Opinion: When Trump Was Only Funny Mean - - PressFrom - US
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Opinion When Trump Was Only Funny Mean

05:00  29 november  2019
05:00  29 november  2019 Source:   nytimes.com

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Much like the way rearview mirrors bend space-time so that the objects you’ve sped away from still remain “closer than they appear,” there was a time not too long ago — although it doesn’t always seem like it — when Donald Trump seemed like harmless fun to most of us.

Back when the media environment surrounding the “blockbuster” impeachment inquiry today — driven by ideologies and algorithms that lock us into our various In a slapdash attempt to bridge Donald Trump as he seemed then — funny mean , not scary mean — with the man as he appears now, I

Much like the way rearview mirrors bend space-time so that the objects you’ve sped away from still remain “closer than they appear,” there was a time not too long ago — although it doesn’t always seem like it — when Donald Trump seemed like harmless fun to most of us. For me, that was about 15 years ago, when “The Apprentice” debuted in prime time on NBC.

Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: Donald Trump during “The Apprentice” Recruiting Tour in 2004.© Getty Images Donald Trump during “The Apprentice” Recruiting Tour in 2004.

While my own memory of that preteen era in my life is blurry, I still vividly remember how after the show’s premiere the buzz around it spread virally, in that quaint, primordial pre-Twitter sort of way. Back when the media environment surrounding the “blockbuster” impeachment inquiry today — driven by ideologies and algorithms that lock us into our various niches — was unimaginable; when all the demographic divisions the internet is surfacing today were less visible, tucked in the intimacy of private conversations.

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But that doesn’t mean he can’t dish it out. He’s eager to subtweet Schwarzenegger, snark at uncooperative world leaders, and openly goad his political opponents. Over the course of the presidential election, Trump workshopped a bragging, mocking (borderline inappropriate)

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The local morning radio hosts on the Top 40 station WEZB in New Orleans talked about Mr. Trump’s new show for days. The “Tom Joyner Morning Show,” which has been syndicated on countless black radio stations for years, and which my dad listened to as he dropped me off at school and drove himself to work, chirped about the reality competition program as giddily as Katie Couric, who covered it on “The Today Show,” too.

You couldn’t turn on NBC without seeing a promo. At the beginning, middle and end of each spot: a puffed up, perma-squinting Donald Trump. A guy, who — as I understood him then — was basically this rogue billionaire who’d decided it would be more fun to have his industry buddies film people fighting over the chance to work for him than to do whatever austere stuff the billionaires on CNBC did.

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TRUMP : “There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down. The media’s clear implication was that Trump was mocking the way Kovaleski moved his arms.

[Video: Watch on YouTube.]

It seemed more droll a premise than any reality show we’d heard of before, so although my parents — “Law & Order” fans — were skeptical, they’d let us watch “The Apprentice” after dinner, out of their own curiosity if nothing else. (Mr. Trump’s horrific response to the Central Park Five case still vaguely lingered in our minds, but the idea, in the year of our Lord 2004, of boycotting a TV show because it had a problematic lead seemed unrealistic, and the bar for famous men’s behavior was admittedly low.)

In a slapdash attempt to bridge Donald Trump as he seemed then — funny mean, not scary mean — with the man as he appears now, I found myself rewatching the first season of the series earlier this year. Even as I eye-rolled at the casual sexism of the men-versus-women teams and at the obviously canned intros, the unmilled, unscripted brashness of the rest of the program was still rib-tickling all these years later, in the undying way eavesdropping on a workplace argument stirs excitement. The commercial break cliffhangers just as heads were about to butt, as well as Mr. Trump’s encouragement of it (much like now in his White House), souped up the “stay tuned” allure.

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Yes, of course, Trump was “ only joking.” At least sometimes, we have to hope so. It’s also worth pointing out that the wacky sense of fun among Trump and his supporters is selective. When Kellyanne Conway fulminated about a “nut job” spreading “vile” ideas that could “easily inflame lunatics who wish

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On a second look, however, the underlying engine of the show — which would become the underlying engine of his candidacy, his presidency and now, his impeachment — came from the clashing of candidates from “various backgrounds,” as Mr. Trump put it in the premiere. There was the frenemy dynamic between “Country Boy” Troy McClain, a white Montanan with only a high school degree, and the black Harvard-educated M.B.A., Kwame Jackson. Tammy Lee, a haughty Asian businesswoman, chafing at perceived slights from some of her equally self-satisfied, younger white teammates. And of course, there was the assertive Omarosa Manigault — whose future as a Trump White House adviser surpassed the ability of any crystal ball — tussling with just about everyone, comfortably filling the token role of Angry Black Woman the producers may have had in mind.

“Omarosa, I don’t know how anyone likes you, honestly,” Mr. Trump chirped in one boardroom scene, as he mulled over firing her with the same mix of insouciance and venom that he performs during press gaggles in the West Wing today. “Do you think Omarosa has class?” he asked her fellow contestants.

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Donald John Trump (born June 14, 1946) is the 45th and current president of the United States. Before entering politics, he was a businessman and television personality.

While the troubling gender dynamics of the show were always overt — with Mr. Trump, when he wasn’t nauseatingly inviting women up to his penthouse as a reward, alternately praising and shaming contestants for “using womanly charm” and “relying on your sexuality to win” — the class and racial tensions were more apparent, if indirect.

In one of the season’s final episodes, Mr. Trump pits Mr. McClain against Mr. Jackson, comparing Mr. McClain’s lack of education (despite his great “instincts and guts”) to Mr. Jackson’s Harvard degree. He ends up firing Mr. McClain. And as we would later learn, when Mr. Jackson lost in the finale to Bill Rancic, a cigar entrepreneur with Mad Men looks, Mr. Trump apparently took race directly into consideration.

Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s now-jailed longtime confidant and fixer, spoke last year to Vanity Fair about Mr. Trump’s “back-and-forth about not picking Jackson.” In the end, according to Mr. Cohen, Mr. Trump said, “There’s no way I can let this black [expletive] win,” employing a homophobic slur.

I talked to Mr. Jackson, who now leads inclusion and diversity work in the business world, to see whether he believed Mr. Cohen’s claim. “I don’t spend any time thinking about the veracity of Michael Cohen as a moral compass in my life,” Mr. Jackson said. But when asked whether he sensed some of those tribal dynamics at play when he was in the thick of the show, he responded: “Of course, that was the whole point. It was identity politics.”

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In his mind, producers cast him in the first place so that, “O.K., now we have an Ivy League black guy vs. a high-school-educated white guy. We’ll have a country girl vs. a city girl. A pretty woman vs. a plain looking guy — whatever.”

Mr. Trump once built on his men vs. women” theme by testing the idea of a “black team vs. white team” season of the show. That reportedly failed with NBC executives, but in making the first reality business competition, it’s clear Mr. Trump and his producer Mark Burnett cleverly understood how office undercurrents — of who seems smart, like a leader and the right fit — were loaded questions with impassioned, deeply personal answers.

Tribalism is definitely unhealthy. It is also effective, and entertaining.

People forget that crowds gathered for “Apprentice” watch parties in bars. The show’s first season was a smash, averaging over 20 million viewers. (By comparison, the season eight premiere of “Game of Thrones,” this era’s cultural juggernaut, had 17.4 million viewers across all platforms.) There have long been two ways of absorbing Donald Trump’s presence: seriously but not literally, as has often been said. Or with holier-than-thou irony — the way his fans eagerly watch his exploits and the way A-listers, like the magazine editor Tina Brown, invited him over to play a sort of court jester at their parties. (He’s a “con man, but fun to listen to,” Ms. Brown explained.)

My family thought it was in on the joke. But after watching a few episodes, I’m not so sure we didn’t end up invested. I could see how my father identified with Mr. Jackson’s unspoken but visible feeling that he had to play down his insight in order to not come off as an uppity minority. I could sense how my mother, who sniffed at reality TV as a rule, found herself annoyed by Ms. Manigault yet also had a begrudging soft spot for her — something I can’t decouple from her own effort to overcome workplace bias against women of color.

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And despite my innocence, I was civically sentient enough to understand that Mr. Trump and his producers must have known there was an entire cross-section of other households across America that probably had a soft spot for the contestant Jessie Conners, an earnest young white woman from Wisconsin who’d carved out a managerial position for herself. Or others that perhaps cheered for Mr. McClain. (Mr. Trump himself would later state, “Guys like Troy are what make America great.”)

Donald Trump is someone who “got that everybody plays identity politics, not just people of color,” said Mr. Jackson. While he told me production editing had “a lot to do with it,” he argued people who now find it comforting to think of Mr. Trump as a puppet deny his “diabolical genius” for starting fights. “I think that’s how he got elected, by doing the same thing,” he said, with the timbre of a shrug.

As we spoke, I couldn’t help but think that many voters seemed at the end of the 2016 campaign to have chosen Mr. Trump for few of the technical reasons I find myself poring over as a journalist but more in the way my family and many others rooted for “Apprentice” contestants. In the way, at least partly, we’ve elected presidents for ages.

As a broad, “Apprentice”-sized field of Democrats fight for their party’s presidential nomination, it looks as though the major candidates have bought into a gentler version of Mr. Trump’s identitarian worldview — that when push comes to shove you’re more likely to root for “your kind,” whatever that is.

While they are all clear foils to Mr. Trump’s nativism and policy apathy, they all seem to have hyper-strategized their brands to either subtly or explicitly make identity appeals to sections within their party coalition, which has more mini factions than a college friends group text.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, for instance, surely has a deep, if quiet, hope that her humble Oklahoman roots can help her earn the trust of whites in the heartland just as much as Senator Kamala Harris more openly plans to rely on the party’s base of women of color to regenerate her candidacy.

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Sooner or later even President Trump ’s most ardent detractors are going to have to admit that he is Once you start noticing that Trump is often intentionally funny you can’t stop. It feels like a very in It must be said, of course, that being spontaneously funny is by no means a pre-requisite for being a

They’ll both silently hope that the nagging reputation of “Bernie Bros” hurts Senator Bernie Sanders when the primaries get snippier. And there are the untold number of voters who, like my father, say they are leaning toward Joe Biden not because he’s their favorite but because they’ve calculated older white men will feel less threatened by the former vice president than a woman, a person of color or a gay man.

That the same Pavlovian tool kit of something so harmlessly tacky as “The Apprentice” would 15 years later be the lifeblood of its host’s dark, racist movement — as well as the organizing principle of those hoping to dethrone him — is a chilling distillation of the recursive trap America seems to be in.

Mr. Jackson said the difference between Mr. Trump now and when he was on the show is that back then, “there was smoke” — housing discrimination, his public hatred of the Central Park Five — “but there was no raging fire.” Now, despite the raging fires of “Lock her up,” “Send her back,” the Muslim ban, the impeachment inquiry and much more, recent polls find the president in a relatively enviable position in battleground states, where he may have a greater demographic advantage in 2020 than in 2016.

55 percent of Republicans for whom Fox News is their primary news source told pollsters there is nothing Mr. Trump could do to lose their approval. And another poll found, “The overwhelming majority of Americans across both parties say nothing they hear in the impeachment inquiry will change their minds.” The president has long grasped that little of this fight is about principles or the republic; that there are Republicans who can’t stand that he tweets and acts so odiously but who can’t stand Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and “The Squad” even more. Republicans who’d rather back Mr. Trump than let that other team, those other people, win.

So it makes some sense that the president seems unbothered that half of the eyeballs now fixed on him are filled with repulsion instead of fascination. Booing or cheering, we’re all stuck with him for now, reacting to the latest episode: Televised impeachment hearings that he has promptly folded right back into the culture war, starring him.

Talmon Joseph Smith (@talmonsmith) is on the editorial staff of the Opinion section.

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Trump reveals that next G-7 summit will be at Camp David .
The move comes after Trump received major blowback from his initial decision to host next year's meeting at his Doral resort.“I think it's been more or less announced we're going to do it at Camp David,” Trump told reporters during a bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “It will be at Camp David, which is a place that people like.

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