is that no one currently writing Trump books has more "friendly" experience with the president over a long period of time.

The most important contention of the book, I think, is not the possibility of racist tapes from "The Apprentice." It's right there in a quote from the book's contents that is reprinted on the back cover: "He rambled. He spoke gibberish. He contradicted himself from one sentence to the next.

"While watching that interview, I realized that something real and serious was going on in Donald's brain. His mental decline could not be denied. Many didn't notice it as keenly as I did because I knew him way back when. They thought Trump was just being Trump, off the cuff. But I knew something wasn't right."

Yes, we can always trust a reality TV star to always go for the most emotionally vivid view of any situation. In a world where people actually say, "Truth isn't truth," how do we know what's real?

It seems to me, though, that Omorosa's agenda on every page is made so laboriously clear that she may be among the most trustworthy White House historians we currently have.

Even if she's fudging things or deliberately – and secretly – contributing to the chaos she admits he loves, you'll have little difficulty maneuvering around her agenda to the information that is important for the world to know.

Put it this way: Whatever the result of "Unhinged" is (besides the best-seller list), this is one whistle that will be difficult to un-blow.

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