Memo to Donald: Everyone loves a mischievous television scamp

June 18, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
June 18, 2016

Yesterday, I surveyed the troubled state of the campaign of New York real-estate mogul and reality-TV star Donald Trump. Today, I wanted to offer a modest proposal aimed at revitalizing his run for the presidency.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that Trump is a master at grabbing the attention of the news media, largely because he says a lot of outrageous things. It’s a truth nearly as widely accepted, however, that an alarmingly high proportion of the outrageous things he says earn him condemnation.

My solution is simple: Turn the candidate’s liability into an asset by casting Trump as an archetypal sitcom character that everyone recognizes and loves.

Introducing… Li’l Trumpie, the adorable kid who loves to cause mischief! Think of him as a modern-day Dennis the Menace (only one who’s 70 years old). Or, if you’d prefer, consider Li’l Trumpie to be a one-man “Little Rascals” (only one whose “hair” is even more unusual than Alfalfa’s)*. Come to think of it, Li’l Trumpie is like a slightly less alien ALF** (except that Li’l Trumpie is much, much bigger than ALF — if you know what I’m saying).

Look, I know what you’re thinking. Dennis the Menace and the Little Rascals didn’t spew racist notions, express internally inconsistent policy positions and espouse potentially world-destabilizing ideas about nuclear proliferation the way Trump does. But hey, nobody’s perfect!

The next time Trump suggests that President Obama supported the so-called Islamic State, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan needn’t rebuke the comments. Instead, he can just chuckle and say, “That’s Li’l Trumpie!”

The next time Trump claims that the unemployment rate is fantastically high, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie won’t have to explain how it is that his candidate got things so massively twisted. Instead, he can just smile affectionately, offer a little sigh and say, “Oh, Li’l Trumpie.”

The next time Trump contends that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton polls poorly with women, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers needn’t tap-dance her way around the fact that the presumptive Republican nominee has things completely backwards. Instead, she can just shrug and say, “Li’l Trumpie is such a scamp!”

The next time Trump asserts that black people kill the vast majority of white murder victims, famed pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson won’t have to face awkward questions about why the man who bested him in the Republican presidential has historically bad favorability ratings with African-Americans. Instead, he can just laugh when someone tries to bring up the subject and sleepily murmur, “You know, Li’l Trumpie has got a knack for saying all sorts of funny things.”

Perhaps the best part of my idea is that Trump has already perfected Li’l Trumpie’s signature move: The lovable shrug that he uses to dismiss any suggestion that he’s just said something horrifying. Go ahead and search for pictures of Trump shrugging right now. Admit it — it’s just impossible to stay mad at Li’l Trumpie when he shrugs, especially when the Donald offers up one of those adorable smiles at the same time!

Donald Trump’s national celebrity is due in no small part to his 11-year, 14-season run as host of The Apprentice and its successor, The Celebrity Apprentice. There’s no question that he’s a TV natural.

Vanity Fair reported this week that Trump may be interested in launching a cable TV channel in order to capitalize on his political visibility. I personally am skeptical that this will happen, in part because a new channel would require a great deal of money and work (although it’s not impossible to see Trump licensing those responsibilities to an outside party and just acting as the face of the channel).

But there’s no question in my mind that Trump is interesting do something that he’s a little more familiar with and that’s a little easier to do. Launching some kind of reality-TV program or sitcom based on his presidential campaign is a no-brainer. (Maybe it could be called Li’l Trumpie’s Big Adventure!)

Possibly the best part is this idea is that at least half of the footage of Li’l Trumpie’s exploits can just be purchased cheaply from CNN and other lamestream media outlets, which have comprehensively broadcast Trump rallies and press conferences and invited him to an endless series of talk-show appearances. In fact, Trump is such a great deal-maker that networks will probably end up begging him to use the footage for virtually nothing, and he’s such a great businessman that he might not pay whatever price he agreed to!

The Trump campaign can hire a handful of writers and editors to begin crafting storylines for the first season. And given that Trump’s campaign just marked its first anniversary, there’s no question that Li’l Trumpie can easily generate enough material to fill two or three whole seasons — at least. (Remember, there are still four and a half months to go until Nov. 8!)

I’m under no illusions about Trump’s chances of winning the election. Even if Li’l Trumpie takes off the way I think the character will, he’s still a long shot to make it to the White House. But even so, adopting the Li’l Trumpie persona makes a ton of sense.

We have a long, hot summer ahead of us, which will be followed by a hotly contested fall campaign. Americans will appreciate anything that gets them laughing during what would otherwise be a thoroughly ugly and nearly interminable election. Remember, the ground-breaking comedy All in the Family and its spinoff, Archie Bunker’s Place, got the nation laughing about racism, homophobia and other ugliness while generating excellent ratings over the course of a 12-year run.

Making Li’l Trumpie the focus of the rest of the 2016 campaign will be a great business move for the Donald, and the subsequent show is bound to generate terrific ratings.

Mr. Trump, trust me: This will be the smartest thing you ever do!


* Donald Trump actually played the father of Waldo, the wealthy member of “our gang,” in the 1994 film remake of The Little Rascals. Synergy!!!

** For legal reasons, it’s important that I clearly state the following: There exists no credible evidence that Donald Trump, a.k.a. Li’l Trumpie, has ever killed, cooked or eaten a cat.

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