Well, the joke’s on us. Remember during the recent “Saturday Night Live” anniversary special when Sarah Palin conducted a faux Q&A with Jerry Seinfeld? It went like this:
Palin: “How much do you think (producer) Lorne Michaels would pay me if I were to run in 2016?” (Big laugh.)
Seinfeld: “Run for president, Sarah? I don’t think there’s a number too big!”
Palin: “Okay, just hypothetically then, what if I were to choose Donald Trump as my running mate?” (Even bigger laugh.)
Seinfeld: “Sarah, you’re teasing us! That’s not nice.”
Mind you, this was the funniest, most outrageous political joke the writers at SNL could conjure: that Palin and/or Trump would have the audacity to make another run for the White House.
Less than two weeks later, Trump - in all apparent, bombastic seriousness - tells the Washington Post that he has hired staffers in key states to lay plans for a presidential run. He met with GOP National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, and will appear with early front-runner Jeb Bush before the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Let’s be clear: Donald Trump isn’t just a political laughingstock - a “celebrity bomb-thrower” as the Post referred to him - he’s generally hated by his own party. A Des Moines Register poll showed Trump with a 68 percent unfavorable rating among Iowa Republicans, with half adding “very” before “unfavorable.”
A University of New Hampshire poll has it about the same, with 69 percent viewing Trump unfavorably.
“The last thing we need is another Bush,” Trump bellowed earlier this year. It’s probably the most astute observation the ego-driven wannabe has made, considering that until recently the sentiment was echoed by none other than Jeb Bush’s mom.
Trump claims allegiance to the so-called Tea Party wing of the GOP, a sector that stirs passion among some voters during primaries and debates, further fractionalizing the party. And that makes it virtually impossible for a more mainstream candidate, like Mitt Romney, to get elected.
With all its troubles, why does GOP leadership persist in allowing someone like Trump to appear at events with its legitimate contenders? One obvious reason is that Trump writes a lot of large checks to GOP campaigns, which buys him access.
Another possibility is that other potential candidates like to be seen as relatively normal and tame when positioned alongside the likes of Trump or Rudy Giuliani (“I do not believe the President loves America”).
Even without Trump, the Republican clown car has plenty of occupants, with Wisconsin’s Scott Walker (“I don’t know” if President Obama is Christian), Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal (“We have a president right now who is not qualified to be our Commander in Chief”) and Texas’ Rick Perry (“genetic coding” makes homosexuals similar to alcoholics), all staking out more than their share of outrageous positions.
Republicans should remember that Trump proved to be the party’s worst nightmare in 2012, blasting Romney, the eventual nominee, and embarrassing even Tea Party stalwarts by flogging the “birther” issue long after most people gave up on questioning where the president was born. Trump insists he has no regrets.
If Republicans hope to regain the White House they should start by curbing the trash talk and barring the door to publicity-seeking pretenders like Donald Trump.
“People around the world are laughing at us,” Trump told the Post. He didn’t clarify whether that was before or after he said he was interested in running for president.
Peter Funt is a writer and speaker