A Fairy Tale for Pundits

Everyone knows by now that TV personality Donald Rump is, in fact, not running for President.  The only people who appear to be truly interested in this fact are the people who took him seriously in the first place.

No, I am not one of them.  Yes, I was quite irritated with all the media attention on Rump’s toy Presidential maybe-bid, just as I am irritated with the fact that the media continue to take Sarah Palin far more seriously than do the rest of us.  It seems that our media now exist in an alternate universe in which the differences between seriousness and flightiness, sanity and insanity, intelligence and stupidity, and most important, REALITY and UNREALITY do not exist.

Anyway, this particular chapter in media stupidity is mercifully over.  It ended when Rump got handed his charred ass at a White House Correspondents Association dinner and was obviously unable to handle it, followed by the announcement of the death of bin Laden right in the middle of Rump’s reality show in which he gets to act very tough and fire celebrities from pretend jobs.

Of course, this was around the same time as Rump’s silly reaction to the release of the President’s long-form birth certificate, as well as news of Rump’s various swindles, but the fact is that neither of those hurt him much.  The White House dinner and the death of the terrorist were dramatically different; Rump had been handed his own seriously charred ass twice in a matter of a few days and that was something even the most blinkered media mouth could see and understand.  It was finally that loud and clear: Rump was in the big leagues now and thoroughly over-matched by a President he was attempting to heap scorn upon from his own imaginary lofty seat (you know, the Wealthy White Guy Zone).

The sad thing is that this is an isolated case.  Rump is only one idiot of many, and I don’t see any domino effect in progress.  Yes, Huckabee is out, but Palin and Bachmann are still roaming the Earth with their political aspirations, at least in the minds of some, viable.  And as I say, there are many others.

So, with a hefty sigh, I give you the story of Pat Paulson.  Who’s he?  Well, I’m surprised that you have no idea and further surprised that someone, somewhere, hasn’t issued an oh-so-serious tome about his considerable political thought, or something like that.

My own memory only goes back to the 1960’s, but as far as I’m aware, he was the first TV personality — a comedian, actually — to engage in a joke run for the Presidency.  Yes, it was a joke.  But it was taken just barely seriously enough that his name appeared on the ballot in at least one state.  This was in 1968; his candidacy was launched on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour or whatever it was called.  Paulson ran for President (with less publicity) during every cycle in succeeding years, ending only with his death in 1997.

Thing is, most people knew his run for the Presidency was a joke.   After all, the cartoon dog Snoopy also ran for President during those years.  As far as I remember, neither Snoopy nor Paulson was ever mentioned with any seriousness on an evening news broadcast, much less in a newspaper.  It was clear at the time that some people are Presidential candidates and others are performers, or even cartoon dogs.  Even 7-year-olds emerging from the fantasy world of early childhood could see this.

That clarity was lost, perhaps, when a former B-movie actor was elected to the Presidency in 1980.  The erosion of pundits’ abilities to decipher reality from fantasy seems to have started in earnest then.  The erosion became further evident when an Austrian-born action movie actor was elected to the governor’s chair in California after uttering a few of the correct right-wing catch-phrases, and was so adored by his minions that a petition was started to allow this actor to run for the Presidency in spite of his foreign birth.  Yes, it’s true.  And yes, those minions are many of the same people who later joined the birther movement after Obama was elected.

And so it leads to what we have now: fantasy Presidential candidates backed by fantasy media empires (as in: a new radio ratings system has revealed that right-wing talk radio was apparently never as powerful as people have chosen to believe), with oh-so-serious media pundits jiggling their jowls about the latest joke’s chances of sitting in the Oval Office.

Happily, sometimes reality still jumps up and bites these people in their asses.  Such is as it was with Rump, who the media took as seriously as he takes himself.  Such is as it always was with Paulson, who never had the tremendous ego to take himself seriously.

May it be that way for all of them one day.

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