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Jeff Simon

A common sense guide to impeachment media

Jeff Simon

Among the nonfiction bestsellers on Amazon's current list is Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig's "A Very Stable Genius: Donald Trump's Testing of America," a book clearly published to coincide with the impeachment.

The two authors are Pulitzer Prize winners. According to President Trump, their book's subject, the two are "stone-cold losers."

The book's release was predictably accompanied a couple of weeks ago by journalistic tidbits from the book's 500-page portrait of administrative dysfunction – Trump, for instance, calling former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, "dopes and babies."

If you look at the book's index, you can be stopped short on page 462 by this list of Trump's characteristics (in pristine alphabetical order): Abuse of Subordinates, Addiction to Media, Alignment With Authoritarian Leaders, Avoiding Payment, Belief That He is Above the Law, Childishness, Competitiveness, Exclusive Dependence on Own Ability, Hunger for Praise and Recognition, Ignorance, Image Focus, Impulsivity, Insensitivity, Loyalty Focus, Lying, Paranoia, Racism, Rages, Reading Difficulty, Short Attention Span, Solipsism, Transgression, Transparency, Unwillingness to Take Responsibility.

There is, of course, a huge paradox here that has been at work since Trump began running for president. The book containing such indicting portraiture is usually considered nonrevelatory by this point, but is a smash hit bestseller anyway.

The paradox of Trump and American media is that his oft-expressed hatred of the media (including highly critical books) has been good for them in ways he'd consider as the most important, i.e. in the numbers (ratings, subscriptions, books sold, etc.). It was subsequently disgraced CBS boss Les Moonves who callously said of Trump's dominance of Republican Party debates, "It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS."

Proof No. 1 of that principle in action was the status of Stephen Colbert's late-night show. His ascent to CBS late night after David Letterman's retirement initially foundered in the ratings until he converted his nightly opening monologue into a daily bill of particulars on Trumpian absurdity and misprision. Soon, his show was No. 1 in late-night ratings and it stayed there.

Trump sells. Trump praise (Fox News) and Trump-bashing (Colbert), too.

You would think then that the impeachment would be a smash hit for cable news.

Not so, in an internet and cable news era. The Republicans are cunningly treating the whole thing like a reality TV show not to be protracted to unnecessary length. The Democrats are doing the opposite. They want a trial, a pivotal moment in American history.

As a consequence, the most visible manager of the House impeachment team – Californian Adam Schiff – was praised by some on social media as the proceeding's eloquent hero during its opening week. The internet swelled with fantasies of him one day running for president. His thoroughness and heartfelt oratory brought memories of Barack Obama.

Schiff, one side's hero, is dismissed by Trump with one of his standard playground nicknames: Shifty Schiff, whom he commonly insists is "crazy."

Long before he entered politics, Trump rose from the basement of New York tabloid self-promotion into a terrible reality TV show – "The Apprentice" – which became a TV smash.

Anything that can steer proceedings back to reality TV is to the president's advantage. Anything that takes history seriously is not.

I must confess I have found the opposition to Trump's impeachment in this period more instructive than the bill of indictments now so familiar among  America's "information classes."

Late last week, the internet gave much attention to a fraudulent claim Clint Eastwood had written a piece about why he sarcastically loved it "when people call Trump stupid."

It turned out not to have been written by Eastwood at all, but rather by New Hampshire State Rep. Fred Doucette. When first reprinted by Massachusetts Republicans it was near a picture of Eastwood that, according to some, caused confusion. That confusion, of course, caused the piece to be read by many (me, for instance) who'd never have read it otherwise. Names makes news after all.

With all Doucette's ugly, trolling liberal-bashing tone, it was, I thought, an extremely cogent synopsis of the case for Trump that is made by what his opposition has taken to calling his "base."

Doucette mocks those who "call Trump stupid" by asking:

"You mean the multibillionaire who kicked every Democrat's butt, buried 16 career Republican politicians, and continues to make fools out of once reputable news organizations?

"You mean the guy who won the presidency?

"You mean the guy with the supermodel wife? ...

"You mean the guy whose mere presence made the stock market smash its previous records?"

It goes on like that for many more inches until we get to its core argument, "... Madonna, Katy Perry, and Robert De Niro are not just like you. They don’t have to live through the real world, day-to-day disparity of an average American."

By the time Doucette is finished with his cunning indictment, you can understand why a reality TV mirage might seem preferable to the reality that can only be apprehended through actual facts, or why a reality TV figure is preferable to a real figure who wasn't sculpted in the reality TV studio of the form's genius Mark Burnett (of "The Apprentice" and "Survivor" fame).

In its own way, Doucette's credo is quite revealing to non-Trumpians. It eschews both fact and idealism as the products of privilege. It pushes sarcastically for Trump as the reality TV savior out to reconcile the "real world, day-to-day disparity of an average American" to the privileges enjoyed by the informationally advantaged.

It was fascinating to me. I recommend reading it.

Watch Bill Maher's "Real Time" some weekend night and you'll discover an invaluable member of the informational elite who keeps wisely insisting, as often as possible, that until his own informational class understands the resentments of those who are informationally deprived, we're heading for informational Civil War.

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