Opinion | White House

Juan Williams: The Trump Show grows tired

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What happens to reality TV shows when they go into summer reruns?

The ratings sink.

That's also true for a reality TV show host when the audience gets tired of seeing him repeat the same old act.

Before the 2018 election, President Trump screamed about a caravan of menacing immigrants approaching the border. For the 2020 election, he is fear-mongering by shouting about chaos and anarchy in cities run by Democrats.

As with all reruns, the ratings go down.

Now Trump is whining.

Last week, he stood in the White House briefing room in front of a national television audience and asked why Dr. Anthony Fauci is so popular.

Fauci, he said, has "got this high approval rating, so why don't I have a high approval rating with respect ... to the virus?"

Then he complained that Dr. Deborah Birx is also more popular.

"They're highly thought of," said a frustrated Trump. "But nobody likes me. It can only be my personality, that's all."

It's hard to believe, but with more than 150,000 people dead from the coronavirus and the economy suffering from some of the worst GDP numbers in history, Trump focused on himself, specifically his loss of popularity.

Could it be that his audience has good reason to disapprove of his failure to protect the American people from the deadly virus?

Could it be that the man who ran for the White House as a reality TV star has shown a lack of empathy as Americans struggle with the loss of loved ones, loss of jobs and the loss of normal life experiences?

Trump's disastrous mishandling of the pandemic has killed off summer music concerts and summer blockbusters at movie theaters. He has killed off overseas vacation travel.

His fumbling has twisted the baseball season, as well as the basketball and hockey seasons, into pale versions of themselves with no fans allowed to watch live action.

No wonder people are tired of this act.

What some critics never seem to get about Trump is that he is more a pop culture phenomenon than a politician.

"In the 21st century, fascism will not come with concentration camps and swastikas, it'll come with a smiley face and a TV show," Michael Moore, the liberal film maker, observed in 2018.

"It was that TV show that made Trump a beloved figure in the United States," Moore added. "People loved watching 'The Apprentice.'"

That insight is in keeping with something I first heard from the late right-wing provocateur Andrew Breitbart. He said: "Politics is downstream of culture."

But if pop culture celebrity is a winning hand, it is also a fact that Americans do not like reruns.

And in every episode of the Trump Show, the script uses the same schtick to hold the audience.

Trump's favorite schtick is making himself the hero. He alone can save America from - well, take your pick:

Remember when Trump promoted himself as the only man willing to imply the first black president was a fake because he was not born in the U.S.? It wasn't true. But in the Trump Show, only ratings matter.

Remember when he came down the golden escalator in Trump Tower to announce his run for the White House was to protect the nation from criminal, rapist Mexicans threatening the American way of life? It wasn't true. But it got ratings.

Remember the call to "lock her up," because Hillary Clinton's email server was somehow a threat to national security? Again, not true but it got some votes.

At some point, this act gets tired.

In 2017, a column in The New York Times predicted that Trump's celebrity act might eventually wear thin for voters.

Trump's "eventual downfall may be less like Richard Nixon's than Paris Hilton's," wrote Tim Wu, a Columbia Law School professor. "To live by attention is to die by it as well, and he may end up less a victim of political defeat than of waning interest, the final fate of every act."

Even more troubling for Trump, there are new celebrities to replace him, such as Fauci.

It was Fauci who was invited to throw out the first pitch for the first baseball game of the season - not Trump.

Trump then announced that he was going to throw out the first pitch at a Yankees game. Within days, the word got out that the Yankees knew nothing about it. They did not invite Trump to throw out a first pitch. Soon after, Trump announced he couldn't make it.

Trump also had no role to play in the national celebration of the life of the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.).

Trump declined to even go to the Capitol while the civil rights hero's body lay in state in the Rotunda - a first for an African American.

When Lewis's funeral was held in Atlanta, three former presidents, including Republican George W. Bush, made the trip and spoke with passion about Lewis and the need for racial healing.

There was no role for Trump.

Voters are concluding it is time to roll credits on the Trump Show.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

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