A Long Way

“Stupidity combined with arrogance and a huge ego will get you a long way.” ~ Chris Lowe

Chris Lowe should know. He’s one half of the pop duo Pet Shop Boys – and the world of pop music is filled with dimwitted folks who know they’re wonderful and will tell you so. The entire entertainment industry is filled with such people. How else do they do what they do in front of vast audiences night after night? Bury introspection. Bury reasonable self-doubt. Or have neither. You’re wonderful, better than anyone else, and everyone will see that. Sneer at others too. That helps.

It’s a different world. A healthy ego will keep you from folding in civilian life when things keep going wrong, even if you’ve been a bit stupid. Maybe you’re not a total fool. In the entertainment industry, a huge ego may be the only thing that keeps you going and assures success – and you can be as stupid as you want. In fact, it’s probably best to be a bit stupid. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, you’re wonderful. Project that. That’s what you’re selling. That’s what your agent is selling. Stupidity combined with arrogance and a huge ego will get you a long way. It’s worked for Tom Cruise – or maybe it’s the sneering Scientology. Either way, one’s success depends on uninformed arrogance.

Donald Trump comes from that world. For all his success in high-end real estate development and branded merchandise, his biggest success had been with his reality shows, Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice. Kevin Drum sees how that has shaped things politically:

To a lot of us, Trump is a celebrity real estate developer who likes to get into petty feuds with fellow celebrities. That doesn’t seem very presidential. But that’s the old Trump. The modern Trump still gets into petty feuds with fellow celebrities, but he’s also the star of Celebrity Apprentice, and that’s how a lot of people view him these days. … So here’s how the show works. A bunch of C-list celebrities compete in teams each week at tasks given to them by Trump. At the end of the show, Trump grills the losing team in the “boardroom,” eventually picking a single scapegoat for their failure and firing them. As the show ends, the humiliated team member shuffles disconsolately down the elevator to a waiting car, where they are driven away, never to be seen again. This is the price of failure in Trumpworld.

Now, picture in your mind how Trump looks. He is running things. He sets the tasks. The competitors all call him “Mr. Trump” and treat him obsequiously. He gives orders and famous people – well, sort of famous, anyway, more famous than most cabinet members certainly – accept them without quibble. At the end of the show, he asks tough questions and demands accountability. He is smooth and unruffled while the team members are tense and tongue-tied. Finally, having given everything the five minutes of due diligence it needs, he takes charge and fires someone. And on the season finale, he picks a big winner and in the process raises lots of money for charity.

That’s surely why this guy is doing so well:

Do you see how precisely this squares with so many people’s view of the presidency? The president is the guy running things. He tells people what to do. He commands respect simply by virtue of his personality and rock-solid principles. When things go wrong, he doesn’t waste time. He gets to the bottom of the problem in minutes using little more than common sense, and then fires the person responsible. And in the end, it’s all for a good cause. That’s a president.

This is stupidity combined with arrogance and a huge ego:

Obviously this is all a fake. The show is deliberately set up to make Trump look authoritative and decisive. But a lot of people just don’t see it that way. It’s a reality show! It’s showing us the real Donald Trump. And boy does he look presidential. Not in the real sense, of course, where you have to deal with Congress and the courts and recalcitrant foreign leaders and all that. But in the Hollywood sense? You bet.

So keep this in mind… For the past seven years (eleven years if you count the original Apprentice show), about 10 million people have been watching Donald Trump act presidential week after week. He’s not a buffoon. He’s commanding, he’s confident, he’s respected, he demands accountability, and he openly celebrates accomplishment and money but then makes sure all the money goes to charity at the end. What’s not to like?

That’s what he’s selling, and as Politico reports, the show goes on:

On Tuesday, Fox News chief Roger Ailes said in a statement Donald Trump should apologize for a tirade of tweets aimed at Fox News host Megyn Kelly.

“Donald Trump’s surprise and unprovoked attack on Megyn Kelly during her show last night is as unacceptable as it is disturbing. Megyn Kelly represents the very best of American journalism and all of us at Fox News Channel reject the crude and irresponsible attempts to suggest otherwise,” Ailes’ statement reads. “I could not be more proud of Megyn for her professionalism and class in the face of all of Mr. Trump’s verbal assaults. Her questioning of Mr. Trump at the debate was tough but fair, and I fully support her as she continues to ask the probing and challenging questions that all presidential candidates may find difficult to answer,” Ailes said. “Donald Trump rarely apologizes, although in this case, he should. We have never been deterred by politicians or anyone else attacking us for doing our job, much less allowed ourselves to be bullied by anyone and we’re certainly not going to start now. All of our journalists will continue to report in the fair and balanced way that has made FOX News Channel the number one news network in the industry.”

It seems he had told her that she was fired:

Late Monday night, Trump tweeted several times about Kelly, who had just returned to hosting after a vacation, writing that he “liked The Kelly File much better without @megynkelly. Perhaps she could take another eleven day unscheduled vacation!”

Trump also tweeted that Kelly was “really off her game” and retweeted a tweet that called Kelly a “bimbo.”

Then the Fox News team swung into action:

“Fox & Friends” host Brian Kilmeade said Tuesday morning that Trump is “totally out of control” and that his attacks on Kelly are “totally unwarranted.”

Host Bret Baier, who moderated the GOP debate with Kelly and Chris Wallace, tweeted “It’s been 19 days since the debate — @realDonaldTrump has made his feelings clear. But THIS needs to stop,” adding the hashtag “#letitgo.”

Sean Hannity, who had one of the first interviews with Trump on Fox after the debate and initial Kelly flare-up, also tweeted his support of Kelly, though he called Trump a “friend.”

“My friend @realDonaldTrump has captured the imagination of many. Focus on Hillary, Putin, border, jobs, Iran China & leave @megynkelly alone,” he wrote.

The feud isn’t over:

Trump has had a beef with Kelly since the first Republican presidential debate, when Kelly asked Trump about his past remarks about women. Soon after the debate, Trump blasted Kelly, at one point telling CNN’s Don Lemon that “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.” Trump was even close to boycotting the network, a source told POLITICO. But a few days after the debate, a truce seemed to have been met between Fox and Trump.

“Donald Trump and I spoke today,” Ailes said in a statement released by the network the Monday night following the debate. “We discussed our concerns, and I again expressed my confidence in Megyn Kelly. She is a brilliant journalist and I support her 100 percent. I assured him that we will continue to cover this campaign with fairness & balance. We had a blunt but cordial conversation and the air has been cleared.”

Trump made up too, in a tweet: “Roger Ailes just called. He is a great guy & assures me that ‘Trump’ will be treated fairly on @FoxNews,” he wrote. “His word is always good!”

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter last week, Trump praised Ailes and said he and the network were “fine now.”

“We were at war because I felt that [Kelly’s debate question about women] was unfair, and I let him know it. But it’s all fine now. They were tough questions, and I thought inappropriate, but Roger didn’t, and I’ll go with Roger.”

It seems he changed his mind, or was thinking he was still hosting Celebrity Apprentice, but Politico sees the dilemma:

The fight between the two camps puts both back in a precarious position. Trump, who is not yet advertising in any traditional sense, relies on the media to keep his name in the headlines and his supporters riled up. For Fox, Trump is a ratings bonanza. His appearance in the first GOP debate is partly credited with bringing in a whopping 24 million viewers for Fox News.

All that is in jeopardy now, then Trump released this:

I totally disagree with the FOX statement. I do not think Megyn Kelly is a quality journalist. I think her questioning of me, despite all of the polls saying I won the debate, was very unfair. Hopefully in the future I will be proven wrong and she will be able to elevate her standards to a level of professionalism that a network such as FOX deserves.

More importantly, I am very pleased to see the latest polls from Public Policy Polling showing me at a strong number one with 35% in New Hampshire, the Monmouth University poll showing me, again at number one, with 30% in South Carolina and the latest national poll from Gravis where I am again the clear front runner with 40%. It was also just announced that I won the prestigious corn kernel poll at the Iowa State Fair by a landslide. I will be in Iowa tonight with my speech being live on CNN and other networks. My sole focus in running for the Presidency is to Make America Great Again!

In short, they should have fired her. He would have fired her if he could. How could Roger Ailes be so stupid? Hasn’t he ever watched Celebrity Apprentice?

David Zurawik sees an impasse here:

If I know anything about the unpredictable media world in which we now live, it is this: Trump crossed a line with a very tough and powerful media executive. Kelly is the present and future of Fox News. Its ratings empire was built on the back of Bill O’Reilly, but he’s in decline, as anyone can see from his soft coverage of Trump in recent nights. She is the tent pole that will support the entire primetime lineup of Fox shows for years to come. And Ailes built her onscreen persona brick by brick. Her image was nurtured the way Louis B. Mayer built those of stars and starlets in the old Hollywood studio system. Ailes would be the worst media executive in the world to stand by and let the single most valuable asset at Fox News be damaged – especially by a reckless character like Trump.

This calls for some free advice:

I would urge Trump to go back to the fall of 2010 and study the fierce and tribal warfare Fox News waged on NPR after the public broadcaster fired Juan Williams for a statement he made about being uncomfortable on a plane when he sees someone in Muslim garb. Fox pounded NPR mercilessly for the callous way it treated Williams, and after an investigation was done of the firing, two senior managers wound up leaving NPR.

For its part, Fox hired Williams full time within days of his losing his relationship with NPR. I spoke to Williams at the time and know how much he felt the warmth of that Fox embrace from Ailes & Co. meant to him when he felt vulnerable.

And now, I am guessing Trump is going to feel the fire of the Fox wrath, unless he apologizes to Kelly – something I cannot imagine him doing.

Steve M at No More Mister Nice blog, noting that in the middle of all this, Ailes’ boss, Rupert Murdoch, was tweeting that he really wished that Michael Bloomberg were running for president, sees an odd dynamic here:

When questions arose about whether Murdoch would renew Ailes’s contract, which was set to expire in 2016, Ailes reportedly said, “Rupert is going to need me to elect the next president.” Ailes got that contract renewal – and clearly his job is to get a Republican elected. And not that kind of Republican – Ailes is supposed to get someone elected who’ll pursue an agenda somewhere between Establishmentarian and Kochian. Trump threatens that. So Ailes, on Murdoch’s behalf, is clearly expected to rein him in now.

Ailes thinks of himself as a tough guy, but we’ll see if he can really handle Trump. Maybe it’s going to be total war – but I think Ailes is going to see a serious hit to his ratings if he succeeds in bringing Trump down. But Murdoch may be giving him no choice.

And all of this stems from that which has made Donald Trump so famous. Real estate aside, his success was built on uninformed arrogance in contrived settings. Chris Lowe did say that will take you far, and Trump can’t help himself:

A journalist for the Spanish-language network Univision who asked Donald J. Trump about immigration was mocked by the candidate, then escorted out of a news conference here on Tuesday evening.

Jorge Ramos, an anchor for Univision news shows based in Miami, stood and began asking a question just as Mr. Trump recognized another reporter. “Excuse me, sit down. You weren’t called,” Mr. Trump told him. “Sit down. Sit down.”

Mr. Ramos asked Mr. Trump about his call to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country and build a wall the length of the Mexican border.

“You haven’t been called, go back to Univision,” Mr. Trump said.

As security officers approached Mr. Ramos, a Mexican-American, he said: “I am a reporter. Don’t touch me. I have a right to ask the question.”

No, Trump said he was fired, and Janell Ross takes it from there:

The billionaire later allowed Ramos back into the press conference, where the two engaged in several lengthy exchanges that dominated the remainder of the event. But none of those exchanges provided the moment that will be repeated in endless loops on cable TV, shared on social media and discussed in Hispanic TV-watching households across the country.

The lasting image will be that of Ramos – who serves as Univision’s lead anchor and is effectively one of the (if not the) most powerful newsmen on Spanish-language TV – being hustled out of the room after trying to ask Trump a question. Ramos, whose nightly newscast has been known to post ratings that top those of all three major English-language network news programs, has a history of holding presidential candidates very close to fire on issues he believes to be of deep concern to Latinos, such as immigration.

No one holds Trump close to the fire, not Megyn Kelly and not Jorge Ramos. This is Celebrity Apprentice. It’s his show. He fires them. But uninformed arrogance has its limits:

During the period that Ramos was out of the room, Trump described Ramos as “obviously a very emotional person” whom he does not know. When Ramos was allowed to return, the journalist questioned Trump about the contents of his immigration policy, and Trump’s repeated use of the term “anchor baby.” Trump defended the term’s use and comments made during his announcement speech reiterating the unfounded claim that the Mexican government is engaged in a coordinated effort to send the dregs of its society to the United States.

After taking questions from other reporters in the room, Trump turned his attention back to Ramos. Trump then claimed that he enjoys tremendous support among Latinos.

“Do you know how many Latinos work for me? Do you know how many Hispanics are working for me? They love me,” Trump said.

It was an evening filled with comments unlikely to endear Latino voters – or other Americans aware that Trump’s comments about Ramos’ emotions amount to an almost-direct reference to an oft-repeated Latino stereotype. And the idea that Americans of any kind love the people who employ them, well, that’s another matter entirely.

But there’s nothing new here:

In July, during his much-covered border visit, Trump cut off a reporter affiliated with the nation’s second-highest-rated Spanish language network, Telemundo, during the reporter’s question about the language that Trump has used to describe those crossing the Mexican border.

Trump grew angry about the content of the question, describing it as an attempt to mischaracterize his statements. He told the reporter that he was “finished.”

That sounds familiar, so this continues:

Now, Trump has engaged in a public tangle with one of the best-known names in Spanish-language news. During the 2012 election, Ramos’s reach and influence prompted both President Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney to sit down for extended, multilingual interviews focused on the issue of immigration. Univision is also the nation’s top-rated Spanish language network and an organization that cut business ties with Trump in June, canceling a multi-year broadcast deal with the Miss Universe pageant over Trump’s presidential announcement speech claims that rapists and other criminals are streaming across the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump is a part owner of the pageant.

It is, of course, unlikely that Trump’s response to Ramos will ding the Republican front-runner’s standing with voters who have praised his plain-spoken, often confrontational public persona. That’s precisely what some of them like about him.

And that explains this exchange:

When Ramos pressed Trump on polls showing his unpopularity with Latinos, Trump would not accept the premise of the question. First, he interrupted Ramos and turned the question on him: “How much am I suing Univision for right now? Do you know the number? I know you’re part of the lawsuit.”

Trump filed suit against the network in June, alleging defamation and breach of contract, after Univision ended its relationship with him and canceled plans to broadcast the Miss Universe pageant he owns following his controversial comments about Mexican immigrants.

“I’m a reporter,” Ramos said. 

“Five hundred million dollars,” Trump replied. “And they’re very concerned about it, by the way. I’m very good at this.”

Hasn’t Jorge Ramos ever watched Celebrity Apprentice? And Trump doesn’t need Jorge Ramos:

David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and self-described “racial realist,” says Donald Trump is the best Republican candidate for president because he “understands the real sentiment of America.”

The Klan, as you recall, also liked to “fire” tiresome useless people, lynching them, so this was inevitable. Stupidity combined with arrogance and a huge ego will get you a long way, to some really nasty places – but Trump’s reality show never really ended, did it? He’s still sneering at losers. America is still loving it.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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2 Responses to A Long Way

  1. Rick says:

    Reading Janell Ross’s Washington Post piece on Donald Trump’s defense of his use of the term “anchor babies” reminded me of something most people seem to have missed.

    Here’s what she said:

    Trump defended the term’s use and comments made during his announcement speech reiterating the unfounded claim that the Mexican government is engaged in a coordinated effort to send the dregs of its society to the United States.

    What it reminded me of is that, while probably most normal people, or at least those with a brain, would agree with her contention that his claim is “unfounded”, I’m betting that Donald thinks he actually explained, to twenty-five million people, how he knows that Mexico is purposely sending rapists across our border.

    He said it during that first GOP debate, in an exchange with Fox’s Chris Wallace:

    WALLACE: Mr. Trump, I’ll give you 30 seconds — I’ll give you 30 seconds to answer my question, which was, what evidence do you have, specific evidence that the Mexican government is sending criminals across the border? Thirty seconds.

    TRUMP: Border Patrol, I was at the border last week. Border Patrol, people that I deal with, that I talk to, they say this is what’s happening. Because our leaders are stupid. Our politicians are stupid.

    And the Mexican government is much smarter, much sharper, much more cunning. And they send the bad ones over because they don’t want to pay for them. They don’t want to take care of them.

    Why should they when the stupid leaders of the United States will do it for them? And that’s what is happening whether you like it or not.

    And while we’re on the subject of “stupid”…

    He heard it from Border Patrol agents! His answer was so unbelievably stupid that nobody seemed to understand it to even be his answer!

    You see, in his travels around the world, looking for suitable places to build wonderful and excellent quality golf courses, he has a lot of dealings with Border Patrol, the people who patrol our borders on the lookout for rapists and whatnot, and they invite him to their homes where, over dinner, they regale him with stories of their conversations with Mexico’s top leadership, some of which have confessed to them that…

    Okay, enough of that. All you need to know is, his evidence that Mexico is intentionally sending its dregs comes from conversations he’s had with Border Patrol agents!

    You would think reporters would be asking him more questions about this, although I’m pretty sure hardly anybody even noticed that he said it. It’s just too stupid to sound like a real answer.

    All I can say is, if this guy ever becomes president, the founding fathers are going to have a lot of explaining to do.


  2. Andy Hall says:


    Do you see how precisely this squares with so many people’s view of the presidency? The president is the guy running things. He tells people what to do. He commands respect simply by virtue of his personality and rock-solid principles. When things go wrong, he doesn’t waste time. He gets to the bottom of the problem in minutes using little more than common sense, and then fires the person responsible. And in the end, it’s all for a good cause. That’s a president.

    This is the natural consequence of the “executive experience” argument put forward in 2008 by Republicans desperate to explain how a the first-term governor of one of the least-populist states in the Union was qualified to be Vice President. It also underpins the ever-popular claim that some CEO would make a great president because they’ll run government “like a business.” Governing doesn’t actually work that way, at least not in anything aspiring to be a representative democracy.

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