Sunday's New York Times might have benefited from a different masthead — call it the Times of Donald Trump.
The lead story was a breathless account of Trump's relationships with women during the past several decades, a series of mostly unflattering vignettes that took a third of the front page and two entire pages inside the first section. Another section featured FOX News' Megyn Kelly as she prepared to interview The Donald, whose caddish responses to her tough questioning a few months ago had elevated her to national mega-celebrity.
The editorial section had a half-dozen pieces on or about Trump. In a lengthy analysis, Greg Easterbrook concluded that lots of potential Trump voters won't admit that they support him. Maureen Dowd conducted a desultory interview with His Trumpness and turned it into a column. Other opinion pieces contemplated the impending Trumpferno with fear and loathing — but not all of them. Tired of Trump? Read "Fishes have feelings, too." Informative, thoughtful and never mentions Trump's seafood preferences.
So what's the takeaway? What did we learn from these authoritative, carefully researched articles? The 40-something Trump hit on 20-something beauty contestants and boorishly suggested to Miss Universe of 1996 that she needed to lose weight. We found out that, alone among his NYC developer peers, he hired a woman construction manager in the 1980s. Dowd reported that Trump has little regard for those whom he vanquished — "All those guys I beat want to give me advice."
Why are we so focused on Trump? Why did I waste part of my Sunday reading about him? Shouldn't the media declare itself a Trump-free zone? His appeal has nothing to do with what he says. Don't listen to the words — listen to the music. He's a guy who has had fun all of his life, has billions in the bank or lives as if he does. He's a happy warrior, even as he predicts doom, threatens to deport millions and plans a wall along the border.
He barged into the tidy, controlled, artificial world of national politics and casually blew it apart. Of course we wanted to read about The Donald, and of course it was gratifying to see him take down the 17 dwarves lined up onstage like so many eager supplicants on The Apprentice.
It was a reminder that politicians don't have to be drab, colorless and inauthentic, carefully constructed fakes in dark suits with flag pins. That's a positive takeaway, but there's another message.
What Richard Hofstadter identified decades ago as the "paranoid style in American politics" has metamorphosed into something else. Call it P.T. Barnum meets social media, bringing in tens of millions of suckers. And don't worry about the extraterrestrials — the agents of doom this time are Democrats (or Republicans!). Hence the spectacle of two passionate, fact-averse, fear-mongering populists whipping up crowds across America.
Will The Donald flame out? Will Bernie Sanders slink back to Vermont and tell his Berners to wise up and vote for Hillary Clinton? Will Mitt Romney be Hillary's VP?
In this crazy season, nothing seems impossible. That's why it was somehow comforting when the Colorado General Assembly adjourned last week without accomplishing much of anything — no action on the hospital provider fee, presidential primaries or construction defects statutes that effectively prevent condominium construction.
Why? Just good old partisan politics.
Senate President Bill Cadman of Colorado Springs, leaving the Legislature after 16 years in the House and Senate, referred a bill that would have exempted the hospital provider fee from Taxpayer's Bill of Rights limits to a kill committee, thereby preventing the Senate from voting on it. In a convoluted explanation, Cadman noted that "enterprising" the fee would make more money available to spend, which wouldn't be a good idea since health care costs are crippling state government, and we need to solve the $8 billion transportation backlog and the $1 billion K-12 shortfall — so we should reject "budget gimmicks" and get to work on a bipartisan solution.
Bill, there isn't a solution short of jettisoning TABOR, withdrawing from Medicaid and raising taxes — but you already knew that. Governments are often creaky, jerry-rigged contraptions, held together by shaky partisan compromises. By doing nothing, you at least avoided making things worse.
So if you happen to run into Mr. Trump in Cleveland this summer, maybe you could give him a tip or two.