The rise of P.T. Trump

The legendary huckster of the 1800s, P.T. Barnum once hired a man to walk around with an armload of bricks, stopping now and then to mysteriously stack them on street corners.

Today, maybe no one would notice. But back in pre-Jerry Springer times, crazy people were still interesting, so folks chased along to ask what he was up to. He refused to answer.  Each time his flock grew large enough, he would veer into Barnum’s museum with the crowd fishing out dimes to follow him, and Barnum grew steadily richer on their mindless curiosity.

Like him or hate him, Donald Trump is the heir apparent to Barnum’s peculiar brand of genius. This week he hijacked the 2012 presidential race, with a Barnum-like series of claims, assertions and indignant retorts. And, mind you, he did all this without even declaring his candidacy.

Many serious political analysts, at least privately, dismiss Trump as a clown. President Obama seemed to have him in mind when he referred to the so-called “Birther Movement” as a parade of “sideshows and carnival barkers.” And yet, in releasing copies of his original long-form birth certificate after all these months, the president also gave Trump an easy victory. “I got him to do something that nobody else could get him to do, and I’ve been given great credit for that!” Trump trumpeted.

Maybe Trump will be what the punditocracy expects — a comedic juggler to whip up the voters before the real circus stars appear. But he has already displayed that powerful populist skill of reducing complex policy arguments to a “Why can’t they see how simple this is?” approach. The angrier voters are with Washington, the more such polemics resonate.

Barnum, like Trump, was a New York businessman with a big mouth, bad hair and no shame. If a competing showman came up with an unbeatable attraction, Barnum would copy it and proclaim the original a fraud.

The only thing he seemed to fear was losing his grip on the American imagination because he knew then what Trump knows now: Success begins by just getting people to tag along, saying “I wonder where that guy is going?”

–CNN’s Tom Foreman is a regular on “AC360°”/www.ac360.com and “The Situation Room.”

Metro does not endorse the opinions of the author, or any opinions expressed on its pages. Opposing viewpoints are welcome. Send 300-word submissions to letters@metro.us.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Islamic state issues video of beheading of U.S.…

The Islamic State militant group released a video purporting to show the beheading of U.S. hostage Steven Sotloff, the SITE monitoring service reported on Tuesday.

Local

NYPD looking for man they say assaulted elderly…

      The New York City Police Department is asking for the public's assistance in locating a Hispanic male 20's wanted in connection with…

Local

Three arrested after allegedly assaulting off-duty officer in…

Three men were arrested early Saturday morning after allegedly assaulting an off-duty officer at a Bronx bodega, and the NYPD is asking for the public's…

Local

Healthcare union creates vibrant West Indian Day Parade…

Volunteers worked almost around the clock through the weekend, putting the flashy finishing touches on hundreds of costume pieces 1199SEIU members will wear while marching…

Music

Hear two previously unreleased Adele songs

Missing some Adele in your life? Two previously unreleased songs from the singer have appeared online.

Music

Lincoln Center just made 'Lord of the Rings'…

Middle Earth already has sweeping vistas, a hero's journey and technology-revolutionizing special effects. But next April, the Lincoln Center will add another dimension to Peter Jackson's…

Gossip

Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth apparently love each…

Miley Cyrus may have broken off her engagement to Liam Hemsworth almost a year ago, but that doesn't mean she doesn't still have feelings for…

The Word

The Word: Charlize Theron isn't perfect, so stop…

We've been thinking a lot about famous women's bodies this week, obviously, so here's some food for thought to go with all that virtual ogling.…

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: Angels take control, Tigers and…

MLB Power Rankings: Angels take control, Tigers and Giants climb

Sports

Novak Djokovic feeds off US Open crowd to…

Novak Djokovic isn't a native New Yorker, but he sure knows how to use the U.S. Open crowd to his advantage.

NFL

Odell Beckham still 'weeks away,' Tom Coughlin angry…

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has fought a losing battle against the media all preseason over the status of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

Wellbeing

Jason Hope helps push anti-aging efforts forward

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article When it comes to age-related illness, the direction of modern medicine seems more reactive than proactive. In…

Wellbeing

Today's Doomsday preppers: a closer look at survivalist…

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article. The term “Doomsday prepper” is often associated with the paranoid, anti-government stereotype of the 1990s. The truth…

Education

These college students think breakfast is the most…

  It should be no surprise that the city that never sleeps is also home to the most students who like to order food in…

Sex

When it comes to dating, height matters

Does a man’s height really matter when it comes to dating? Unfortunately - according to a new study - the answer looks like it’s yes.…