Excluding the physicality, the soap opera that overlays both pro wrestling and politics seem to have a lot of similarities these days. As the split between U.S. President Donald Trump and former adviser Stave Bannon suggests, outsized personalities, heels, babyfaces, jobbers, marks (i.e., fans who thinks the storylines/angles are real), works, lurid ring names, kayfabe feuds, shoots (i.e., real animosity), pretend friendships, promotion jumping, heavy makeup, and lurid promos appear as part of the drama in both worlds.
When the disparaging published quotes from Bannon first surfaced in Michael Wolff’s new book, President Trump might have been better served by merely saying “we assume that Steve was misquoted” about his former chief strategist rather than go for the smackdown with a strong denunciation of Bannon, later giving him the new nickname “Sloppy Steve.” This line of attack gave the book far greater visibility.
Although toning it down in this and other instances would have been the preferable option, the bombastic president doesn’t work that way, perhaps befitting a member of the WWE Hall of Fame.
Recall that Trump bitterly feuded with his rivals (e.g., lyin’ Ted, little Marco, low-energy Jeb, etc.) for the GOP presidential nomination, and he is now working with most of them to further his Make America Great Again (MAGA) legislative agenda. Same with many of the Never Trump lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Shifting alliances, just like in the make-believe wrestling world.
No one really knows what will happen in the 2018 and 2020 elections, but the real marks may be in the media and the entertainment industries drenched in echo-chamber confirmation bias who are so often triggered or trolled by Trump’s hyperbolic tweets, which kind of read like scripts for WWE promos perhaps, and otherwise still can’t process that Hillary Clinton lost the election. Given the unprecedented hostility toward Trump by most news organizations, Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, a Trump loyalist who reflects his base, has essentially accused the media of binge-drinking on the anti-Trump narrative, presumably for ideological or financial reasons, or both.
By the way, remember all the virtue-signaling outrage about a satirical gif that showed Trump close-lining the CNN logo at a WWE match and how CNN tried to dox the Reddit user who created it?
Yes, it’s difficult if not exhausting trying to keep track of the all the Trump-related controversies as they unfold, and sometimes Trump is his own worst enemy. In a slight digression, when yet another feeding frenzy or an equivalent aspect of anti-Trump hysteria (Trump derangement syndrome) breaks out at the expense of other things happening in America, fleeing the cable news stations for the Hallmark Channel(s) — assuming no wrestling content is available — might be an option.
In those sentimental, politics-free dramas, you’ll find that all the very sincere characters wear designer clothes and drive beautiful cars, and live in fabulous homes in community-minded (except for a murder here and there) locales. On Hallmark, an accomplished executive from the big city is also guaranteed to find her soul mate in her high school sweetheart with the chiseled jaw upon returning to her picture-perfect hometown for heart-warming family reasons.
Back to Trump. There is one constant in this polarized environment: Each time a controversy pops up, the media/political class takes the position that this one will take down the president. So far, they’ve been consistently wrong, as the economy continues to expand and the stock market sets new records, and Trump has been able to advance his policies on various fronts. His supporters back those polices, but not necessarily his brash, egotistical style, and people can and do maintain both viewpoints simultaneously.
Given their ideological leanings, liberals understandably disagree with the Trump administration on policy, even though Trump was a former Democrat and regularly mingled with progressive politicians and celebrities in his career as a real estate developer and a reality TV star. In their rush to help the Democrats, however, news outlets are willing to headline even the pettiest factoids about Trump without proper due diligence and which often result in retractions or “clarifications.”
Contrast that with that virtually the entire media accepting at face value and with minimal skepticism almost everything they were fed by the Obama administration. With that in mind, there is a strong suspicion that journalists are downplaying the pro-democracy demonstrations in Iran because the protests reflect badly on the Obama legacy that they wish to protect. This may also explain the media’s disinterest in allegations that Obama quashed an investigation into Hezbollah drug smuggling to appease Iran.
The Bannon stuff is quotes (likely recorded) that he isn't denying. Much of the book is full of hearsay anecdotes that categorically contradict things I saw and heard with own eyes and ears. The notion that @POTUS didn't want to win or didn't know John Boehner is laughable. https://t.co/2JHQALvlpk— Anthony Scaramucci (@Scaramucci) January 4, 2018
As far as the Trump-Bannon feud or rhetorical cage match, there are reports that Steve Bannon planned to walk back his criticism of Donald Trump Jr., including praising him as a patriot but waited too long. By then, the president went “nuclear,” accusing the Breitbart chairman in a statement of losing his mind, The Hill reported.
“Multiple sources with knowledge of the situation say that Bannon’s aides sought to impress upon him the need to put out a statement quickly. The aides had crafted a statement, which was pending Bannon’s approval, when the White House beat him to the punch.”
Bannon has since described President Trump as a great man on his Sirius XM radio show, Gateway Pundit reported, although there are now calls for him to be sacked from the Breitbart news network. It is inexplicable why Bannon would talk to author Michael Wolff — who has done some interesting reporting about the media industry — in that manner if he truly is a MAGA agenda advocate.
"Notionally accurate" is the new journalistic standard, leaving the fact-based world behind. Now it's a fair fight. . . for the first time. https://t.co/UOyfb7Xhib— Scott Adams (@ScottAdamsSays) January 7, 2018
While Bannon’s ill-advised comments were apparently made on the record, and the author claims he has tape recordings of an array of interviews with others who threw shade on Trump, various aspects of the book are coming under scrutiny even in liberal precincts. Several insiders and luminaries are accusing the author of fabrication, with probably more fact-checking to follow.
Business Insider observed the following about the instant best-seller.
“Michael Wolff, the author of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, included a note at the start which casts significant doubt on the reliability of the specifics contained in the rest of its pages. A number of his sources, he says, were definitely lying to him, while some offered accounts that flatly contradict those of others. But they were nonetheless included in the vivid account of the West Wing’s workings, in a process Wolff describes as ‘allowing the reader to judge’ whether they are true.”
Michael Wolff is a total loser who made up stories in order to sell this really boring and untruthful book. He used Sloppy Steve Bannon, who cried when he got fired and begged for his job. Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone. Too bad! https://t.co/mEeUhk5ZV9— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2018
Added the Washington Post.
“[Wolff’s] reliability has been challenged before — over quotes, descriptions and general accounts he’s provided in his many newspaper and magazine columns and in several books. Wolff has even acknowledged that he can be unreliable…”
For one thing, The Daily Caller has pointed that Wolff falsely claimed in his tome that Kellyanne Conway was never involved in a national campaign before going to work for Trump. The Caller also noted how Trump haters on social media quickly fell for a hoax “that claimed Trump was angry he couldn’t find ‘The Gorilla Channel’ on the White House cable package.”
The subtext of the Michael Wolff book seems to create a new and orchestrated line of attack for Trump foes based on the president’s mental health, which the POTUS addressed in a series of tweets this morning. Recall that the media dismissed questions about the health of Hillary Clinton, who suffered numerous coughing fits on the campaign trail and collapsed at the 9/11 ceremony in New York City, as conspiracy theories. Political pundits also condemned Dr. Drew and others for commenting on Hillary Clinton’s health absent a personal examination.
That said, that politicians and staffers in the same party or in the same administration don’t get along with each other behind the scenes is hardly a revelation or an infighting phenomenon that suddenly emerged in the year 2017.
Now that Russian collusion, after one year of intense study, has proven to be a total hoax on the American public, the Democrats and their lapdogs, the Fake News Mainstream Media, are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2018
....Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames. I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2018
....to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius....and a very stable genius at that!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2018
Like him or hate him, if you think that “stable genius” Donald Trump will be down for the count because of all the embarrassing anecdotes, which may be true in some instances, as contained in Michael Wolff’s book, you could be a mark, especially if politics is anything like pro wrestling.
As New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin wrote about the Fire and Fury firestorm, “every previous media-hair-on-fire moment has come to a forgettable dead end…One result is that reports of [Trump’s] imminent demise have been near-constant ever since he came down the Trump Tower escalator in June 2015. Those predictions have been nonstop — and always wrong. Of course, this time could be different. Or maybe the next time will. Or maybe not.”
Added: Steve Bannon has issued an apology for his remarks quoted in the Michael Wolff book, along with a reaffirmation of his unwavering support for the president and his agenda, so perhaps the Trump-Sloppy Steve tag team will reunite at some point down the road.
Update: In the move that many anticipated, Steve Bannon has stepped down from his role as Breitbart executive chairman, Breitbart News announced.