On Narrating Donald Trump: “Shoot me like I’m shot on ‘The Apprentice'”

Pretty much everyone I know is recommending this New Yorker profile describing how Mark Burnett created Donald Trump’s current image (and with it his electoral prospects).

Along with describing how both Trump and Burnett came to turn the popularity of the show into a marketing vehicle and a Trump’s telling claim that he initially hesitated before signing onto reality teevee because the, “contractors, politicians, mobsters, and everyone else I have to deal with in my business … don’t like, as they’re talking to me, having cameras all over the room,” the piece describes how the show depicted not reality, but a heavily edited narrative trying to retroactively justify Trump’s capricious firing decisions each week.

The result created the illusion that a serially bankrupt joker was, instead, a king.

Burnett has often boasted that, for each televised hour of “The Apprentice,” his crews shot as many as three hundred hours of footage. The real alchemy of reality television is the editing—sifting through a compost heap of clips and piecing together an absorbing story. Jonathon Braun, an editor who started working with Burnett on “Survivor” and then worked on the first six seasons of “The Apprentice,” told me, “You don’t make anything up. But you accentuate things that you see as themes.” He readily conceded how distorting this process can be. Much of reality TV consists of reaction shots: one participant says something outrageous, and the camera cuts away to another participant rolling her eyes. Often, Braun said, editors lift an eye roll from an entirely different part of the conversation.

At the end of each episode, Trump determined which competitor should be “fired.” But, as Braun explained, Trump was frequently unprepared for these sessions, with little grasp of who had performed well. Sometimes a candidate distinguished herself during the contest only to get fired, on a whim, by Trump. When this happened, Braun said, the editors were often obliged to “reverse engineer” the episode, scouring hundreds of hours of footage to emphasize the few moments when the exemplary candidate might have slipped up, in an attempt to assemble an artificial version of history in which Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip decision made sense. During the making of “The Apprentice,” Burnett conceded that the stories were constructed in this way, saying, “We know each week who has been fired, and, therefore, you’re editing in reverse.” Braun noted that President Trump’s staff seems to have been similarly forced to learn the art of retroactive narrative construction, adding, “I find it strangely validating to hear that they’re doing the same thing in the White House.”

Such sleight of hand is the industry standard in reality television. But the entire premise of “The Apprentice” was also something of a con. When Trump and Burnett told the story of their partnership, both suggested that Trump was initially wary of committing to a TV show, because he was so busy running his flourishing real-estate empire. During a 2004 panel at the Museum of Television and Radio, in Los Angeles, Trump claimed that “every network” had tried to get him to do a reality show, but he wasn’t interested: “I don’t want to have cameras all over my office, dealing with contractors, politicians, mobsters, and everyone else I have to deal with in my business. You know, mobsters don’t like, as they’re talking to me, having cameras all over the room. It would play well on television, but it doesn’t play well with them.”

“The Apprentice” portrayed Trump not as a skeezy hustler who huddles with local mobsters but as a plutocrat with impeccable business instincts and unparalleled wealth—a titan who always seemed to be climbing out of helicopters or into limousines. “Most of us knew he was a fake,” Braun told me. “He had just gone through I don’t know how many bankruptcies. But we made him out to be the most important person in the world. It was like making the court jester the king.” Bill Pruitt, another producer, recalled, “We walked through the offices and saw chipped furniture. We saw a crumbling empire at every turn. Our job was to make it seem otherwise.


Trump took to his part more nimbly than anyone might have predicted. He wouldn’t read a script—he stumbled over the words and got the enunciation all wrong. But off the cuff he delivered the kind of zesty banter that is the lifeblood of reality television. He barked at one contestant, “Sam, you’re sort of a disaster. Don’t take offense, but everyone hates you.” Katherine Walker told me that producers often struggled to make Trump seem coherent, editing out garbled syntax and malapropisms. “We cleaned it up so that he was his best self,” she said, adding, “I’m sure Donald thinks that he was never edited.” [my emphasis]

Throughout, the piece both implicitly and explicitly suggests that the White House is adopting techniques from the show in burnishing Trump’s power. Or, at least, Trump is asking that his handlers replicate the same frames of power that Burnett used.

The show’s camera operators often shot Trump from low angles, as you would a basketball pro, or Mt. Rushmore. Trump loomed over the viewer, his face in a jowly glower, his hair darker than it is now, the metallic auburn of a new penny. (“Apprentice” employees were instructed not to fiddle with Trump’s hair, which he dyed and styled himself.) Trump’s entrances were choreographed for maximum impact, and often set to a moody accompaniment of synthesized drums and cymbals. The “boardroom”—a stage set where Trump determined which candidate should be fired—had the menacing gloom of a “Godfather” movie. In one scene, Trump ushered contestants through his rococo Trump Tower aerie, and said, “I show this apartment to very few people. Presidents. Kings.” In the tabloid ecosystem in which he had long languished, Trump was always Donald, or the Donald. On “The Apprentice,” he finally became Mr. Trump.


Trump has succeeded in politics, in part, by borrowing the tropes of the show. Jonathon Braun pointed out to me that when Trump announced his candidacy, in 2015, he did so in the atrium of Trump Tower, and made his entrance by descending the gold-colored escalator—choreography that Burnett and his team had repeatedly used on the show. After Trump’s announcement, reports suggested that people who had filled the space and cheered during his speech had been hired to do so, like TV extras, for a day rate of fifty dollars. Earlier this year, the White House started issuing brief video monologues from the President that strongly evoke his appearances on Burnett’s show. Justin McConney, a former director of new media for the Trump Organization, told New York that, whenever Trump works with camera people, he instructs them, “Shoot me like I’m shot on ‘The Apprentice.’ ” [my emphasis]

One of the most interesting details in the piece is that Democrats actively (and successfully) lobbied musical talent to blow off Trump’s inauguration, themselves performing a kind of script-writing that has haunted Trump since.

A Democratic political operative who was involved in a back-channel campaign to dissuade big-name stars from appearing at the event told me that Burnett had tried to enlist musicians to perform. “Mark was somebody we were actively working against,” the operative said. Trump’s wish list included Elton John, Aretha Franklin, and Paul Anka—who, he hoped, would sing “My Way”—but they all claimed to be otherwise engaged. The event ended up with sparse crowds and a feeble roster of performers.

Because I dawdled before reading the piece, I was reading it at the same time as reading coverage of the shutdown. That coverage highlights the results of running a Reality Teevee star as President. There’s NYT report that the reason why Trump has shut down the government to get Congress to fund him a wall is because Sam Nunberg and Roger Stone (and Steve Bannon) used the wall as a mnemonic device to get Trump to repeat his lines.

“How do we get him to continue to talk about immigration?” Sam Nunberg, one of Mr. Trump’s early political advisers, recalled telling Roger J. Stone Jr., another adviser. “We’re going to get him to talk about he’s going to build a wall.”


“As a messaging strategy, it was pretty successful,” [anti-immigration activist Mark] Krikorian said. “The problem is, you got elected; now what do you do? Having made it his signature issue, Trump handed the Democrats a weapon against him.”

We’ve shut down the entire government because an entertainment professional always refused to memorize his lines (or as someone on Twitter noted, use a teleprompter), and so the unstable hacks who managed him early on invented a policy promise that not even hardline anti-immigration experts want.

And Trump seems to be judging the advice on the shutdown he receives based on how sycophantically his interlocutors judge his “performance” trying to ratchet up pressure for a wall.

Trump spent much of Saturday on the phone with allies, talking through his positioning on the shutdown and hearing their reviews of his Rose Garden performance, according to a person close to him. Two people regularly on his call list — Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) — have encouraged Trump to take a hard line and refuse to agree to reopen the government unless wall funding is secured, the person said.

Trump, who doesn’t understand the successful tycoon that starred in The Apprentice was the product of heavy editing, has now taken to editing himself, trying to fulfill the things the Campaign Reality Teevee star said over and over, based off what Mark Meadows and Lindsey Graham  tell him.

The New Yorker profile, however, offers scant solutions to the problem that Burnett created — just his ex-wife imploring him to tell Trump he’s not actually living a reality show, as if that will fix the problem.

One day this past fall, Burnett got a call from his first wife, Kym Gold, with whom he remains friendly. Gold was upset about what was happening in the country, and asked Burnett to intervene with Trump. “We had it out,” she told me. “I said, ‘You’ve got to help our children, for the future and safety of this country.’ ” Gold implored Burnett, “Tell him this is not a reality show. This is real life. You’re the President. You’re saying things you cannot say—to reporters, to other world leaders.”

But that wouldn’t fix it even if Burnett were willing to risk losing access to Trump by telling him.

The problem, and any potential solutions, is something I’ve been thinking about for some time. No one is going to cure Trump of his addiction to being framed to look powerful. If he doesn’t get that high from his White House handlers, he will continue to fire them and look elsewhere, to people who are even better trained at flattery than Burnett. Trump now believes he can produce himself, based largely on the feedback of nutjobs like Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity.

I’m not actually advocating letting Trump frame himself as a king. But I also think that much of Democrats’ response involves trying to fact check Trump rather than reframe him. Your typical Trump voter isn’t going to give a damn that Trump is lying until some policy he has bragged about (up to and including the shutdown, but also his trade wars) ends up making them feel personally betrayed.

Mind you, I think Nancy Pelosi understands all this. She understands (like that other great female politician, Angela Merkel) that Trump will lose more if he is shown looking weak next to a woman than if someone proves his 100,000th lie.

That last of the self-imagined productive sycophants left with John Kelly. Trump now has a temporary Chief of Staff, one who will be gone once Trump decides to internalize Mick Mulvaney’s labeling of Trump’s position on the wall as “childish.” That creates a vacuum in the function of framing Trump’s image.

Update, January 12: This important op-ed from an OLC veteran describes how lawyers there do much the same as what editors on The Apprentice does.

But when I was at OLC, I saw again and again how the decision to trust the president failed the office’s attorneys, the Justice Department and the American people. The failure took different forms. Sometimes, we just wouldn’t look that closely at the claims the president was making about the state of the world. When we did look closely, we could give only nudges. For example, if I identified a claim by the president that was provably false, I would ask the White House to supply a fig leaf of supporting evidence. Or if the White House’s justification for taking an action reeked of unconstitutional animus, I would suggest a less pungent framing or better tailoring of the actions described in the order.

I often wondered, though, whether my attempts to remove the most basic inaccuracies from the face of a presidential order meant that I was myself failing to carry out my oath to protect and defend the Constitution. After all, the president had already submitted, through his early drafts or via Twitter, his reasons for issuing a particular order. I sometimes felt that, rather than engaging in professionally responsible advocacy, my OLC colleagues and I were using the law to legitimize lies.

I felt more than a twinge of recognition this month when reading a New Yorker article about Trump and the reality-TV show “The Apprentice.” Jonathan Braun, an editor on “The Apprentice,” described how editors would “reverse engineer” episodes after Trump made impulsive decisions about firing a contestant. The article described editors “scouring hundreds of hours of footage . . . in an attempt to assemble an artificial version of history in which Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip decision made sense.” Like a staff member at “The Apprentice,” I occasionally caught myself fashioning a pretext, building an alibi.

75 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    He’ll also fire Mulvaney when Mick is being labelled as “President Mulvaney” by the media – and especially Twitter. Meanwhile, the other 300-some people in the country suffer.
    Ah, the joys of having a mentally-five-year-old as president.

  2. obsessed says:

    Off topic but this is a surprisingly interesting read on Mueller’s writing style: https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/01/robert-mueller-report-writing-style-special-counsel-documents.html

  3. Ken Muldrew says:

    “You don’t make anything up. But you accentuate things that you see as themes.”
    “He wouldn’t read a script—he stumbled over the words and got the enunciation all wrong.”

    Hmmm…I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something doesn’t quite add up here…

    • Lee says:

      “You don’t make anything up. But you accentuate things that you see as themes.”

      Anytime you engineer a communication that expresses false information, it’s lying, regardless of the words spoken (or not).  Deception takes many forms. This is one of the earliest moral lessons I remember learning in Sunday School as a kid, and it’s stuck with me.

      • Super Nintendo Chalmers says:

        Arguably, what Burnett and producers did was a fraud. I thought we had laws against rigging “game shows” since the Quiz Show scandal.

        • Trip says:

          But it’s not really a game show, it’s reality TV, isn’t it? Where winners are chosen subjectively and there is no concrete measure of success necessarily (like answering a factual question on Jeopardy, that can be researched and confirmed).

    • Greenhouse says:

      I can’t put my finger on it 
      Does it glow, will it shine 
      Does it leave a trail of slime 
      I can’t put my finger on it

  4. BobCon says:

    A big problem with the reframing project is that the big hitters in the media are a long way from buying it.

    Today’s NY Times is running a front page, above the fold story asking if Democrats can sign on to “whether a woman can beat Trump.”

    Now, the Times isn’t saying it’s impossible, they’re just asking questions, mind you, a question they’re sure many people are asking….

    I guarantee they will be giving equal time to a Democratic presidential candidate tipping 12% in 1997 as they do to Trump being named as a conspirator.

    The narratives are already written, and the Times and CNN are just waiting for time to pass so they can publish the rest of their stories.

  5. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Bill “Bull Shite” Shine has been putting him in the Rose Garden for the orange-on-green palate.

    Showing long rambling appearances allows him to hog screen time. Network news is trained to digest long rambling appearances into something that approximates as coherence. I honestly like the idea of Dems replaying his most rambly moments at half speed with mocking music — e.g. “The Gonk” — in the background.

  6. Jenny says:

    Narcissistic Productions presents:

    “Groper in Chief and the Grifter Family.”    Where real life doesn’t exist in a world of fraud, cons and lies.  A fake production, fake characters and fake stories produced for an unconscious audience.  Already in syndication.

  7. Sharon says:

    I agree. Whiny little bitch. Pouting toddler. Dickless wonder. All are more potent than liar. He revels in mendacity.

  8. Bobby Gladd says:

    For you esteemed attorneys in this Commentariat.
    Riddle me this.

    Say I’m a “Constitutional Conservative” “Strict Constructionist” “Originalist / Textualist.”

    I scour the entirety of the Constitution multiple times and find not one word nor phrase setting forth procedure for “shutting down the government.”

    Now, Article I, Section 5 authorizes both Houses of Congress to set their own rules of procedure. So, I search out the current pdf copies of those, and, again, not one word nor phrase explicating shutdown processes.

    The Constitution, consequently, seems to assume 24/7/365.25 operation. Just as — a good bit more explicitly — “the validity of the public debt shall not be questioned” (Amendment XIV, Section 4 (Tangentially, neither is there any language in the Constitution for dissolving the government.” Does that require an Amendment?)

    Not that I’ve checked, but I’m fairly confident that such shutdown-procedure language exists in the statutes governing operations of various federal departments and agencies — but those cannot map back to Constitutional authority (recall, I’m channeling a Scalia).

    Just strikes me as odd. You have to do a lot of “penumbral, emanating” “construe-ing” to get there, ‘eh?

    And, oh, yeah, erratum:

    Look, Mr. 45th rate POTUS, there either IS a southern border “national emergency” or there ISN’T one. Quit the lame, utterly transparent trolling that “I might call a national emergency if I want to.”

  9. OldTulsaDude says:

    The most reliable method to reframe Individual-1 as unimportant is for the media to ignore him. This is difficult if not impossible in a 24-hour-cable-news world but it might be possible to at least ignore the lies.

  10. AitchD says:

    I think in all their films together, Ginger and Fred danced at least once in each movie without any cuts, one mobile camera’s long take.

  11. Bay State Librul says:

    Obsessed…. good link to Mueller and his writing style.

    Let’s hope we get a combination of Ernest Hemingway and Michael Lewis.

  12. AnotherKevin says:

    Up above someone pointed out the quote “You don’t make anything up. But you accentuate things that you see as themes.” I can’t respond to their post, so I’ll start a new one. About 6-8 years ago my wife worked part time for a while as a reality show “transcriber” while she was going back to school (you could do the work from home). Every minute of video for these shows must be transcribed, with time codes, so that the team of editors can rapidly sort though the footage and find the clips they need. As noted in the New Yorker article, that’s hundreds of hours of footage for each hour that’s used. The work is brain-numbingly boring, but having listened to a few hours of the unedited video footage of several reality shows, I know exactly how the editors “accentuate” things to get compelling conflicts and interesting storylines. The fact is, they can and do turn a mole hill into a mountain.

    One trick is the way participants are interviewed in the cut-aways, where they are seen talking directly into the camera. The off camera producer talks with them about something that just happened, with the camera rolling, and will repeatedly ask them to restate things so that their utterances appear spontaneous and directly to the camera (instead of their actual form, which is answers and comments in a back-and-forth conversation). When the participant mentions a conflict with another member of the cast, for example, the producer will dig deep, pushing and encouraging them to go further.

    It’s really not subtle. They will ask them to say it with more feeling and intensity, again and again, till it’s said with conviction. If the participant balks in some way, the producer will often say something like, “I understand that you don’t really hate her, but if you did … you know, if you really did hate her, how would you say it?” They will go on like this until they get really juicy soundbites, and will come right up to the line of telling the participant to make things up or just outright play act. Most participants know full well what is expected of them, and that they won’t stay on the show if they’re boring or uncontroversial, so it’s easy to create storylines out of whole cloth this way.

    I’m sure everyone kind of knows this – I certainly did. But seeing actual tapes of the process still left me slack jawed.

    And I agree with Marcy that mocking Trump supporters is counter-productive, and that highlighting the crookedness of his appointees is potentially much more worthwhile. But I’m also less confident about the next year. I’ve been thinking about the off-ramp from a couple of days ago, and I don’t think Trump’s narcissism allows any reasonable solution that doesn’t involve Republicans cooperating with his removal, and the military resisting any crazy orders. When I try to think of examples in history were very powerful leaders with similar levels of narcissism were forced to give up their power, I can’t think of any examples where it wasn’t very ugly and damaging.

  13. BobCon says:


    One thing I think might, maybe, possibly matter is an end to Rupert Murdoch’s reign. He’s 86, and he may be retired in a year or three. It’s unclear if his sons have the same interest in keeping his properties as drivers of the conservative agenda, and it’s even less clear if they have close to his talent for it.

    I’m not convinced the current model of Murdoch news is sustainable without Rupert, and I think pretenders like Sinclair and Breitbart have shown that it’s very hard to duplicate his formula. We’ll see.

    • Palli says:

      Thankfully, Marcy analyzed the Burnett article for us. This isn’t the forum for this discussion, but I can’t help observing the basic underlying cultural problem: the greedy capitalist control & derailment of the most universally accessible tool for Art ever developed – television. 
      “The medium is the message”, Marshall McLuhan. 
      Consider this a door we all opened through which the Burnetts & Murdocks crashed in to corrupt & deny “’Nature’ [and turn] the globe into a repertory theater to be programmed.” (McCluhan  From Cliché to Archetype 1970) 
      Now back to politics.

    • AnotherKevin says:

      I agree, I think we reached “peak-Fox News” a few years ago, even before Ailes left. It’s a calcified, dying beast. I have in-laws in Florida who used to have it on literally every waking hour and they found it too much a couple of years ago and stopped watching. Unfortunately, they came away with the idea that all the news is just an ugly pissing contest, and so they’ve gone from being badly misinformed to being uninformed.

  14. Wm. Boyce says:

    “We’ve shut down the entire government because an entertainment professional always refused to memorize his lines (or as someone on Twitter noted, use a teleprompter), and so the unstable hacks who managed him early on invented a policy promise that not even hardline anti-immigration experts want.”

    Actually about 75% of the government continues to operate because of funding bills passed months ago. The fact that Social Security checks continue to go out means that the pressure will build more slowly to end this idiotic “shutdown.” It wouldn’t have lasted a week if that had stopped.

    • P J Evans says:

      I know someone, a veteran, who’s waiting on government approval so he can get an apartment. That office is shut down.

      Food stamps are going to be unfunded as of Feb 8. That’s going to hurt everyone who needs food stamps.

      Tax refunds not going out are gong to hurt lower-income people most: that’s what they’d use for food and rent and car repairs and doctors.

      • Sunny says:

        I’m directly affected by the shutdown. The USPS Office of Inspector General, which investigates crimes involving the mail, is shut down. So is the USDA, which oversees state DHS offices and gets them to process applications for SNAP that have languished in their systems for months.

  15. Rapier says:

    We are trapped in the spectacle of celebrity and the handlers who create them. That the handlers happily admit manipulating the celebrity may provide some satisfaction but know that the celebs followers and those who gain from him will not care. Nunberg’s admission should be seen as an advertisement, rubbing our faces in it.

  16. Trip says:

    Either this is bullshit trolling by Nunberg (trying to make himself out as more important), or Trump, who is racist, doesn’t even have the recall for hate in his heart, then he is not able to carry out the functions of the presidency, if his brain is that addled.

    As far as the wall only being a device, maybe. But the MIC, including Israeli securities companies stand to make out like bandits with a lump of funding (which is what Trump wants with no oversight or limits on how precisely he’ll spend it).

    • Lee says:

      This is all why I’m disturbed by people whose only focus is getting Trump impeached / out of power / in prison.  Trump is a symptom, a pimple at the top of an infection affecting the entire body politic.   This all needs to be brought to light, in clear public view.  The opportunists who make a living out of debasing and destabilizing all that is good in this world need to be held to account.  The dynamics need to be fully analyzed, understood by the literate segment of the population, taught in civics lessons in schools.

      It’s a tall order, but well thought out and well conducted hearings in Congress for the next two years, and the culmination of Mueller’s and related investigations, are a start.

      • Trip says:

        He is indeed. And do people think that the GOP will suddenly act as checks and balances for Pence? THEY are driving the radical policy. Trump is still the front man who has unstable tantrums. But the goals are long held wishes of oligarchs.

        * Also I meant security companies/no securities.

      • allison holland says:

        He really does act as though he believes that money is his.  I believe he wants to be like a Marcos and take his cut of the deal. Its just something that if its said out loud can get one sued for libel even though it has become increasingly obvious that he has a real super real stake in this. He will never have enough money and he will never earn it. He will always have steal it.  And he knows it.

        Also i hope he keeps doing the little rose garden synapses. They make him look disembodied. I never saw the apprentice so I dont have any real idea of how it went but he looks like he’s floating.. floating ,floating wistfully out in space while he talks and talks and talks…any Firefly fan can see it.

  17. Mo says:

    The Dems can neither reason with Trump on the wall, nor negotiate with him on the wall. Trump wants the wall and will bully the Dems to get the wall.

    The question that remains is whether the Dems will cave in or not?

  18. Taxidermist says:

    Lee @ 6:48:

    It’s difficult to find unbiased reports online about national data, but here in Washington state from what I can find and from my own experience, we stopped teaching civics courses in public education in the 1990s.

  19. Wm. Boyce says:

    That’s not the only option. The Repugs may cave as pressure builds from beneath. The Dems know the majority of people don’t want an idiotic waste of money such as this campaign meme.

  20. Avattoir says:

    Read The New Yorker piece: that’s what the Show runners wish you to think is “the only question”.

    But Toad’s mind is such that he doesn’t even maintain the illusion properly: it’s a wall no not a wall a barrier no a steel fence no it’s border security but Dems say we got great border security which we know because I said we got great border security so back up the convoy beep beep we want Wall we need Wall we need way out of Wall which is … crisis, need crisis about Need Wall, etc.

    The multiple daily meetings are to serve the illusion that the only question is Who’s Gonna Blink Here? but no one’s blinking, and that’s only the script. The plot line is about The Way Out.

  21. Semanticleo says:

    I think psych evals are of limited value, e.g. understanding what makes a Ted Bundy tick.

    As Hunter S. Thompson said of Hells Angel’s, “Exterminate the Beasts”

    • Greenhouse says:

      And he should know. Hell, he even tried to warn the merry pranksters against them…a storm is threatening my life today…gimme shelter

  22. e.a.f. says:

    sums it up very nicely. No wonder he likes those meetings with Putin and Kim 3. Expect more of those. Loves the walks through the flowers. It reminds me of the movie, Peter Sellers stared in decades ago. Name eludes me, but the gardener didn’t talk, so they thought him brilliant. Who ever thought up “trump the president” ought to be charged with fraud.

    trump’s image of himself was carefully polished by those on the show and then it was sold to a lot of not that bright Americans. It really is time the education system in the U.S.A. is improved. Don’t they teach critical thinking in your country?

    The world is now left with this mess and it will be up to Nancy Pelosi to fix it, which any parent of a 2-3 year old can do,. Just say NO, go to your room or give the toddler something else shiny and new to play with.

    I just can’t imagine though how little Donnie will react when he finds out there is no way to have his wall. I do recall children who would tear up their rooms. Hope he doesn’t do it to the country. Well if he is nutty enough, perhaps they can remove him for being “mad”

    • Avattoir says:

      “Being There”.

      It was based on a novel by Poland-born writer Jerzy Kosiński. As with several others of his books, Kosiński was attacked for plagiarism (I’d suggest tall poppyism to the extent the antagonists were Polish, but as one can tell just by tracking what continuing difficulties those in charge at Wikipedia have with the accusation  popping up again & again in various  entries concerning Kosiński, there appears to be some exceptional determined reactionary political motivation still at work, something like what Soros has to put up with, their efforts not even having relented since Kosiński’s death 3 decades back.

      If you’re familiar with the novel Kosiński was alleged to have stolen the plot from, you’d see readily why that accusation was clearly motivated by something other than truth – & in ways that bear on our current predicament.

      Sellers portrayed Chance the gardener (“Chauncey Gardiner”), a character Kosiński created, both in his book & the screenplay for the movie, as an ‘innocent’: well-intentioned yet profoundly intellectually limited, therefore incapable of sophisticated thoughts on economics, finance & business models &  systems.

      But the protagonist in the noveal Kosiński was attacked for supposedly cribbing from was a shrewd & ruthless know-nothing lying grifter, with a terrible & terrifying past, who, when put under pressure, showed himself capable of premediated murder to cover his past. And in the other novel, this latter character actually declined an opportunity to be made prime minister because he was shrewd enough to realize he might actually win, which could or even likely would destroy him, as both the press & government officials then would be highly motivated to dig into his past.

      So the earlier Polish novel was about someone more like Andy Griffith’s brilliant depiction of writer Budd Schulberg’s ruthless con artist, Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes, in the 1957 movie A Face In The Crowd (Griffith’s rages as Rhodes are wonderfully Trumpian.). Kosiński’s novel was an attack on the ruling class, using Chance to show how motivated thinking feeds naivete & shared delusion. Chance wasn’t Trump, he was “Dave”.

      • Trip says:

        Interesting. Thanks Avattoir.  Andy Griffith was a woefully underrated actor, (I concluded after seeing that film). It was chilling.

        The Peter Sellers’ character was sympathetic and highlighted the vanities and vices of those all around him. I didn’t know about the (original) story where the character was much darker. It sounds like it would have been an excellent cautionary tale for Trump.

        • AnotherKevin says:

          A Face in the Crowd was, I believe, Griffith’s first film. It was almost his last, because the director used Griffith’s wife to trick him into a little method acting. He was so angry about it he decided to take full control of his career, and turned to TV and doing his own shows. He was indeed staggeringly talented, and The Andy Griffith Show is a big part of who I am.

          Oh, and great summary, Avattoir. Being There is a great film. And Sellars was a great, and deeply conflicted, actor.

          • bmaz says:

            Well, it was not the end of his movie career if you remember No Time For Sergeants.

            A different type of movie, but still a very notable one.

      • Justlp says:

        Thanks for the great writeup, Avattoir.  I haven’t heard of A Face in the Crowd before, but I just found it playing on TCM later this week and set it up to tivo.

  23. PR says:

    What’s the point of this piece? It’s a known fact that Trump is an idiot, self-serving liar who took funds and courted (and accepted) hacking assistance to steal the election. What’s the REAL STORY? Not the IC behind the scenes infighting or their catching up, the real story is the FUNDAMENTAL FAILURE of the GOP to conduct basic checks and balances; their collective and individual dereliction of duty is a REAL question of to what degree each member failed to uphold the oath of office. Is it obstruction of justice for Nunes? Of course. For Paul and his Russian trip and Rohrabacher and his Russian money? Yes, they acted in as foreign agents in specific incidents and belong behind bars. This is to say, a large part of reporting must drill down to examine to what CRIMINAL extent *most* GOP members acted. This is not some out there theoretical; it’s practical, most were willfully negligent and failed to act when they had a duty to act, and there’s direct harm. Gowdy should be in federal prison. We need a healthy, functioning GOP. Flake and McCain did their jobs. Romney is already doing his job. McConnell, one can easily argue, had larger duties and bigger failings to the nation as all the IC agencies, military officials, FS experts were further injured under his leadership, protecting of Trump, misuse of congressional processes to undermine principles and DAMAGE national security. Lock him up.
    Trump and his family of cheating no-good liars are sleaze. Face it.

    We must examine the extent to which Fox News participated in intentional misinformation to aid and comfort not Russia first but rather China. That’s right. Certain C-level personnel and employees are arguably guilty of treason. You can blame Facebook all you want, but the real trolls in America get paid from Fox News. They aim to divide and conquer on behalf of Chinese e-warfare and misinformation – Wendi Deng Murdoch is a Chinese spy.

    SHUT Fox News Down. It’s Un-American.

    Get conservatives something like WSJ TV. Whatever. Just not treason-based propaganda.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Populism from the left can be just as ugly as populism from the right.

      The point of this piece is foundational: even the most “obvious” traits have origins and need to be understood.  Understanding why someone is the way they are is fundamental to determining how to deal with – and in this case – oppose them.  And “obvious” facts have to be proven if you want to impose criminal liability.

      EW’s work attempts to overcome two truisms that haunt progress: ignorance and inertia. Or, in the phraseology of historians: Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it; if history shows us nothing else, it is that we do not learn from it.

      Those who are interested in superficial obviousness will not find much satisfaction on this site.

  24. JKSF says:

    The solution is regular public hearings to satisfy the news cycle. The House Democrats need to make everyday a new episode of Motherfucker Apprentice.

  25. oldoilfieldhand says:

    Reality TV Star and successful businessman, Presindebt Donald Trump…Reality TV is as close to reality as Donald Trump is to being successful. Without the editors, rewrites, out of focus cameras, girdle, combover, NBC’s conference room and the NRA and daddy’s tax laundered money, Trump is an addled fat guy with bad hair with a salad shooter’s grasp of business. It would almost be funny if it wasn’t so tragic for our children and our country. Our last best hope seems to be the Mueller investigation and the passionate new female members of the House of Representatives. We still have a chance, regardless of the corporate media’s preference, to change not only the resident of the White House but the staid, tired and corrupt members of the Senate in 2020. Nominate, donate your time and money, work for and elect women who believe in democracy. Thank you Marcy Wheeler for showing what can be done, for believing and caring enough to help sort out the facts from the noise!

    • Sharon says:

      Old Oilfield Hand:

      “…Trump is an addled fat guy with bad hair with a salad shooter’s grasp of business.”

      I don’t know how to credit you, but I’m going to post that on Twitter. It’s wonderful! Thanks for the laugh.

  26. J. H. Frank says:

    @Ken Muldrew, since it’s not letting me thread a reply:

    There’s no contradiction there.

    “Originally, Burnett had planned to cast a different mogul in the role of host each season. But Trump took to his part more nimbly than anyone might have predicted. He wouldn’t read a script—he stumbled over the words and got the enunciation all wrong.”

    There’s a difference between the standard for hosts and the standard for contestants.

  27. Eureka says:

    This framing issue is part of why I was celebrating, the other day, Pelosi’s strategic use of silence. Let Trump fill that vacuum, and soon enough he’ll be ever-naked. Now that Pelosi is officially ‘more’ present as Speaker, there will be more opportunities for her well-placed words to let Trump nervously chitter responsibility for his nonsense.

    I also think of frame-shifting by the creation of new presences, e.g. AOC and Tlaib this week: we can be the fun smart ones, indeed. Who can deny the charisma?

    Real star power comes when others feel good in one’s presence, and I think Dems have a good peppering of folks who make people feel good about themselves. Genuinely. And we still have more yet to meet.

    • Eureka says:

      ADD just to be clear, I think wrapping a celebration story-telling with “We’re gonna impeach the MF” is charismatic.  I mean, who among us a beer or two in… (assuming such was consumed or not)?

    • Super Nintendo Chalmers says:

      Remember when the GOP actually thought it was a good idea in 2008 to run attack ads against “celebrity” Obama?

  28. di says:

    thank you for this wonderful piece to remind us of what is reality. my biggest critique has beyond this man. that is just too weird. my biggest critique is how this country does not acknowledge that he is not the biggest problem, but the problem is the system that carried him to his place of power. if he were black or brown, he would have never got to this place. but somehow, the american system allows, supports and legitimizes this lunacy. can’t entirely blame him because a bunch of powerful elite people and a system made all this possible. all at expense of the poor common fooled taxpayer for the further enrichment and empowerment of the elite. that’s what we should examine. why the immoral military industrial complex is willing to sell all our souls out for this. then again, we have a history of previous administrations with numerous war crimes that have never been confronted. so not much new.

  29. Tom says:

    Humpty Trumpty wanted a wall,
    Humpty Trumpty had a great fall.

    I think the Peter Sellers movie e.a.f. referred to above was “Being There”.

  30. Bay State Librul says:

    I’m with PR comments.
    I could give one fuck about the Apprentice.
    Let’s focus on one of the least talked about discussions, that of our “inalienable” right to the “Pursuit of Happiness”
    The Con Man has made sadness one of his campaign goals.
    A friend notes, “Impeach the motherfucker!” Words that ring true. Words to live by. Words to sew on a flag.

  31. Mitch Neher says:

    emptywheel said, “Your typical Trump voter isn’t going to give a damn that Trump is lying until some policy . . . ends up making them feel personally betrayed.

    That last of the self-imagined productive sycophants left . . . [t]hat creates a vacuum in the function of framing Trump’s image.”

    I still suspect Trump may make policy decisions based primarily upon the scores for likes, follows and retweets on his Twitter feed. Whether, or how much, those scores have been rigged by Putin’s Chef remains to be seen. But government by Tweet-Mob is not so much a vacuum in the function of framing Trump’s image as it is the heretofore naturally-abhorred vacuum itself.

    If so, then the only way Trump’s Tweet-Mob will feel personally betrayed is if Trump makes a policy decision contrary to the dictates of Trump’s Tweet-Mob. And if that happens, then Trump will need new handlers to reframe his image and we might get an inkling as to how much Prigozhin pads Trump’s likes, follows and retweets. Or not.

    • Mitch Neher says:

      On second thought, if Trump ever contradicts his Tweet-Mob, then they will surely attribute that betrayal to the old deep-state coup d’état conspiracy theory.

  32. Trip says:

    Trump impulsively says that the US military is pulling out of Syria. (A good idea that lacked planning and a heads-up for all involved). But now we have warmonger Bolton, kissing Netanyahu’s ring, and using the pretext of an agreement with Turkey about not obliterating the Kurds as a reason to stay.

    The problem with that is Bolton doesn’t believe in international law or agreements. He has written about this for many years, and in fact, he uses this position as a reason to escalate with Iran.

    If Trump was your drain the swamp anti-establishment guy, why is he embracing the worst of the neocons?

  33. Rapier says:

    Completely off topic but some forensics into the Accosta lead Southern District of Florida DOJ office Epstein plea agreement would be interesting.  Especially the staff who were involved and where they are now.

    • Trip says:

      More off topic than that, but the R Kelly revelations are super-fucked up too. Have you caught any of it? Supposedly he paid off witnesses during his trial. There are so many (minor) girls who were victims of his brainwashing abusive cult, and yet he walks free. It made me think of Epstein again. No way he suddenly changed his ways either.

  34. NorskieFlamethrower says:

    @Tom 4:02am

    Trumpty Dumpty sat on his wall
    Trumpty Dumpty had a great fall
    All Putin’s hackers and all Kochs’ men
    Couldn’t put the bastard back together again

  35. Trip says:

    Hahaha. Julian Assange pens “a 140 ways I’m misunderstood” (including abiding love of the US, that he actually bathes more than Jim Morrison, and *Aside, I’m grateful that he didn’t kill his cat).

    But the “legal, not for publication” note was an obvious double dog dare to print it, so everyone would have to indulge his listicle PR points. Well-played.

  36. Trip says:

    Last thing. Republicans and some Democrats like Schumer, think taking away First Amendment Rights are more important than opening the government:
    Outrage as senators push bill that ‘punishes Americans’ for boycotts against Israel — instead of one that reopens government

    “In the midst of a partial government shutdown, Democratic and Republican senators have decided that one of their first orders of business… should be to sneak through a bill that would weaken Americans’ First Amendment protections,” Ruane declared.
    “The bill, Combatting BDS Act, encourages states to adopt the very same anti-boycott laws that two federal courts blocked on First Amendment grounds,” she continued. “The legislation, like the unconstitutional state anti-boycott laws it condones, sends a message to Americans that they will be penalized if they dare to disagree with their government. We therefore urge senators to vote no on the Combatting BDS Act.”…In the last Congress, Rubio’s bill was co-sponsored by six received the backing of at least six Democrats who are still in the Senate: Bob Menendez (N.J.); Joe Manchin (W.Va.); Ben Cardin (Md.); Ron Wyden (Ore.); Gary Peters (Mich.); and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.).
    As The Intercept reported, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) “plans to support the Rubio bill, rather than whip votes against it.” If all seven Democrats back Rubio’s bill, it will have enough votes to pass the Senate.

  37. Trip says:

    Broadcasters should not air Trump’s plea for the wall across networks at primetime. We know his bullshit. THIS IS NOT AN EMERGENCY because he wants to please Ann Coulture or Rush Limbaugh. He has already stated he doesn’t care about “Democrat” fed employees working without a paycheck, and has established that he sees himself as president of only a small portion of the country (his base), all others are enemies or haters. Let him air his continuous tantrum laden grievances on Fox News. Leave the rest of us the fuck alone.

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