Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Bill Simmons & Jon Favreau on Trump as a performer and American Politics as Pro-Wrestling

I came up with the American Politics is pro-wrestling analogy in 2007, finding commonality in the showmanship and psychology in both.
I primarily made comparisons in the world of punditry where similarities were more ripe. Personalities were larger and less constrained, the hours of daily TV and radio time providing a forum for feuds and angles to develop. Politicians cut their promos on the senate floor and on cable news shows, election season being the political equivalent of the run-up to Wrestlemania.

In the near decade since starting the blog, I've tracked instances where the media has used the analogy. For a time former wrestler and Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura was the perfect representation of the meme. This election cycle, the politics as wrestling analogy has turned into conventional wisdom as Donald Trump rampages his way to the GOP nomination. A WWE Hall-of-Famer, reality TV star and political influencer, Trump as Presidential candidate has distilled the meme into a winning formula for ratings and votes.

The Bill Simmons Podcast | Ep. 75: Jon Favreau and Dan Pfeiffer
JON FAVREAU: (10m 24s) My theory on Trump is, he's basically what you'd get if you had someone who just watched cable news all day, specifically FOX and listening to right wing radio
BILL SIMMONS: Like if TV created a candidate or had a baby
FAVREAU: He knows just enough. Because its all surface level, its all bad news. Its all about how everyone in Washington on both parties are a bunch of crooks and liars. Its all punditry. Its all talking about poll numbers. This is what he does. He's better at political punditry and reciting poll numbers and reciting who's up and who's down and all that kind of stuff than he is talking about issues. And you could see like in the debate last night, every time you press him past... He's like an inch deep and a mile wide on knowledge on just about everything. So you press him more than 5 or 10 seconds on any given issue. He can't, cos he doesn't know.
'Sports Guy' Bill Simmons is a wrestling fan with the privilege of recording the first podcast with a sitting U.S. President (Maron later recorded the first long-form podcast). In conversation with fellow Holy Cross alumni Jon Favreau, former director of speechwriting for President Obama they illustrate the politics as wrestling analogy and how Trump perfectly embodies it.

Bill Simmons at SummerSlam 2015,
with President Obama recording a podcast in the White House.
BILL SIMMONS: (20m 15s) I'm not positive what the debates are supposed to accomplish because its a totally unnatural interaction and somebody like Trump who's a performer, he's such a better performer than anyone else on stage and he's just blowing everyone away in these debates until they finally started coming back at him. But in the first couple of ones, he was just being a bully and it worked
JON FAVREAU: Trump has realised what most candidates, including my old boss Barack Obama never realised which is that they are complete performances, these debates. Obama was terrible in debates for a long time. He got better during the primary the more he did them...

SIMMONS: Why was he terrible? Was he overthinking it?
FAVREAU: Because he thought they were on the level. And he told us that. I though you get up there and debate issues with other people
SIMMONS: ...And it's pro-wrestling
FAVREAU: *agreeing* And it's pro-wrestling
SIMMONS: You're grabbing the mic and you're yelling at Stephanie McMahon, getting the crowd going
FAVREAU: and the way you have to, the way you're taught to answer a question in the debate is soundbite first, main message and then you sort of go backwards. So its not like you answer a real question where you build a logical argument from beginning to end which is what Obama does. He's a professor, a lawyer. In a debate you yell, scream, you ignore the question. It's WWF.
SIMMONS: *imitating Trump* "That's why Marco, that's why you're losing". Its like your opener. "That's why Ted Cruz is a liar". This is my point on that.
FAVREAU: That's like Trump the pundit again too right? The best moments in the debate is when he just says what everyone on cable has been saying anyway. "You're at the end of the stage Jeb because you suck".

SIMMONS: That's one of the few defensible things about what Trump's done these last few months. The debates are ludicrous anyway. They are pro-wrestling and everybody kinda danced around it and Trump was the first one that was like - This IS pro-wrestling!
FAVREAU: Right, I'm just gonna go with it.
SIMMONS: Insulting everyone and that's how you win this. His messages are basically just this big, black and white headline. This, that, this. You're a liar, You're a jerk. You're losing
FAVREAU: Low energy
SIMMONS: You're low energy. Its really tough. Poor Jeb Bush he just didn't know what to do
FAVREAU: Well Jeb is just -- he looked like a candidate from another era... the last time he had campaigned was a decade ago maybe. So he had been out Politics for so long he hadn't realised how much it had changed. So he still thought that people were having debates like they used to back in the day. He was so not prepared for what Trump was...
Donald Trump has been welcomed by some as Frankenstein's monster revealing what the GOP has become. In a similar vein, Trump's rise has also laid bare the values of News Entertainment. The Presidential Donald persona birthed from the resentments of the Tea Party and the bombast of cable news. Both astutely manipulated by Trump as an apparatus to deliver him to the White House.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Is there a Donald Trump exit strategy?: "Arrive, Raise Hell, Leave." Twitter Wallpaper

Twitter Header graphic:
Donald Trump "Arrive, Raise Hell, Leave."
As soon as Donald Trump threw his hat in the ring, some speculated whether his campaign was a publicity stunt.
Would You Rather: GOP Edition
STEPHEN COLBERT: That's right, Trump's voters will not leave. I think that represents a huge problem for one person - Donald Trump. Cuz when I hear this man say nothing can stop me from winning, not even shooting people. I don't hear appeal to voters, I hear a cry for help. Let's remember here's a guy who ran for President to promote probably a Reality show or his mattress brand or his line of premium ex-wives and now he looks like he might actually win... cause Donald Trump can't possibly want to be President. Its the hardest job in the world.
Whilst Trump has expressed his desire to be President and "Win for America" as far back as '88. Some contend his primary fixation is on winning, garnering the acclaim that comes with it but not undertaking the job itself. Donald has run an unprecedentedly autonomous campaign, seemingly writing his own tweets and speaking extemporaneously on the stump. Could Trump sidestep the shackles of bureaucracy and become Kingmaker instead?
The Donald Trump / Ted Cruz Love Affair
SAM SEDER: (1m 04s) What's even more likely in my mind is that Trump may essentially all throw it behind Cruz
CLIFF SCHECTER: I can see that. I don't think he really wants this. I think he wants it right until he gets nominated and has to worry about traveling around with the Secret Service and stuff that he has no control over and he doesn't have the freedom to be as much of a jackass as 100% Donald Trump could be and I think you're right. You could see him right at that moment saying, if you supported me and you believe in what I believe - you have to support Ted Cruz.
SEDER: I mean who knows? One thing Trump is determined to do is that Jeb Bush does not become the nominee. He seems to have a genuine, deep-seated dislike of this guy... It's all speculation at this point... I think Trump would much rather appoint the President essentially than actually have to do the work
SCHECTER: ... and not have to bother with all the crap himself but he could be the guy the TV asks about it constantly
Sam and Cliff's suggestion of anointing Ted Cruz was well before Donald's success in the debates and subsequent Primary victories. This was also at a time when both current frontunners were still amicable with each other. Running with the theory that Trump is after an exit strategy, Comedian Louis C.K. offers his own target for a possible Trump handoff.
Louis C.K. Slams Trump: "The Guy is Hitler," "We Are Being Germany in the '30s"
A vote for Trump is so clearly a gut-vote, and again I get it. But add a little brain to it and look the guy up. Because if you vote for him because of how you feel right now, the minute he's president, you're going to regret it. You're going to regret it even more when he gives the job to his son. Because American democracy is broken enough that a guy like that could really fuck things up.
Former APF Pundit cum Late Night Talk show host, Stephen Colbert continues to offer the best psychoanalysis on what might be driving the mogul.
VIDEO: Trump, Pile Of Meat 2016
STEPHEN COLBERT: I think if we're honest, I think I know what's going on here. Donald is just insecure. I don't know if Donald even wants to be president. The guy just needs constant validation, that's clear and isn't that what all of us want? Love. Just love and maybe steak. And if we just give that to him maybe he'll go away. So Mr Trump, Mr Trump, Mr Trump and I know you're watching because I said your name three times I just want you to know that everyone thinks you're cool. OK. You're smart, you are good at companies and business-ing and no doubt you're hung like a pool noodle...
Whilst offering no prescription, Bill Maher imagines how Donald Trump's reign might end. No doubt to the delight of many from both sides of the aisle.
Maher Fantasizes About Trump Dying on Stage, Jokes About Cheney Dying
BILL MAHER: Although, here's a little bit of hope, you know. I know, nothing ever seems to stop this guy no matter what you throw at him. You ever see the movie War of the Worlds, Tom Cruise movie, right? That gives me hope because, if you remember the movie, the space invaders are just totally kicking our ass. I mean, they got their tripods, they got the forcefields around them, nothing can stop them, and then they just die.
They just die. Nobody does anything. They just f***ing die. I mean, it's like they just got to page 100 in the script and went, "F*** it, they just die." Have Morgan Freeman come and do a voiceover. They get the flu or something.
Update: (March 30)
Trump is winning far too much for him to find a clean exit. Could a likely brokered convention be his last out?
New theory among anti-Trumpers: He's deliberately sabotaging his campaign
That theory, the "honorable exit," worked out well, didn’t it? Markay’s version is really just the "honorable exit" in the form of a brokered convention. 
Update 2: (May 26)
Now that Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee, what now for "honorable exit"? Why not just license the Trump brand to a Republican White House and get the VP to do the heavy lifting:
Trump Adviser: Trump Will Outsource Being President to His VP
Being president of the United States of America is, to put it mildly, hard work. It's an incredibly taxing job that involves making an untold number of decisions—a few big and splashy, the vast majority small-bore and likely to go unnoticed unless something goes catastrophically wrong—that will impact millions and millions of people. Setting aside the power and the prestige, the day-to-day job doesn't sound like one Donald Trump would actually want. And, according to his top campaign strategist, he doesn't.
Update 3: (June 22)
Rachel Maddow expands on Colbert's premise that Trump is doing all this to promote his brands and line his pockets
VIDEO: Donald Trump's Campaign A Cover For Moneymaking Scheme | Rachel Maddow | MSNBC
RACHEL MADDOW: (4m 26s) These are not the kinds of expenditures you would expect to see from someone who's actually running a campaign for President who intends to win the Presidency. The expenses, when you look at what the Trump campaign is actually spending its money on. What they're actually spending time doing. Its more like a Concert Tour. Its more like a promotional tour for a Celebrity who's hawking something than it is a campaign where you need people to go out and vote for you in November...
Its a racket. It is not necessarily designed to win the election -- I don't know if its not necessarily a problem to win the election -- think of the merchandising opportunities in the Oval Office? You can tell that winning *might* happen but its not the aim. It would be the byproduct of what is the principle effort, which is to make money.