It is well known by now that President Trump derives most of his information and formulates what passes as policy from what he sees on television, to which he reacts in unpredictable ways. In a last ditch effort to save their jobs, to nothing of the well-being of the nation and the world, the President’s diminishing circle of aides and policy advisors has surreptitiously resorted to presenting the Chief Executive with a version of TV even further removed from reality than Fox News . The monitors in the presidential living quarters at the White House, Mar-a-Lago and other Trump properties are now tuned exclusively to what the aides call PBS, short for Pretend Broadcast System or Presidential B.S., depending on the aide.
As White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders explains, “The President rants and raves about the real news and well documented facts being fake and then makes stuff up anyway, so why not save time and let him relax in comfort like so many other Americans, by only having him see what he wants to believe in the first place? That, in a way, is the essence of Reality TV and no one enjoys Reality TV more than Mr. Trump, especially when it is all about Mr. Trump.” “We didn’t even have to use Russian hackers this time,” added Jared Kushner, “just Sean Hannity and the people who produce the Kardashians.”
And all Trump TV it is—all the Donald, all the time. First, the History Channel, renamed the His Story Channel, spends hours every day showing images of mile after mile of unalloyed wall, accompanied by mournful Mariachi music and narratives of famous walls of the past, such as the Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, Hadrian’s Wall and even Humpty Dumpty’s wall. The sagas conveniently omit any mention of the sad fates of these walls or pictures of their present non-existent or dilapidated states. When not showing walls, the channel displays mile after mile of military parades based on footage from totalitarian regimes but enhanced with sweeping views of digitally augmented crowds said to number in the millions. The recent student protests and parades, so uplifting to the rest of the country, are conflated with the failures of the Children’s’ Crusade of the dark ages in voice-overs by representatives of the NRA and Rick Santorum.
A favorite presidential choice is TCM, not the movie channel but an acronym for Trump Classics of Management, a series of vignettes that are actually re-runs of episodes of the Apprentice. In these vignettes the faces of the original contestants have been replaced by those of General McMaster, Rex Tillerson and, who knows?, in the future Jeff Sessions, Mitch McConnell and probably a few Supreme Court Justices. It reportedly gives the President great joy to see his younger self belittling and shouting, “You’re fired,” to the startled replicas of such distinguished people. Mr. Trump is said to press the “Pause” and “Replay” buttons on his TV remote with a zest otherwise reserved for pressing the buttons that launch nuclear missiles or the knees of hookers who remind him of his daughter. As for actual movies, videos on demand stream a steady diet of Rambo, early Clint Eastwood and Vin Diesel, interspersed with classics such as “Patton,” “Dr. Strangelove,” “The Wizard of Oz” and the entire oeuvre of the Three Stooges.
Game shows also find a place in this faux broadcast system. A version of Jeopardy airs every afternoon, An Alex Trebeck doppelganger appears with colorized hair and tries to disguise the fact that he is Canadian while asking questions that not only include a category labelled “Donald Trump” but have Donald Trump as the answer to every question. Then there is a real presidential favorite, “Let’s Make a Deal.” What will Trump find behind curtain number three: A sweetheart real estate deal with a Russian oligarch? A North Korean missile inbound for the U.S. mainland? Stormy Daniels and her lawyer?
Children’s’ programming is included to allow the president to relax from the exertions of golf and other relaxations by recalling his childhood, assuming that he ever actually had one. “Howdy Doody” seldom fails to delight. It not only has a character named Phineas T. Bluster but also one named Princess Summerfallwinterspring whom the President can call “Another Pochohantas,” thus insulting women, native Americans and a coordinate branch of government in one fell swoop. A version of “Sesame Street” has also been prepared for the leader of the of the free world, renamed, “Says Me Street.” In this version Oscar the Grouch is permanently ensconced in a garbage can spray-painted gold and festooned with Trump logos, Big Bird has been replaced by a hawk with the head of John Bolton, and a character based on Mike Pence is invisible most of the time. As for Bert and Ernie, let’s just say they are not allowed to join the military and shouldn’t expect to have their visas renewed.
One program that the president is certain never to see is Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Not only does the program feature a fantasy kingdom ruled by a family not named Trump or even Putin, but Fred Rogers never once appeared wearing a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap. Most telling of all, Mr. Rogers likes to explain things truthfully and in language that even small children can understand. The producers could not take the risk that a gentle man in a cardigan might try to make Donald Trump understand what became of Humpty Dumpty after he sat on his wall.