Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 19, 2011

A RECURRING QUESTION ABOUT THE GOP PRESIDENTIAL FIELD.... Kevin Drum asked overnight, "For the love of God, can people please stop writing columns about how we ought to take Donald Trump seriously?" Perusing the op-ed pages this morning, pundits seem to have an answer: No.

But what I find especially interesting is the fact that we keep running into the same question about so many Republican presidential hopefuls.

Lately, Trump has spent quite a bit of time in the spotlight, and Eugene Robinson has a piece today, arguing that he finds it difficult to dismiss Trump out of hand, the television personality's buffoonery notwithstanding.

No, I don't believe that Trump is seriously running for president. But what if he continues this charade past the point of no return? What if he pulls away from Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and the others? What if he wins primaries and caucuses? What if...

What [Trump has] been, consistently, is a headline-grabber extraordinaire. If he now has decided to take himself seriously, I'm afraid we're going to have to follow suit.

Robinson's column shared a page with Richard Cohen's latest, which ponders a similar question. David Brooks weighed in, too. (This is just today; similar pieces have been running quite a bit lately, bolstering Kevin's point.)

But also note how often we've heard related questions recently. Jonathan Bernstein had an item in early March asking about Gingrich's national ambitions, "Do We Have To Take Newt Seriously?" A couple of weeks later, Ed Kilgore pondered whether Michele Bachmann is "a serious contender." MSNBC recently asked, "Should voters take Herman Cain seriously?" The same question has been asked about Sarah Palin for a long while, and it's picking up again this week.

It's problematic that a ridiculous reality-show host is leading some national polls, but it's also troubling that the Republican presidential field is so ridiculous, every few weeks we find ourselves wondering, "Do we really have to take _______ seriously?"

Steve Benen 9:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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"Mourning Joe" had a love fest about him, just about an hour ago. The New Media Dahlin'.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 19, 2011 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

The bigger question is "Should we take the pundits seriously."

There is very little serious writing about Trump or Newt or Sarah or Michelle. None of them have actually announced for the nomination, so all writing about them is essentially celebrity gossip. Even should they declare, most of the writing will be about horse race. No one will ask about or write about serious policy from these unserious people.

So in answer to the initial question, NO. No one should be taken "seriously" until they actually announce for the nomination, and then they should be written about seriously and not in the usual manner presidential contenders are covered.

Not going to happen, but I can wish.

Posted by: martin on April 19, 2011 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

Did we miss 2001-2009?

If you don't actually believe in government, if you're going to have all the actual work done by the private sector, or the Vice-President (assuming they're not the same thing) handing in all regulation pre-written and potted to agencies, providing service under contract, etc., does it really matter who sits in the White House? Being President -- or 'President' -- under those conditions becomes a reality show, and nothing more.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on April 19, 2011 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Trump's finances are typical for a late to the game buy high sell low artist . Typical that is until it reaches into the profits of large institution that have floated bonds for the lil' rascuul . Bonds that have taken serious hits in their repayment , and so on and so forth .

Posted by: FRP on April 19, 2011 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

The Republicans actually do have a serious candidate- Jon Huntsman. The problem is that he has no chance of winning a Republican primary. Apparently, you can be sane or you can be the GOP candidate for president, but not both.

Posted by: fostert on April 19, 2011 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

What does The National Inquirer think?

Posted by: ComradeAnon on April 19, 2011 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

I wish I could laugh. all of this off, but I have too clear a memory of the Carter people laughing at Reagan in 1980.

Never underestimate the stupidity or gullibility of the American people.

Posted by: Dave in DC on April 19, 2011 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

This just shows you that pundits are very afraid of being wrong and will just say what everyone else is saying.

Posted by: Alli on April 19, 2011 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

It is now late April 2011. There are few, if any, declared candidates. A lot of people are still exploring, and a bunch more are flirting.

The fact is if the Republicans don't start their race soon they are going to have some difficulty in the early primaries, which I think are starting earlier this year. I mean the Republican schedule is going to be very compressed.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 19, 2011 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Right now, the only reason Trump's liked by Conservatives is the Birther issue.

Wait until they find out he wanted single-payer, supported choice, a was (is?) a registered Democrat.

Of course, if he just tell the rubes that Satan made him do it, and that now he's a serious desciple of Christ, all will be forgiven, and he can run with a "clear" conscience.

This is all about ratings.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 19, 2011 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not convinced he can't win any RepuG primary. Those primaries have been dominated, as of late, by the crazies. However, he could pull a Perot and capture a portion of the national vote. So many have very short memories and he keeps the playing the "What is the latest populist mood" game. When, he wanders into areas of high unemployment and blasts China, he will resonate with many. He panders to the fears and paranoia of a segment of the population.

Might be best for the Democrats should he run as an Independent. It would split the vote just as Perot in '92.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 19, 2011 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Which is unlike the others?

a) Trump
b) Bachmann
c) Palin
d) Lady Gaga

Answer: They are all self-promoters, but Lady Gaga doesn't pretend to be much else.

Posted by: Danp on April 19, 2011 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Don't forget this week's Doonesbury!!

It's Incredible!!

Posted by: jdog on April 19, 2011 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Since McCain/Palin didn't work out so well, the GOP strategy may be to revert to the model of Bush/Cheney. Have someone at number 1 who's an effective campaigner, (this could be either because they're popular and colorful or because they are controversial and polarizing) and have the serious guy at number 2. So the GOP could nominate Coco the clown. Once the party establishment is behind him , and once the new Cheney is installed as running mate, things could look quite different.

Posted by: davip on April 19, 2011 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

The likes of Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty are not crazy, they just think they have to seem so to get the nomination. Once one is nominated, he/she will not pander so much to the crazies, and will be found by the media to be much more centrist than it seemed. Do you think the media, which on principle have an attention span of about two days (last month's positions are not news), will hold politicians to account for consistency?

Posted by: skeptonomist on April 19, 2011 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

The Brooks article pretty good, up until the final sentence, which must set a new standard for fatuousness, even for Brooks: "I would never vote for him, but I would never want to live in a country without people like him."

Posted by: Brock on April 19, 2011 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

ALL of these "people" are using their PACS as ATM cash cows- money is fungible, and "Campaign Expenses" comes in many forms. . .

Posted by: DAY on April 19, 2011 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

From davidp @ 9:51, "...and have the serious guy at number 2."
Who in today's Republican party would you consider to be the "serious guys"? Really, I'm at a loss.

Posted by: Decatur Dem on April 19, 2011 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

I hope Trump does let his ego convince himself to run. It wouldn't last long, I'm sure, but it would be fun while it lasted.

I have to give Savannah Guthries some credit for challenging Trump on "just telling China" to play nice. He has no discipline and would sink himself within days of announcing. I like train wrecks...as long as no one gets hurt.

Posted by: Extreme Liberal on April 19, 2011 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

My favorite part is when Rove, Kraphammer, et al. have to take to the airwaves and newspaper columns to suggest the the newest Republican heartthrob really wouldn't make a good nominee. That they have to do this continually speaks volumes about the party. And they do it without ever asking the questions "what is it about the Republican party that a large segment swoons over people plainly not suited for the Presidency?"

Posted by: John Dillinger on April 19, 2011 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

I waiting for Trump to give the tearful "Pat Paulson" speach.

Posted by: wbn on April 19, 2011 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

To Decatur Dem @ 9.59: I was thinking of some veteran of the Neocon empire. The only one who has declared an interest so far is John Bolton. But I'm sure there are others who could be persuaded to serve their country in the humble role of VP.

Posted by: davidp on April 19, 2011 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

I see in other headlines now that the Republican establishment (i.e. Rove) is turning on Trump.

That was one of the most accelerated rise-and-falls I've seen in a while.

Posted by: g on April 19, 2011 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

Keep in mind something pretty important...Donald Trump isn't the brains behind The Apprentice, Mark Burnett is. Mark Burnett. NBC, Burnett and Trump will keep this "campaign" stunt going as long as they can, right up to the season premier of Celebrity Apprentice in the fall. The shelf-life for this sort of thing isn't very long. They can stretch it out all summer, but that's about it. Burnett has certainly breathed new life into a fading franchise. They may need to appeal to a very different audience. The "celebrities" may be more conservative figure, and their charities may be more conservative organizations...no more AIDS charities, women's charities, etc..

This is what I see happening: We're being told that Trump will make his announcement after this season's finale (big ratings there, of course). He won't make a decision, he'll leave it open and run this thing right through the summer, getting more and more outrageous and outlandish. The new season of Celebrity Apprentice begins in the fall with no Trump. His kids take over, introduce the team, give the first challenge, etc. The end of the episode in the board room, Trump's chair is empty. The door opens and there's The Donald. He rattles off how much money the show has raised for charity and for who, and he can't put his own personal goals ahead of that. He's back on the show, sits down, "You're fired." The ratings are good for the next three seasons that NBC has already green-lighted.

Posted by: SaintZak on April 19, 2011 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

"Do we really have to take _______ seriously?"

What you need to put in there is republicans, not a name. And the answer is obviously yes.

Posted by: Schtick on April 19, 2011 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

I keep thinking back to how excited Republicans were when Fred Thompson got into the race in 2007 - my impression was that they were excited about Thompson the actor rather than about his governmental work. That they are now excited about a blowhard who seems to have no actual solutions to our many problems shows how little regard many of them have for the office of the president (the position, not any particular president). That the press continues to cover him speaks badly of them. He's not a serious candidate. Thompson at least had some serious creds, having been US senator and assistant US attorney previous to that.

Posted by: Hannah on April 19, 2011 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Now Gary Busey has been "fired", the Donald should pick him as his running mate and let's watch how that works out for him!

Love Meatloaf

Posted by: just guessing on April 19, 2011 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

I wish I could laugh. all of this off, but I have too clear a memory of the Carter people laughing at Reagan in 1980.

Never underestimate the stupidity or gullibility of the American people.
Posted by: Dave in DC

reagan at least had serve two terms as the cali governor and had made a serious presidential bid four years earlier. say what you want about ronnie, but those aren't the credentials of a joke candidate. actually he had more executive experience than carter (a one-term georgia gov.) had four years earlier. all of us should have known better.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on April 19, 2011 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

Let's not laugh too hard about the Republican field. The fact is the Republicans are going to nominate someone next year, and upwards of 45% of the electorate will vote for whoever it is. I don't see anything funny about that.

Posted by: tamiasmin on April 19, 2011 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

Trumps wig was born in Taiwan does that make him only a hairline American; and should he be required to show the bill of sale that bound him, for ever connected, to his hair piece.

Posted by: JimK on April 19, 2011 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

For the sake of our own sanity, should we all pretend to be deathly afraid of Gary Johnson so they'll knock it off with the 24-7 freak show?

Grassley. Chuck Grassley, Report to Iowa, stat!

Let's throw them a bone, guys. They need our help.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on April 24, 2011 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK
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