One of the things you learn from watching political coverage, especially during an election season, is how important it is for the Big-Time Political Media to have ample opportunity to breathlessly cover all manner of manufactured pseudo-events. If, for instance, you don't get to spend a day blathering on and on in an idiotic fit about that time someone used the common expression "lipstick on a pig" and What It Secretly Means, you run the risk of having to actually talk about "the issues" and how they impact common people.
So right as the 2012 campaign season begins to teeter into what would ordinarily be a month-long snooze to Super Tuesday, reality teevee mogul and former pretend presidential candidate Donald Trump has emerged to offer up his "endorsement" of a presidential candidate. It's fitting that he's doing so on Groundhog Day. According to legend, if a teevee camera happens to alight upon Donald Trump's waffley comb-over today in Las Vegas, it means six more hours of bullshit! No one will have to point a camera at or talk about the widespread economic despair in Nevada.
What little intrigue that existed before this non-event took place boiled down to two questions:
1. What candidate will receive Trump's endorsement?
2. Will that candidate be stupid enough to actually accept it?
On the first question, we began with nothing but various rumors and sighs to go on. First, it was presumed that Newt Gingrich was going to receive the endorsement. This made some sense, as Gingrich was one of two candidates who signed on to participate in the aborted Donald Trump Debate and the only one who really vigorously defended it on the merits. (The other candidate who agreed to participate was Rick Santorum, and you really can't blame him: He's needed whatever exposure he could get to maintain his presence in the campaign.)
But later came a twist! News began leaking that it would be Mitt Romney that would earn Trump's gaudy imprimatur. Which was sort of odd, given that in the past, Trump has done little more than throw shade on Romney. In a long-forgotten (by Trump, anyway) interview with CNN's Candy Crowley, Trump said that Romney was "a basically small-business guy, if you really think about it." Trump went on: "He was a hedge fund. He was a funds guy. He walked away with some money from a very good company that he didn't create. He worked there. He didn't create it." He also bragged, "I have a much, much bigger net worth. I mean my net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney.”
In addition, here's what Trump had to say about Romney back in April of last year: "He's going to lose. He doesn't resonate, you know?" Trump said that in an interview with Meghan McCain, and if that doesn't demonstrate that we are deep down the rabbit hole, burrowing in the direction of sub-relevance, I don't know what does.
What possible reason would Romney have to accept an endorsement from a cartoon mogul who doesn't know the difference between a hedge fund and a private equity company? And who sort of holds Romney in contempt? Your guess is as good as mine! Romney, like all the other presidential candidates (save for Ron Paul, who is the luckiest candidate of all because he's in a longstanding feud with Trump), made a pilgrimage to New York City to hobnob with the reality teevee star, but Romney had the good sense to avoid being photographed with him. Romney has the inside track to the nomination and is in no need of a stunt endorsement that's only going to remind everyone about his strange detachment from the working poor. So why do it? David Corn had a theory:
The Romney camp had to worry that a Trump endorsement of Gingrich would hurt the front-runner's efforts to keep Gingrich from mounting a full-scale Tea Party rebellion against Romney. In the closing hours of the Florida primary, Gingrich was claiming to be the embodiment of the Tea Party wing of the party and trying to set up a civil war between the true-believers and the GOP establishment. Winning Trump's seal (or bark) of approval would certainly have helped Gingrich in this endeavor and, undoubtedly, caused the commentariat to question whether Romney really could win over the party's conservative base. A Trump nod would have boosted and extended Gingrich's latest narrative.
I mean ... I guess? But does no one at the Romney campaign understand the political fundamentals? Gingrich isn't likely to win a single state between now and Super Tuesday, Tea Party rebellion or no. Additionally, Gingrich won't have two nationally televised debates every week to mount his case anymore. (And, no disrespect to Corn, but the "commentariat" has not needed an excuse to "question whether Romney really could win over the party's conservative base." This is pretty much the commentariat's default setting.) Romney has 94 GOP endorsements. Trump's is one he should have happily lost to Gingrich, if for no other reason than to avoid cheapening the support he's already garnered. (The one thing I can say for certain that Romney did well in this whole escapade is that he managed to keep the media event as brief as possible.)
Of course, the other question that everyone's asking is, "Why is Trump doing this now?" Because doesn't he have his own fake prospects of his own fake political career to consider? All you need to know is this date: Feb. 19, 2012. That's when the twelfth season of "The Apprentice" premieres on NBC. There is no other game here, other than corporate synergy. (MSNBC has been intermittently running a "countdown clock" to Trump's endorsement Thursday, in a decision that I hope has caused someone at the network to feel ashamed.)
Anyway, this whole Trump thing has now happened, and it will probably spawn some form of discussion on the cable news networks under the pretense that it's important. This is an important moment for political pundits! Let praise and glory rain down on those who will succinctly say that this is a nonsense event that everyone can safely ignore. A pox on any who suggest that this is even remotely worth taking seriously. (I'm looking at you, Mark Halperin.)
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