Parker: Trump comes to Hillary Clinton’s rescue

Kathleen Parker
The Washington Post
Kathleen Parker

Gee, wonder what Hillary Clinton has been up to?

If you haven’t heard much about her lately, it’s because Clinton news has been as scarce as winter weather on the Eastern Seaboard. Did somebody say “emails”? What ever happened to Benghazi? Is she still even running for president?

You’d almost not know for sure with None Other hogging most of the headlines every day. (I’m trying in vain to use his name as little as possible.) The preponderance of Donald Trump’s attention-grabbing antics and asininities has led some to wonder whether he’s in cahoots with the Clintons.

More attention on him means less on Clinton, who doesn’t need it. News coverage isn’t a zero-sum game, of course, but some stories are more interesting than others. If you’re a news editor, you follow the action. You weigh the options: Clinton or Trump? Ted Cruz or Trump? Sorry, but John Kasich isn’t trending anywhere. Which means he’s probably pretty smart.

Could the leading Republican contender be shaking the bushes so the raptors will follow him and protect the fair damsel from attack? Almost certainly not, but it’s entertaining to speculate.

What could possibly be in it for Trump — fun? Maybe he’s crafting his next reality show, an extreme candid camera in which a political Borat organizes elaborate pranks to dupe the gullible.

Or perhaps he’s acting in the service of future returns? But what, really, could Clinton offer that he doesn’t already have? Another command wedding appearance? Let’s see, it has been 10 years since his last one. Okay, maybe.

The conspiracy scenario has become a popular distraction from our otherwise horrific news menu, an appetizer served, in fact, by Jeb Bush on Twitter. Further feeding the theory is Trump’s near-instantaneous appearance whenever the spotlight gets close to Clinton.

When another batch of her emails was released on Nov. 30, for instance, Trump was hogging headlines with two back-to-back events — an “amazing meeting” with black pastors at Trump Tower, followed that evening by a packed-coliseum rally in Macon, Ga.

What else was happening on Dec. 7, the day Trump infamously called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States ? Clinton did have an op-ed in the New York Times about how she’d rein in Wall Street. But what’s more compelling to the madding crowd and television producers — a strengthened Volcker Rule? Or a ban on Muslims?

The night of the first Democratic debate , on Oct. 13 in Las Vegas, Trump again drew attention away from the candidates by live-tweeting. Just in case Clinton crashed and burned? Sure.

Most likely, Trump is merely incapable of sharing the stage. He’s the star of his own movie, produced and directed by himself for himself. Besides, narcissists aren’t known to put themselves out for others. This is the need-to-know revelation about narcissists: Whatever they do, it’s never about you. It’s not about Muslims, or Mexicans, or the disabled, or whatever. It’s always about, in this case, The Donald.

His pathological attraction to the limelight has somewhat pathetically forced others to infect themselves. To be relevant — or even noticed — Trump’s opponents, both Democrat and Republican, have to glom on to his neon-flashing sideshow.

The night before that first Democratic debate, Clinton joined a pro-union rally outside Trump’s Las Vegas hotel as if to say, Hel-loooohhhh. Oh, yoo-hoo, over heeee-ere. I’m chugging shots! I’m laughing in Trey Gowdy’s face!

So much for conspiracy.

The real truth is that Trump has an instinctive understanding of the zeitgeist and is a master of media manipulation. He identifies what the base feels and thinks, and then gives it expression. He’s the human audio to the cartoon bubble floating above Discretion’s bobblehead. The crowds’ cheers are the hissing, burbling, foaming pressure-cooker valve of populist anger — just before it explodes.

It is customary at this point to blame the media, but they (we) are caught in a double bind. We can’t ignore the Republican presidential front-runner, even knowing that our coverage will lead to yet more coverage. Just as the rich get richer, Trump gets Trumpier, which gets him more headlines, bigger crowds, dot-dot-dot.

Like most in the media, I’d rather not write another column about Trump, but I know I will for as long as he’s in the game and, by the way, winning. The only way to stop Trump from dominating the news is for him to stop dominating the race — and that, my friends, is up to you.