Donald Trump's transparently idiotic statements about President Obama's birth certificate and other matters haven't made Rupert Murdoch's New York Post shy about touting the billionaire's "suddenly surging presidential chances."
Others in the media are also taking Trump's presidential candidacy seriously, and the man whose contribution to the national discourse begins and ends with the words "You're fired" trails only Mitt Romney in a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. So it's worth asking if the presence of a knucklehead is simply necessary to the political process -- not because Americans are stupid, but because the media can't tolerate the gravitas of politics -- all that talk of foreign policy and budgets and the Constitution unleavened by pure insanity or the possibility of an upset.
Until recently, Sarah Palin was clearly the 2012 designated knucklehead. Despite her lack of even minimal qualifications, Chris Matthews was among the many Palin-watchers hyping her purported "path to the nomination."
Palin was hardly the first empty pantsuit to get up close and dangerous with the most powerful job in the world -- the 2000 Republican primary field included loopy magazine publisher Steve Forbes, activist/certifiable lunatic Alan Keyes and Dan "I deserve respect for the things I didn't do" Quayle, the proto-Palin.
As Palin's bonehead statements sent her numbers tumbling faster than her champion Bill Kristol could walk back his praise, commentators focused on Newt Gingrich. He's been working overtime contradicting himself on Libya and other issues with the skill of an unprepared high school debater.
No matter how lame Gingrich gets, commentators continue to praise him with faint blame. Newt is an "idea man," they say, without giving specific examples, leaving us on our own to mine the depths of such Gingrich-isms as, "The underlying thematics are beginning to be universalizable in a way that has taken years of work."
Michele Bachmann -- whose grasp of the rudiments of American history is tenuous at best -- may be as far as one can get from presidential timber, but the New Republic's Ed Kilgore, the Telegraph's Alex Spillius and MSNBC's Cenk Uygur are among the pundits talking up her chances in the Republican race.
And then there's Trump. Towering over the field in terms of pure self-aggrandizement, he's inevitably introduced as a "genius businessman" or a "brilliant negotiator." It came as no surprise, then, that in the first in a series of regular spots on Fox and Friends, the mogul praised his own three-night Trump-fest on last week's Fox show The O'Reilly Factor. Leaving content in the dust, meta-media website Mediaite -- which also found it newsworthy to feature the "story" that Bill Clinton has rejected "birther claims" -- noted that even Fox's own Gretchen Carlson "couldn't help but let out a chuckle at Trump's unabashed [self]-promotion."
The spectacle of Donald "Trumping the shark" is so post-ironic that mere irony doesn't stand a chance. When Bill Ayers joked that he, not Obama, wrote the actually brilliant book Dreams of My Father, Trump displayed the audacity of dope: he took the joke seriously.
"They say Dreams of My Father was genius and they give Obama full credit," he told conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham, "and now it's coming out that Bill Ayers wrote it -- that's what started him on his road where he became president."
With geniuses like Trump, who needs idiots?
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