Most people would never go to a 64-story, golden-hued hotel in Las Vegas in search of enlightenment, even with the lure of a heated rooftop pool surrounded by real, nonflammable palm trees.
But confusing times call for confusing measures. Confusing ones and desperate ones. And I am desperately confused about Donald Trump.
I just don’t understand how the billionaire real estate developer-turned-reality TV star-turned-tactless politician can continue to lead the field of Republicans running for president. According to the latest NBC News Online Poll, conducted Friday and Saturday, 23 percent of GOP primary voters support him. Sen. Ted Cruz came in a distant second with 13 percent.
I know it’s early, but still. What he has said during the past few days is seriously disturbing.
It started with Thursday’s Fox News debate, which, with its “Family Feud” sound effects and commentary rivaling a WWF match, could’ve been mistaken for a reality TV game show. It was then that Trump trumped his earlier comments on immigration, answering a question about his history of disparaging women as “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.”
“Only Rosie O’Donnell,” he quipped.
That led to even more incendiary comments on Friday, in which he said of Megyn Kelly, the moderator who posed the question: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
Instead of backing off, Trump doubled down on Sunday, saying that his comments had been misconstrued, had nothing to do with a woman’s menstrual cycle and that he has “always had a great relationship to the women.”
That’s up there with Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women.” Yet, inexplicably, voters still love Trump.
I had to try to make sense of it all. So, this weekend, I decided to spend some time at Trump Tower in Las Vegas.
Trump has towers in lots of cities, but in no other city is the line between fact and fiction quite so blurry. Where else can you learn about the real history of ancient Egypt inside of a giant fake pyramid full of hotel rooms and fast-food joints? Or go on a realistic gondola ride through the watery streets of a fake Venice under an airbrushed blue sky lined by rows of slot machines?
In Sin City, sobering reality has a way of becoming gluttonous entertainment – a trait that’s at the core of the New Yorker’s political campaign. On that level, Trump Tower didn’t disappoint.
Just inside in the lavish lobby, there’s The Trump Store – a small gift shop that carries everything Trump. Shoes from daughter Ivanka line the glass shelves, as do ties, golf shirts and hats from the Trump International Hotel line and the Donald J. Trump Signature Collection. There are also golf balls, hats, snowglobes and, of course, “You’re Fired!” T-shirts from Trump’s reality show, “The Apprentice.”
In Trump Tower, it’s unabashedly all Trump, all the time. Inside those golden walls, reality is his to shape.
It is no surprise, then, that the hotel held a viewing party for Thursday’s record-breaking debate. The bar was packed with residents, hotel guests and random people who all wanted to see Trump at Trump. I’m told that people cheered, and at his horrific comment about O’Donnell, most people in the room laughed.
I get that Trump is entertaining, in the same way that middle school boys are entertaining.
His supporters swear he’s a straight shooter. But, in reality, Trump, more than anyone else running for president, has mastered the art of diluting real life into entertainment. He’s good at putting on a show.
But if that’s all it really is, a desire among supporters to see an entertaining show – and polls seem to bear this out because few believe Trump will actually get the nomination – then that’s sad and dangerous.
The race for president isn’t a reality TV game show, even though Trump is clearly trying to turn it into one. The future of this country is serious business. It’s time to leave the games in Las Vegas.