It’s a good thing that President Donald Trump has spent time with WrestleMania. He obviously used that experience to finally muscle his way into the main event, when he had been body-slammed aside by the real reality of the devastation from Hurricane Dorian. Yes, I know “muscle” is probably not the first word you’d use when you think of the Trumpster, but there will be no fat-shaming here. Let’s leave that to him.
It clearly occurred to a few people in the White House, including the big guy, that during the network evening newscasts in the early coverage of the storm, a broadcast or two went by where Trump was not mentioned once. The consequences of Dorian were obviously too severe and compelling to spend time on political trivialities.
POTUS and his enablers couldn’t have that, so he summoned the lessons he’d learned from his WWE encounters. Suddenly, there he was, a part of the narrative, sucker-punching the media (including me) to force himself into the reporting. All he had to do, as you are painfully aware, is to mistakenly declare that Dorian could clobber Alabama, long after he had been briefed that Alabama wasn’t in the cone of danger. That set off an immediate announcement from the National Weather Service branch in Birmingham that the state would “not see any impact from Dorian.”
The dreary story from then on involved Sharpie pens used to draw phony lines on official maps, and accusations that those of us in “fake news” media were making too much of his mistake (guilty). Most of all, it involved Donald Trump, which meant the story has gone way longer than its shelf life.
Playing the injured party, as always, he has now arm-twisted his top officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration into criticizing the criticism from its Birmingham subsidiary days earlier. What NOAA seemed to be timidly saying is that the earliest forecasts from days prior had included Alabama. So Trump was right. All those Sharpie one-liners were wasted.
Well, not entirely. The Trump campaign sees a fundraising opportunity and is now offering for sale a souvenir marker, embossed with Donald Trump’s signature — in gold ink, no less. It’s yours for a mere $15. By the way, this is not a joke.
So Trump has done it again. He has managed to take the ongoing story of Hurricane Dorian — the devastation, the heroic rescue efforts and most of all the victims — and turn himself into the victim. Once again, it’s all about him.
Now word leaks out that the other WWE, World Wrestling Entertainment, has requested that the president of the United States appear on “SmackDown Live” when it debuts next month on Fox (where else?). Trump has apparently rejected the idea, even though it would be a guaranteed attention-getter.
He should know that, since his long self-service resume includes an outlandish “SmackDown” gig back in 2007. Perhaps he’s worried that the Democrats would demand equal time, although they have their own wrestling match going on. Their program, by the way, is called “Debates.”
More probably, he was advised that it would be too undignified for him. That would be a first. Or too strenuous. He’s shown with his Sharpie maneuver that he can force attention on himself whenever he wants.
Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN.