If politics is theater, then Sarah Palin and Donald Trump were on the marquee this week in America. Both media hounds were on full display, if not the campaign trail, each dangling the prospect of a Presidential campaign on news talk shows, social media platforms, and reality-TV as they hawked their respective hit television shows to a starry eyed public and ever cooperative news media.
Palin, the self-proclaimed “Mama Grizzly” of the wild and Trump, ringmaster of the empire that bears his name, are reported to be potential Republican Presidential candidates in 2012. Both have come to realize there are millions more to be made with prolonged public foreplay, rather than consummating a relationship with their political party or the American public.
Sarah Palin’s Alaska, debuted this week on TLC to an astounding 5,000,000 viewers, a record for the Discovery cable channel. Alaska features the 2008 Vice Presidential Republican candidate as a female Davey Crockett, queen of the wild frontier. A hybrid mixture of a nature show and a wholesome and heartland version of the family centric reality show, it’s shrewdly positioned as a contrast to the “Hollywood” version of reality shows such as the Los Angeles based Keeping Up With The Kardashians. It’s red state vs. blue state politics on the sly.
Alaska allows Palin to continue her long running media tour without having to answer the questions most serious political candidates would normally have posed to them. She recently castigated the mainstream media on Fox News as the “lame stream media” and “corrupt bastards,” selectively using those mediums that provide her a platform with which to entertain, tease, and continue to wink at the public at large. Along the way, she has earned a reported $12,000,000 and by all accounts that number will continue to rise for as long as she dangles the bait, and America is caught, hook, line and sinker.
Donald Trump, a billionaire real estate tycoon, host of the hit reality show The Apprentice and the king of hyperbole, doesn’t need the money. However, he has leveraged his name into a brand and broad spectrum of real estate, casino and media properties that pay him tremendous royalties and rely upon Trump to promote his worth to those who love him, or to those who love to hate him. Where General Motors might spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually in paid advertising, Trump successfully uses television as both a money making vehicle with The Apprentice and for self-promotion as he did this week.
Trump has played the Presidential parlor game before, primarily in 2000 when he formed an exploratory committee to consider an Independent Party run for the White House. After several highly publicized press conferences, he never formally announced his candidacy. No political platform other than Trump’s business acumen and tough guy image in dealing with foreign leaders, taxes, and the nation’s debt problem was presented this week. His appearance on Good Morning America with George Stephanopoulos, and last month on Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough, and on Fox and Friends, featured Trump’s comments on America’s reputation in the world, dealing with the Chinese trade imbalance and their purchase of U.S. national debt, and that this time around he would run as a Republican if he pursued a Presidential campaign. His interviews were light on specifics, he mischievously mentioned the website ShouldTrumpRun.com, and served primarily as free advertising for the Trump brand.
Both Palin’s Alaska and Trump’s The Apprentice are produced by Emmy Award winning television producer Mark Burnett, a business partner of Trump. Burnett also produces the hit reality shows Survivor and Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? It remains unclear whether these two part time television stars are on display due to their savvy use of modern media and the public’s hunger for all things celebrity, whether one or both have true intentions to seek the Presidency, or the realization of Bruce Springsteen’s lyrics in the song “57 Channels and Nothin’ On.” One thing is certain, there’s no business like show business.
Sarah Palin’s Alaska appears Sundays, 9 PM EST/ 8 CST on Discovery’s TLC
Donald Trump’s The Apprentice appears Thursdays 10:00 PM EST / 9:00 CST on NBC.
Donald Trump is a resident of Palm Beach, Florida, and owns, manages or licenses his name to numerous local properties including Mar-a-Lago Club, Trump International Golf Club, Trump Plaza West Palm Beach, Trump Towers Sunny Isles, multiple premier Florida condominium communities, as well as real estate, casino, and media properties worldwide.