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Trump doesn't really do reality... what he does do is reality TV

The White House is now just the set for a daily TV programme starring the president, writes Declan Lynch

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Welcome back to the show: Donald Trump has a TV tube heart

Welcome back to the show: Donald Trump has a TV tube heart

AP

Welcome back to the show: Donald Trump has a TV tube heart

We've mentioned it a few times here, this idea that Trump did not necessarily change his career when he switched from television to politics; that he's still essentially working in television, all the time.

But it's an idea that isn't fully understood; there's still this sense that he is just using the techniques of television to advance his other interests, when in fact he is making an actual TV programme, every day if possible.

Leo Varadkar, when he makes a speech to the nation, is a politician using television to communicate. He has a fair idea of what he needs to be doing when he's on the screen, but it is not his vocation. It is not his life.

For Trump, life would be inconceivable without TV - as much of it as he can get, for as long as it takes.

It was Gore Vidal, a man unlike Trump in so many ways, who confessed that there were two things he could never refuse: an offer of sex and an offer to appear on television.

Gore was being witty of course. With Trump it is no joke, and we really need to grasp the scale of this, if we are trying to work out what the hell he is doing.

Every day now, he does his show.

He comes into some briefing room in the White House with his 'experts'. Or maybe he does a 'town hall' with Fox News. And he does his show.

There is no higher purpose to his performance; he is not doing much to help the Covid-19 situation; indeed most of the things he says are actually harmful to public safety - but that doesn't matter, because it's just a TV programme, about him.

The experts can fill in some of the factual stuff, but they are mainly there so that we can see them interacting with Trump: he must always dominate them, or undermine them, by 'improving' on their theories with some innately superior 'hunch' of his own.

A personal favourite was the show in the Rose Garden, when he shook hands with several CEOs of corporations, before he had (allegedly) had a test for the virus. Yes even the mighty CEOs must submit to him, risking their very lives because he has ordained it so. And because he wants his people to know that the rules don't apply to him, in any circumstances.

The TV writer Bryan Behar tweeted on that performance: "Trump lies about disbanding the pandemic response team, denies having any responsibility, and attacked a black woman. All in response to one question. It was like releasing a greatest hits album as a single."

But even Trump has been challenged by the open-ended nature of the pandemic, and the awfulness of it - loads of people dying and so forth. He is not doing reality, he is doing reality TV, and so he has to make this catastrophe fit his format.

He does this in two ways: by selling it as a series of normal length, which is due to be finishing at Easter, with a happy ending for him; and by pretending it is not actually bad, it is good. He speaks of the great pent-up energy to buy things when it's all over in a few weeks.

And when he gets to the other end of that series - and it's not all over, he'll just do a different show - there will be even more reality to escape from at that stage, but he'll do it, because that is what he does. Living in the TV moment.

He even tells us it's all television, if only we'll listen. He came back after a break in a televised cabinet meeting with the line: "Welcome back to the show." And people thought he was making some kind of joke. Which he wasn't.

Again, he would never joke about that. Even his 'Cure is Worse Than the Disease' episode last week was first aired by some clown on Fox; indeed many of his 'ideas' are taken from TV in the first place. It is the only life he knows.

But Lord, how he knows it.

Sunday Indo Living