The unreality show of 2016

The unreality show of 2016

  • By Bob Franken
  • Wednesday, May 11, 2016 10:11am
  • Opinion

He watches from the loftiest perch on the planet. Barack Obama has more than eight months left to his presidency, after seven grueling years of trying, to mixed reviews, to keep the country and the world, from being consumed by crisis. But even as he continues the grind, he has become a spectator as the nation lurches toward choosing his successor.

Only now is he condescending to really engage in the politics that he has disdained for so long. In his trademark self-consciously cool way, he’s starting to participate in a process that has given rise to a Donald Trump as the presumptive nominee of a major party. Of course, from his point of view, it doesn’t hurt that it’s the Republican Party that’s in chaos. It’s the one that has been utterly shameless in thwarting his agenda, for philosophical reasons and ones that are not so philosophical, if you get my drift.

So here he was at his most recent news conference, taking on the master showman Trump: “This is not entertainment. This is not a reality show.” He’s half-right. It truly is as entertaining as can be. What works, as it always has in modern times, is campaign buffoonery. Substantive issues have little appeal for many, if not most, voters. Trump’s supporters don’t care if he’s caught in a huge mistake or even a lie. A serious discussion about solutions to our glaring problems doesn’t cut it. Just ask Hillary Clinton, who tries to present herself as a policy wonk. Unfortunately for her, she has come across instead as inauthentic or dishonest. She and Trump compete for the highest unfavorability ratings, although Trump still leads in the race to the popularity bottom.

The current president is correct that it’s “not a reality show.” When the two party standard-bearers are regarded as substandard by their fellow Americans, we have a situation that is decidedly unreal.

Right now, it’s Trump who is also sucking up all the attention, as he usually does. What he’s done to the Republican Party has been described as a “hostile takeover.” Those who have run things for a long time are providing plenty of entertainment with their contortions over whether they will decide to stay in now that the Trump barbarian has stormed their gate. House Speaker Paul Ryan has managed to position himself as the voice of reason. He always somehow pulls that off, demonstrating that he’s right up there with Trump as a master of PR. Now that Ryan has in fact painted himself as the conscientious conservative who’s not sure he can even support Trump unless they have a meeting of the minds, Republican Chairman Reince Priebus, the party’s main cat herder, has arranged a physical meeting between the two. There’s plenty of time to create a rationale for papering over their differences, not the least of which is their mutual desire to beat Hillary Clinton.

Even with her Bernie Sanders problem, Hillary has got it pretty easy at the moment. She has plenty of time to mollify the Sanders supporters before Election Day. Of course, in the minds of her detractors, that’s also plenty of time for seriously damaging information to come out about secrets hidden in her emails.

Back to President Obama: He showed his usual low regard for media. Granted, we deserve much of it, but when he says, “What I’m concerned about is the degree to which reporting and information starts emphasizing the spectacle and the circus,” that goes into the thank-you-for-sharing file. It is a spectacle; it is a circus. And as he knows full well, Trump’s supporters don’t want to be confused with facts. Besides, the Obama administration hasn’t always been dedicated to fullest disclosure.

New York Gov. Mario Cuomo famously said: “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.” Barack Obama has eight months left for the prose. As for the campaign, it’s less poetry and more incomprehensible babble.

More in Opinion

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Reflections on the Russia I know

My heart goes out to the people of both countries.

Anette Coggins poses for a photo in the Kigluaik Mountains north of Nome, Alaska. (Photo provided)
Point of View: The boldness of honesty

The phrase: “Family and friends smell like fish after three days” is not far from true

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, speaks during an interview at the Juneau Empire on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)
Honoring the fallen — and caring for veterans

Alaska has lost servicemembers in conflicts ranging from the Battle of Attu to the Global War on Terror

Opinion: The dangerous combination of guns and conspiracies

The hatred that’s crept its way into American politics is new. The violence it’s spawned is newer yet.

Jodi Taylor is the board chair for Alaska Policy Forum. (Courtesy photo)
Private school, state reimbursement: family choice

By Jodi Taylor Alaskan parents have a legitimate right to choose the… Continue reading

Opinion: It’s time for bold action to protect our fisheries

Our fisheries feed the world and sustain our unique cultures and communities.

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Hard to fill positions?

Paying poverty wages to support staff, secretaries and custodians is unacceptable yet routine behavior by our district

A copy of the State of Alaska Official Ballot for the June 11, 2022, Special Primary Election is photographed on May 2, 2022. (Peninsula Clarion staff)
Choosing a candidate – Who will best represent us in D.C.?

Voters are encouraged to do homework before casting a vote

Tourists watch as one of two cubs belonging to an 18-year-old sow black bear crosses the path between groups of tourists visiting the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center on Wednesday, July 18, 2018. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Tourists have pushed us to critical mass in parts of Juneau

I don’t go to the glacier in the summer now to hike or watch bears.

Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships. (logo provided)
Point of View: A few ideas for Mental Health Awareness Month

What are some things you can practice this month and subsequently apply to your life?

Sens. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, left, and Robert Myers, R-North Pole, read through one of 41 amendments submitted to the state’s omnibus budget bill being debate on the floor of the Alaska State Senate on Monday, May 9, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: The Alaska Senate’s foolish gamble

“All these conservative people just spent all our money”