Donald Trump, Border Patrol, Laredo, Texas
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Far too many people, GOP presidential candidates included, earnestly describe Donald Trump as vulgar, narcissistic, uninformed or juvenile. What they don’t realize is that Trump and the media see attributes like these as his good qualities.

The better characterization of Trump and his run for office is that it’s vaudeville: a kind of political Three Stooges, with Trump playing Larry, Curly and Moe all by himself.

{mosads}If only, during the recent debate in Cleveland, Trump had waggled two fingers at Megyn Kelly’s eyeballs, or smacked Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) upside the head (“You’re having a hard time tonight,” thwack!) the picture would have been complete.

Some people are wondering how long it will be before one of the networks gives Trump another reality show. Are they kidding? He has the biggest reality show of all time right now. It’s called “The Donald Runs for President.”

Those people who are genuinely supportive of Trump politically (as distinguished from those who are just enjoying the show) may imagine his (and their own) chagrin if, the morning after next year’s election, the headline in The New York Times reads “Running as Independent, Trump Splits Republican Vote: Hillary Clinton Elected.”

Sorry to report, the only people who would feel that way would be those who thought he had a chance to be anything other than a spoiler. Trump himself would be ecstatic! Long before the Electoral College met to officially declare the winner, Trump would be proclaiming himself a kingmaker, a man who brought down the Republican Party and altered the very course of history! (At which point he would demand a reality show broadcast on all TV networks simultaneously, and who knows, maybe he’d get it.)

Trump’s foreign policy pronouncements are of a piece with the rest of his candidacy. Channeling Al Czervik in “Caddy Shack” (“I’ve built condos on the Great Wall in China. The good side”), one of the better Trumpisms was his boast that “I like China. I just sold an apartment for $15 million to somebody from China.”

It’s been speculated that the media will tire of Trump if his standing in the polls falls. Here are two reasons why this is almost certainly untrue. The first is that Trump is good for ratings, and the second, though I blanch to report it, is that there are a number of reporters, particularly in the Washington press corps, who are Democrats. So whether their rationale is greater ad revenue through higher ratings, or political bias, the opportunity to keep Trump in front of the public for as far as the eye can see is a kind of twofer for much of the media.

It’s said that Republicans are deeply troubled by Trump and unsure of what to do about him. Here’s a suggestion: Don’t treat him like a legitimate candidate — treat him like an act. We live at a time when vulgarity is the lingua franca of our popular culture. In such an environment, it makes no sense to try to shame a performer like Trump with serious criticisms of his language or policy positions.

In the Cleveland debate, Trump quipped, in reply to a tough question, “What I say is what I say.” The next time he says something like this, it would be wise for someone to tell him that he’s no Henny Youngman, and suggest that he try answering the question.

Maines is president of the Media Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes free speech, sound communications policies and excellence in journalism. The views expressed are those of Maines alone.

Tags 2016 presidential campaign 2016 Republican debate 2016 Republican primary Donald Trump

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