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Political Mercury

Donald Trump, a modern-day Orson Welles


Back in 1938, Orson Welles famously exposed the Great American Gullibility. With his Mercury Theatre On The Air, Welles, adapting “War Of The Worlds,” used a series of simulated news bulletins to convince radio listeners that aliens were attacking Earth.

Real estate magnate and television personality Donald Trump brought his swagger to Des Moines for a conservative event hosted by Congressman Steve King in January. Photo By Douglas Burns

Real estate magnate and television personality Donald Trump brought his swagger to Des Moines for a conservative event hosted by Congressman Steve King in January.
Photo By Douglas Burns

Earthlings of 2015, welcome to Mars.

With each new outrage, provocation, charge and recrimination — the most recent always more eye-rolling than the previous — one has to wonder: Is Donald Trump channeling Orson Welles?

Trump, the orange-haired ringleader of “The Apprentice,” surely will reveal footage, back-stage, behind-the-scenes stuff, of his merry troupe plotting all sorts of mayhem for the Republican presidential field, all done in jest, all aimed at proving what saps the media are, what dopes Americans have become in our obese consumption of junk-food news.


It would be one hell of a documentary. And I think that’s what Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is about, a film exposing the absurdity of our politics, indeed American life itself, today.

First goes the likely reasoning of the Trump production squad, let’s expose as fraud this notion that America entered a “post-racial” era with the 2008 election of Barack Obama. Divisive broad-brushing of ethnic groups works as well or better now than it did in the 1840s. If the Know Nothing Party had Twitter to work with, Irish may still not need to apply. If Stephen Douglas had Facebook in his campaign against Lincoln, perhaps residents of Maryville, Missouri, could still own slaves.

So, Team Trump reasons, let’s just make an outright racist comment about Latino immigrants, and then go to Arizona, get behind a podium and defend it amid all the trappings of serious presidential campaigning.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said. “They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

It’s amazing what it takes these days to buy the national narrative for a week. Forget the hotel wheeling and dealing, Trump bought something far more precious than land for a golf course. He now owns real estate in Americans’ very heads.

Next, Trump figures, let’s grab the headlines from a cattle call of Iowa Republicans in Ames. So there’s The Donald in central Iowa on Saturday, sucking up so much oxygen that corn-crop yields in Boone were probably affected, with his diminishing take on Sen. John McCain.

“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said at the Family Leadership Summit. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK? I hate to tell you. He’s a war hero because he was captured, OK?”

Cue media circus.

Shortly after Trump made the comments in Ames, Republican Iowa front-runner Scott Walker, who has wisely eschewed public acknowledgement of all things Trump, led off a speech in Carroll with a condemnation of Trump’s McCain remarks.

In a Sunday piece, The New York Times details some creepy comments from Trump.

“I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her,” Trump said.

Most people I know around here wouldn’t be friends with anyone who said something like that, much less consider him for the presidency.

The national media Sunday was absolutely pregnant with commentary on Trump, analysis of his comments and what they mean for him and the Republican Party.

The most recent Real Clear Politics aggregation of major national polls shows Trump with 15 percent support for the Republican nomination for president — putting him in a statistical dead heat with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the very picture of the credible candidate, the establishment voice.

Trump is playing our country.

And that’s how all this ends, with a rollout of a Donald Trump documentary lampooning this nation for throwing away its serious newspapers, for ditching the attention span it takes to understand the Iran nuclear deal or climate change or even the minimum wage. No, no, none of that, say Mr. and Mrs. America. Titillate us on Twitter. Offend us online. We are a nation hungering to be victims of someone else’s meanness, insults. We are weak, and you are strong, Mr. Trump.

Donald Trump may not be president, but we are living in his America.

Off in the distance, you can, ever so faintly on approach, hear the words coming in the winter of 2016 …

And the acting and directing Oscars go to … Donald Trump … for “America, Land Of Suckers.” CV

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who resides in Carroll. He and his family own and publish newspapers in Carroll, Jefferson and other neighboring communities.


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