Why that Trump-Pelosi-Schumer meeting was so depressing
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There was a time I might have been a little embarrassed to admit this: I’m a huge reality television fan.
You simply will not find a more committed consumer of the genre, from “Real Housewives” to “Hollywood Medium,” “Southern Charm” to “Below Deck.” After a long day of covering the actual news, there’s nothing better than crawling into bed to watch Dorinda scream “Jovani!” during Luann’s cabaret act as revenge for not putting her dry-cleaner boyfriend on the guest list. (Those who know, know.)
I’ve said many a time — with a straight face — that “Vanderpump Rules” is without question the best show on television, as no other delivers the pathos, ethos and catharsis in a single hour that it does. Not “Narcos,” not “Billions,” not even “Game of Thrones.” I’ll take Stassi over Daenerys any day.
Now, Voltaire, Proust and Twain it is not. But reality TV is the ultimate escape.
That said, there’s little about that world that should cross over into the real one. Where reality TV relies on the pettiest of dramas, stokes the uncontrolled chaos of a wildfire, wreaks untold havoc on friendships, relationships and families, and exposes our often narcissistic, materialistic and celebrity-obsessed culture, real life — especially politics, where decisions that real lives depend upon are made — should veer far away from all of that.
And yet, a meeting in the Oval Office between the president, the vice president, the Senate minority leader and soon-to-be House speaker performed in front of television cameras for the world to watch in real time, quickly drawing reality-television comparisons. And it was the absolute nadir of American politics.
The jaw-dropping meeting between President Trump, Mike Pence, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi was a poorly-produced reality show, complete with the catfights, staredowns, snarky one-liners, posing and preening that comes with them.
For some it was just the sugar rush they needed. Many political commentators decided the spectacle was entertaining and even funny, demanding it “play on a loop” so they can watch it with popcorn. On “Fox & Friends,” Brian Kilmeade insisted, “if you are in that pool spray, you are loving this, and if you are an American citizen you are loving this.”
It made for perfect late night fodder, and surely “Saturday Night Live” will have a field day with it this weekend.
But there was nothing funny about it. In fact, this new genre is deeply disturbing and even kind of sad.
Here were four of the nation’s top political leaders bickering publicly over what should be important legislation. Trump used the cameras to look tough. Schumer and Pelosi — who repeatedly urged the group to negotiate behind closed doors — used the moment to show Trump they held the cards now.
And Pence was there to be the loyal but ultimately useless best friend who probably won’t make the second-season cut because he just isn’t good television.
But who was there to actually govern? Not pretend govern, for the cameras, but actually legislate? The dominant argument (or “story line,” as they say in reality television) between Trump and Pelosi was over process: whether the House should bother voting on a border wall if it can’t pass the Senate.
It might have been emotionally gratifying for Trump supporters and critics alike who could cheer on their favorite character and root against their enemies, but in the end, nothing that impacts American lives actually came of it.
The Trump reality show’s first season is just over halfway through. It’s entertaining, yes. There’s drama every damn day. Sometimes it’s even funny. But if the Tuesday meeting was a sneak-peak at what’s to come in the season’s second half, it might just mean a total breakdown of the American political process. And that kind of reality isn’t an escape at all.
Contact Cupp at thesecupp.com.
This column first appeared in the New York Daily News.
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