Two big political events this week. A new Congress started work and “The New Celebrity Apprentice” arrived on TV.
“Celebrity Apprentice” is now hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger, a former action movie star who became a governor and is now recycling back into entertainment. He is replacing Donald Trump, a former reality TV star now preparing to move into the White House. Trump’s Cabinet choices include one former governor who transitioned into “Dancing With the Stars” and is now seeking to become secretary of energy.
On Wednesday we learned that Omarosa Manigault, a former “Apprentice” contestant who’s said she’s done “20-plus reality shows,” is joining the new White House staff.
I think we are seeing a pattern here. Two major questions:
One is whether we’re going to wind up getting the next generation of political leaders out of these shows. If there were two tracks to becoming a future presidential candidate, would you rather collect thousands of signatures to run for the state assembly or just spend a month locked in a house with a dozen strangers and 100 cameras?
OK, you are a serious citizen and I do believe you would go for the signatures. But trust me, the future is not on your side.
The other question is whether the actual workings of government are coming to resemble a long-running reality TV series.
Senate Republicans began their year with health care. Their plan requires brave lawmakers to vote that Obamacare be replaced by Something Different. Nobody knows exactly what Something Different looks like. The Republicans are just sure it’s out there – sort of like the hidden immunity idol on “Survivor.”
“The answer here is bold action,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. Think of it this way: Repeal is Season 1. To find out what really happens, you’re going to have to tune in for Season 2, when Paul and the gang go off to a Pacific island, where they will compete to find the health care plan concealed under a rock in the forest.
But about the first week of Congress. The House Republicans started things off by voting to castrate the office that oversees legislators’ ethics. This was such a terrible beginning that you can’t help wondering if it was staged to gin up a little excitement and make Trump, who tweeted his opposition, look … bold. It’s like one of those “Real Housewives” shows where people walk into the room and instantly start telling X what Y just said about her downstairs.
The important thing was that Trump expressed his displeasure via Twitter, which is most certainly going to be the prime method of communication in reality politics.
How can you beat it? If the North Koreans say they’re building a weapon that could nuke America, you tweet “won’t happen.” Mission accomplished. If there’s deep confusion about Russian hacking in the last election, you announce that you'll clear everything up by Tuesday. When Tuesday arrives you can tweet that a critical intelligence briefing had been delayed until Friday. And just to be clear what you think of folks like the CIA, you put “Intelligence” in quotes and add “Very strange!”
This is the future, people. Little tiny messages that end with a teeny-weeny sentence with an exclamation point. Soon we'll look on email as an incredibly laborious method of communication, like our parents regarded 20-page letters written with quill pens. Trump saw the future a long time ago. “Half of my friends are under indictment right now because they sent emails to each other about how they’re screwing people,” he confided to Howard Stern back in 2005. “They'll write you a message that they’re having sex with 15 different married women. It’s unbelievable. Email is unbelievable.”
Trump actually did once have an email address, MrTrump@GoTrump.com, which was advertised as a place where you could both do your travel booking and get “travel tips and advice” from the man himself. That business is no more, like the Trump steaks.
However, the president-elect does still have a connection to “Celebrity Apprentice,” where he is listed as an executive producer. Of course, anybody can be an executive producer – you’re reading this, so you can call yourself executive producer of reading. Yet why would the future president of the United States want credit for making a cheesy reality show, currently starring a guy who supported John Kasich in the primaries?
If you think of an answer, tweet it.
Trump’s alleged oversight has not stopped “Celebrity Apprentice” from being a pretty pathetic effort at entertainment. This week it lost in the ratings to “The Bachelor.” The new candidate there is a guy named Nick who has already been on three reality dating shows before. He has not found love, so it does seem as if his life requires a new direction. I am thinking the next stop is the Iowa caucuses.