Mark Burnett Brought Us Trump and Mitch McConnell Will Rid Us Of Him — Or Not


What do the most power-mad senate majority leader in modern history and a television producer known for shows described as “a potent cocktail of repulsion and attraction”  have in common? Between the two of them, they assured the journey of a floundering D-lister down the escalator and into the Oval Office. Television impresario Mark Burnett is culture and politics’ modern day Frankenstein, having created Donald Trump from scratch, for a very different purpose than the one he has ended up serving. Burnett’s initial interest in Trump was to cast him in a show which would be the urban jungle version of Burnett’s hit, “Survivor,” and lo, “The Apprentice” was born. Little did Burnett suspect at the time,

…his chief legacy is to have cast a serially bankrupt carnival barker in the role of a man who might plausibly become the leader of the free world. “I don’t think any of us could have known what this would become,” Katherine Walker, a producer on the first five seasons of “The Apprentice,” told me. “But Donald would not be President had it not been for that show.”

Burnett has a penchant for making his shows larger than life, certainly larger than the small screen upon which his turgid fantasies posing as truth, germinate. He predicted “Survivor” would become a cultural phenomenon, and it did — and God only knows the same is true of Trump. Burnett also viewed “Survivor,” “as much as a marketing vehicle as a television show,” and again, Burnett inadvertently marketed Trump as a wildly successful entrepreneurial businessman, when just the dead opposite is true. The fact that Trump is merely a cotton candy confection of fakery and illusion, the outright invention of a television producer, was perceived early on.

“Television brings people together, but television can also tear us apart,” Kimmel mused. [at the Emmy’s ceremony] “I mean, if it wasn’t for television, would Donald Trump be running for President?” In the crowd, there was laughter. “Many have asked, ‘Who is to blame for Donald Trump?’ ” Kimmel continued. “I’ll tell you who, because he’s sitting right there. That guy.” Kimmel pointed into the audience, and the live feed cut to a closeup of Burnett, whose expression resolved itself into a rigid grin. “Thanks to Mark Burnett, we don’t have to watch reality shows anymore, because we’re living in one,” Kimmel said. Burnett was still smiling, but Kimmel wasn’t. He went on, “I’m going on the record right now. He’s responsible. If Donald Trump gets elected and he builds that wall, the first person we’re throwing over it is Mark Burnett. The tribe has spoken.”

Now Burnett brought Trump to the attention of the world, and in such a contrived, edited so skillfully you didn’t know it was edited manner, as to reassure the gullible that they were looking at something real. But there’s another guy who guaranteed that Trump got where he was going, and that is none other than Mitch McConnell. You recall how in October, 2016, McConnell refused to sign a bipartisan statement, at the behest of Obama, saying that American intelligence agencies had evidence that Russia was interfering in the election. McConnell knew that to do so was only going to make his candidate look bad, so he refused to cooperate, above and beyond any consideration of protecting the validity of the election for the American people. This decision was purely based on party over country, but since we’re talking about McConnell, it would be naive to expect anything different. In McConnell’s world, the only reality is to gain, keep and expand the power of the Republican party. There is no other mandate. Anything that augments GOP power is good, and McConnell does not hew to a bigger, more moral worldview, or see things in any larger context. He never has.

As 2019 rolls around, two events are viewed with eager anticipation. 1. The culmination of the Mueller investigation and 2. the possibility of impeachment proceedings, assuming that what Mueller reveals is as damning as is expected at present. And any impeachment proceedings are an exercise in futility without McConnell’s endorsement. Simply, the question boils down to, does McConnell view Trump as keeping the GOP in power, or being a threat to the GOP’s power? This is the binary choice that determines all of McConnell’s policies. Daily Beast:

From Iran to Yemen to the Medicare Trust Fund to the policy governing fish hatcheries, he will take whatever position he thinks will protect his party’s majority.

And Trump falls under this everything-else rubric. Up to now, McConnell’s position on Trump has been totally amoral and mercenary. In June 2016, he said of Trump: “For all of his obvious shortcomings, Donald Trump is certainly a different direction, and I think if he is in the White House he’ll have to respond to the right-of-center world which elected him, and the things that we believe in. So I’m comfortable supporting him.” In other words, I don’t care about his “shortcomings”; we can get what we need out of the guy, and that’s what I care about.

And Trump seems to think that he and McConnell are still going gangbusters. His tweet on December 23 certainly indicated that: “Mitch McConnell just told a group of people, and me, that he has been in the U.S. Senate for 32 years and the last two have been by far the best & most productive of his career. Tax & Regulation Cuts, VA Choice, Farm Bill, Criminal Justice Reform, Judgeships & much more. Great!”

All I’m saying is that as you think about what to look for in 2019, that’s the Rosetta Stone you want to look for: signs that McConnell may be deciding Trump has become a liability. Interestingly, McConnell is up for reelection in 2020, assuming he runs again, so the question of Trump’s impact on Senate candidates will be personal for him.

If McConnell stays with Trump, Republicans, senatorial and otherwise, won’t buck him. But if he decides Trump is bringing the party down, Trump’s support will collapse fast. It’s not a very comforting thought, that the fate of the republic is in Mitch McConnell’s hands. On the other hand, if the day does come when he decides Trump has to go, we can be sure that McConnell will execute the deed as mercilessly as he does everything else.

What the Republicans have known since square one of this great Trump adventure, is that it’s not a matter of if the GOP becomes disillusioned with Trump, it’s merely a question of when. Trump is the GOP figurehead.  He’s an outsider in their club, albeit an outsider who, so far, has done them a lot of good. But there is no way that he’s ever going to be venerated like H.W. Bush or Reagan. Once he’s gone, the GOP will do its very best to distance themselves.  Watch, the entire party will retroactively become Never Trumpers. If the Republicans think they can plausibly run him for reelection, “presidential harassment” not withstanding, then they will. But the minute a tipping point is reached, and Trump becomes more of a liability than an asset, look for McConnell to unload Trump, and jimmy pronto.

The tipping point may have already been reached. It’s well known that Fox News has been behaving in a most atypical fashion the past few weeks, with Steve Doocy suggesting to Sarah Huckabee Sanders that Trump had “reestablished ISIS” and Laura Ingraham admonishing Trump to stop lying that his wall is already under construction. This seeming heresy comes after Mitch McConnell and Rupert Murdoch met after hours in McConnell’s senate office. There is no way that that meeting and these radical departures from Fox’s cultish devotion policy are a coincidence.

Maybe Murdoch told McConnell what was coming, because maybe Trump told Hannity what Mueller maybe found — or could find. All we have right now are a bunch of maybes. But as the Mueller investigation unfolds, the one absolute you can depend on is this: When Trump finally gets too hot to handle, McConnell will be there with a radiation-strength fire hose to wash him out, because McConnell fully intends that he and the GOP will be here long after Trump has ceased to even be the punchline to a joke.

January, 2019 will be another page turn on the calendar for most people, but for Trump, it will be a sharp downward jolt into a very unpleasant reality, as his presidency, lopsided and uneven at its best, careens into a near future with more political hostility than he has experienced heretofore, or can even imagine.

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