During the 2012 Republican primary, the media had its fun with the pseudo-candidacy of Donald Trump, who dropped out without having dropped in because running the free world was less important than running 'Celebrity Apprentice.'
This time around, the joke is on the media who treat news about Trump the way TMZ treats "news" about the Kardashians.
Back in May, Rupert Murdoch's New York Post informed us that a Trump spokesperson informed them that Trump has spent more than $1 million on electoral research for a potential presidential run in 2016. The Post added that, according to "sources," "The tough-talking 'Celebrity Apprentice' host is increasingly being asked to speak at Republican events."
The Post also broke the news that Trump was examining his "standing in each state," which could mean that the real estate mogul was surveying 50 photos of himself in an upright position superimposed on a map of America.
Politico, a locus for Beltway gossip, picked up on the Post's "reporting" to report, "Report: Trump spends $1M on 2016 research." (Was the "research" conducted by the unnamed private detectives employed by Trump to dig up evidence that President Obama wasn't born in the U.S.A.?)
A month later, msn news published a story headlined, "Rumor: Donald Trump Mulls 2016 Presidential Run." Not wanting to go out on a limb regarding Trump's alleged mulling, the story was footnoted, "Unconfirmed: There's only one source."
This past Sunday, ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos went right to the source and asked Trump himself about a possible 2016 candidacy. The news here -- duly re-purposed by countless aggregators, bloggers and social networking outlets -- was Trump's bold promise that "If I did it, I would spend whatever it took."
Google "Donald Trump Flirt" and you'll see 794,000 results. The widely read Beltway insider journal The Hill reminded us that "Trump briefly flirted with a presidential run in 2012." CNN added historical perspective, noting that Trump "flirted with runs for the Republican presidential nomination in the 2000 and 2012 cycles." (The news from CNN that Trump may run again came from "a top [emphasis mine] Trump spokesman.")
Betsy Woodruff gave texture to Trump's approach, writing in National Review Online that "While [Trump] is far from making up his mind, he told me that 'what's happening with the country' will inform his decision-making process." Precisely how "far" Trump was from making up his mind remains unclear to this day.
Right-wing columnist Myra Adams explained "Why It Looks Like Donald Trump Is Really Running For President in 2016." Adams encouraged inquiring minds to "Watch this space folks -- for if Trump is serious about running for president he could be a veddy interesting 2016 wildcard." And how will we know if Trump is serious instead of just looking like he's serious? He'll tell us so!
This just in: Politico simultaneously covers and mocks the Trump non-story, observing that "The media -- though certain this time around that (Trump) can't be serious -- are covering it anyway."
Which brings us to NBC News, which boiled down all the coverage of Trump '16 into a simple narrative: "Donald Trump talks about whether he has thought about running for president of the United States in 2016."
Follow Michael Sigman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/majorsongs