Must-see TV this week comes in the form of Bill O'Reilly's interview with all-knowing businessman, all-world self-promoter and possible presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Here's a link to the two-parter that ran this week on the Fox News Channel.
I don't ordinarily recommend watching cable news -- too much arguing, too little analysis for my tastes. But, in this instance, the O'Reilly interview offers a window into the current-day presidential process. And that window: some people run for president to win; some run for profit.
And I'd put Trump in the latter category -- especially when his idea of campaigning is to keep dredging up the Obama birth-certificate controversy.
So how does Trump profit from a presidential run? Do we really need to ask?
Perhaps he uses the threat of a run to leverage his standing within NBC (home of his hit "Apprentice" show). Maybe the campaign itself becomes a reality show (sooner or later, someone will do this). By running, Trump gets a mountain of free attention -- by working the system as he, a product of the New York tabloid world, knows how. Thus the provocative statements on the president's birth certificate and Muslim attitudes. Every time a Republican wannabe complains about The Donald (Tim Pawlenty telling Trump to cool it with the birther talk, Ron Paul supporters filing a FEC complaint), the result it just that more attention for Trump. Which is precisely what he wants.
Trump is not alone in this for-profit field within the greater Republican presidential field. Just take a look at Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. Sure, she has loyal followings in Iowa and New Hampshire. And, as the chair of the House Tea Party Caucus, she's a sound bite waiting to happen -- like this one, on Libya.
Here's how Bachmann gains by losing, assuming she formally enters the race but fails to garner the nomination. Bachmann: (a) remains the voice of Tea Party activists, even though she may plateau as a second-tier candidate; (b) because of said voice, demands and receives a speaking gig at the Republican National Convention (c) gives up her House seat (denied a spot in the House GOP leadership, she knows she has a limited ceiling in Washington); (d) forms her own political action group following the 2012 cycle; (e) makes a financial killing talking, writing and rabble-rousing ala Sarah Palin (who, not concidentally, also has to do some serious thinking as to whether there's more to be gain or lost by becoming an actual candidate).
If Donald Trump is serious about the presidency, there's a simple way to prove it: invest $50 million of his personal fortune in a real nuts-and-bolts campaign, as opposed to this current for-media-consumption fabrication. Otherwise, he's a political apprentice . . . with no real plan for getting hired by voters.
(photo credit: Gage Skidmore)