The Good Fight: The Real, The Plausible, and Donald Trump’s Legacy
He is almost gone but will not be forgotten. Donald Trump as a President of the United States will be studied for years to come, often with the central question being: Was he an aberration with his behavior and tweets quickly quashed and forgotten or will there be lasting imprints on American politics and policies for years to come? The CBS All Access TV show The Good Fight, (four seasons so far starring Christine Baranski, Cush Jumbo, Delroy Lindo, and Sarah Steele) have episodes that address Trump as President, as well as his wife, Melania, in ways where certain issues will be pondered about for years to come. The Good Fight has been described as “explicitly anti-Trump.” 1
The Good Fight weaves Trump throughout a number of episodes, sometimes in ways which are enlightened, such as it being revealed that one of the law partners at Reddick, Boseman & Lockhart, an African-American, voted for Trump and defends his choice to have voted for him in reasonable ways.
The issues of “the pee tape,” (as it is called in the show) and Melania Trump’s relationship with her husband are not the stuff of broad implications to the course of American politics, but by being addressed on episodes already shown on the The Good Fight, they give an indication of where the public’s view of The Donald and his family members may head. In addition, future episodes will address COVID-19 which may provide a way for the public to begin to evaluate Trump’s leadership during this pandemic while he was in the White House.
If Trump in his post-Presidential years behaves in ways that are similar to how he behaved while in the White House, a broad part of how the public may begin to look at him and his family members may come through TV drama shows.
How the public views a former president is not necessarily the same way they view a president while in office. When Ronald Reagan ended his Presidency, approximately four months later, it was announced that he and Nancy Reagan would visit Japan, not performing some function in an ex-Presidential capacity, but to participate in what was billed as “Reagan Week” where Reagan would participate in a symposium and attend banquets sponsored by the Fujisankei Communications Group. It was not clear how much Reagan would be paid but as one individual familiar with the preparations for the visit put it, “Two million dollars would be nothing if the Fujisankei group were to consider it an advertising fee. After all, they’re hiring an actor. It’s like bringing over Frank Sinatra, with a little extra thrown in.” 2
Reagan’s scheduled visit would be as the United States was preparing to address unfair trade advantages between the two countries. So, the odd pairing of Reagan the former President as paid entertainment versus serious bilateral policy implications brought into question how Reagan was going to be seen in his post-Presidential years. The Los Angeles Times in a headline on the proposed visit when it was made public titled its piece, “Reagan’s Fall From Grace.” 3
His scheduled trip to Japan was part of what Reagan referred to as “the mashed-potato circuit.” 4 The Los Angeles Times described a February 1990 event, Reagan was paid for, after he visited Japan:
THIS IS THE GOOD LIFE for Ronald Reagan on what he calls the mashed-potato circuit: On a weekday morning last month, shortly before his 79th birthday, the former President arrives at Las Vegas’ Mirage hotel after a dash from Los Angeles on a corporate jet. America’s 40th chief executive is the featured speaker at a Prudential realty-division sales convention.
Reagan’s trip to Japan, before his visit to Las Vegas for a real estate convention, took place with Reagan throwing out the first pitch in the Japanese World Series. 5
A spokesman for the Japanese Foreign Ministry stated, regarding Reagan’s trip:
It’s very, very unfortunate that there are some stories focusing on this $2 million only[.] This really has nothing to do with the people’s feeling here. President Reagan is not the kind of person whose policy would be influenced by money. 6
Nevertheless, money was nice icing on the cake. It may be difficult to remember this part of Reagan’s post-Presidential years. Reagan the symbol of something, depends on who is using him to bolster whatever it is they want to rationalize, which is where we currently are regarding his Presidency. Reagan, both the man and his Presidency, have become pliable figures that can be applied to a variety of circumstances and proposed policies. In 2003, CBS cancelled the showing of a mini-series titled The Reagans (starring James Brolin and Judy Davis) and sold the series to Showtime because various conservatives criticized the series as prejudicial to the Reagans. 7 CBS issued a statement that read in part:
Although the mini-series features impressive production values and acting performances, and although the producers have sources to verify each scene in the script, we believe it does not present a balanced portrayal of the Reagans for CBS and its audience. Subsequent edits that we considered did not address those concerns. 8
In other words, Reagan after his eight years in the White House, had his mashed-potato circuit period buried and a sanitized image that had no warts lived on.
Reagan’s image may have survived because his years in the White House were viewed within a range of acceptably Presidential. Trump, in that sense, may be different since he is seen as “breaking the mold” of what is considered traditionally Presidential. Trump with his often odd if not offensive tweets, as well as his poor handling of a pandemic, may damage his image for years to come.
Trump made an incredibly strange remark while campaigning in Erie, Pennsylvania leading up to the 2020 election that received some attention, although not a significant amount. It will be interesting to see if Erie residents, as well as others, reflect back on those remarks after Trump has been out of the White House long enough that his post-Presidential image begins to jell in such a way that he cannot recover the way Reagan did after his mashed-potato circuit period. Trump stated:
Before the plague came in, I had it made. I wasn’t coming to Erie. I mean, I have to be honest, there’s no way I was coming, I didn’t have to. I would’ve called you and said, ‘Hey, Erie. You know, if you have a chance, get out and vote.’ We had this thing won. 9
What is remembered about a former president, what resonates and what does not, is not clear as a Presidency is ending. There are so many images and moments that it takes time to sort through it all to create something that might resemble a shared public image.
Has Trump built up some acceptably positive images from his White House years that can carry over to his post-Presidency? How he behaves and acts and, most importantly, tweets, may contribute to the develop of an image and a legacy that can be at odds with what he, or even Republicans, may not like. In other words, Trump has some control over what his image beholds. One of the problems, however, is that Trump often seems oblivious to how he is seen by others.
Trump’s incredibly removed-from-reality White House remarks, two days after the 2020 election, before all the election results were in, may have set the stage as to what to expect in his post-Presidential years. During the approximately 17 minutes of his often fact-free speech, Trump stated, “…if you count the legal votes, I easily win.” 10 It may be difficult for Trump to move on after losing the 2020 Presidential election but shows such as The Good Fight will, no doubt, help the public move on from the Trump Presidency.
The Good Fight Adds Plausibility to Trump Rumor or Fact: The Pee Tape
The trivial and disgusting may have a lasting effect on the Trump brand. It is possible, even more than that, it is entirely likely that something as attention-grabbing and uncomfortable as the odd act of having someone urinate on another person for enjoyment should be addressed as part of how Donald Trump may be publicly judged. Did Donald Trump participate in a Golden Shower, as this act is called, in a Russian hotel while he was at the 2013 Miss Universe pageant? The question of whether John Kennedy slept with Marilyn Monroe, is one of those titillating questions that never goes away. Will the issue of whether Trump had a Golden Shower enter and circulate among the public in a similar way?
The trivial, the titillating, the salacious, however, may mask broader issues. Trump’s character based on the issue of Golden Showers never disappearing, just as speculating how many women John Kennedy slept with while President, raises the issue of Presidential character. 11 The pee tape issue that weaves through several episodes in The Good Fight has the potential to contribute to how Trump’s Presidency is evaluated, not just his Post-Presidential years or his character generally.
A Russian woman comes to see Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) saying she needs help since she is going to be deported. She claims to be one of the women in the room who participated in urinating on Donald Trump. Season two of The Good Fight (2018) sees this plot weave through several episodes.
When The Good Fight first premiered (2017) it had as its original first episode that Hillary Clinton was elected President. Since Clinton lost in the Electoral College vote, that had to be reshot to show Trump sworn in. In that episode, Diane is shown dejected as she watches Trump’s inauguration. 12 Seeing episodes that address Trump as President in negative ways is a logical outgrowth of the series, since Christine Baranski’s character is a central figure in the series. Politics weaves through the series as Michelle King, co-creator with her husband, Robert, stated, “[W]e have established very politically-minded characters. They’re going to be obsessing and talking about it. So that’s what the show reflects.” 13
Interestingly, as Diane brings the matter of the pee tape (which is shown as simply have P.P. on it) to her partners, this too-good-to-be-true revelation is overcome by the belief that Project Veritas is behind it and this is some type of set-up.
Project Veritas as its web site states, “investigates and exposes corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct in both public and private institutions to achieve a more ethical and transparent society.” 14 A worthy goal, however, one site critical of this organization states:
[V]ideos are edited in a way that makes them difficult to fact check. Often his information is debunked., but it is too late as the information has already been watched by thousands or more. In general, the narrative created…, whether edited or not is to portray liberals in a negative light. 15
A New York Times article that addressed voter fraud going back to the 2016 election referred to James O’Keefe, founder of Project Veritas, as a “video ambush artist.” 16 Another piece on O’Keefe and Project Veritas states, “Veritas is a right-wing flak mill that, using media, has set out to professionally damage people and organizations across almost a decade.” 17
In a meeting involving partners in the law firm, the concern that Project Veritas was behind the pee tape could be understood as based on actual activity by the organization. TV drama that presents feasible storylines can lead to a plausibility that permeates the American public. The blending of real and fictional is, in fact, a goal of the Kings. Robert King stated, “We do want there to be this funhouse-mirror feeling to the show, where you’re not sure whether that is a made-up character or if that’s a real character and they all kind of mix together.” 18
Urinating is not actually shown although a bathrobe is shown in the tape. The robe shown is initially used to discredit the accuracy of the tape. A Democratic Party representative says the robe shown was not one that the Russian hotel where Trump stayed supplied its guests. Marissa Gold (Sarah Steele), an investigator who works for the law firm, however, uncovers information that the robe on the bed is the type that Trump had, and, as a result, the credibility of the tape is, once again, restored.
The issue of a bathrobe belonging to Donald Trump has a basis in fact. It is not clear if a spat between the White House and the New York Times played a role in having The Good Fight address the bathrobe but, here again, TV drama as the plausible and what is real blend together.
Soon after Trump moved into the White House in 2017, the New York Times published a story which stated:
With his wife, Melania, and young son, Barron, staying in New York, he is almost always by himself, sometimes in the protective presence of his imposing longtime aide and former security chief, Keith Schiller. When Mr. Trump is not watching television in his bathrobe or on his phone reaching out to old campaign hands and advisers, he will sometimes set off to explore the unfamiliar surroundings of his new home. 19
The one line about Trump watching television in a bathrobe caught the attention of the White House. The then White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, felt the need to address the bathrobe to support their point that the New York Times is part of “fake news.” Spicer stated, “I don’t even think the president owns a bathrobe. He definitely doesn’t wear one.” 20 Twitter jumped into overdrive as pictures of Trump wearing a bathrobe, although when he was significantly younger, were used to discredit Spicer.
The blending of real and fictional adds to the plausibility of the pee tape. Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, stated he was an “active and eager participant” in many of Trump’s actions. Cohen claimed that Trump and others with him visited a Las Vegas nightclub, called The Act where urinating or simulating urinating on someone took place. 21 In Congressional testimony by Cohen, the issue of whether the Russians, or specifically Vladimir Putin, has a tape involving Trump in a compromising situation regarding having a Golden Shower performed on him, was addressed. Cohen stated, “I’ve had many people contact me over the years. I have no reason to believe that that tape exists.” 22 Igor Danchenko, who was identified as a primary “subsource” (assume that means the primary source among several sources) of information contained in the Steele dossier, in which the issue of Putin having information on Trump that Trump does not want to be revealed, stood by the claims in the dossier about Trump. Danchenko stated, “I stand by it. I got it right.” 23
The Steele dossier may gain the status of a second shooter in the Kennedy assassination. This was a report written between June and December 2016, that addressed Trump and the Russian government. Christopher Steele is a former head of the Russian desk for British Intelligence (MI6). Steele was working for an organization known as Fusion GPS. Fusion GPS was first hired by a conservative organization (The Washington Free Beacon) to do opposition research on Trump. Later, in April 2016, it was hired by an attorney representing Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Critics of any investigations regarding Trump and the Russians, criticized the Steele dossier as the spark that started these investigations, including the Mueller Report.
The Mueller Report formally titled Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election, was the official report released in March 2019, that addressed Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump had some relationship with the Russians. The Mueller Report discounts criticism that the Steele dossier was the starting point for Federal agencies looking into ties between Trump and Russians. The report, however, does refer to Trump discussing the Steele report with James Comey, when he was FBI Director. In addition, the report addressed the Golden Showers issue, although in an indirect way:
Comey’s briefing included the Steele dossier reporting’s unverified allegation that the Russians had compromising tapes of the President involving conduct when he was a private citizen during a 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe Pageant. 24
Furthermore, the Mueller Report refers to a Russian businessman (Giorgi Rtskhiladze) who sent a text to Michael Cohen in October 2016 that read, “Stopped flow of tapes from Russia but not sure if there’s anything else. Just so you know . . ..” 25 Rtskhiladze helped host the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant: This is the stuff that conspiracy dreams are made of. Is it any wonder why The Good Fight developed the pee tape into a storyline?
The Good Fight by addressing the pee tape may contribute to a broader public awareness of something that can be linked to Trump, whether real or not. This is politics and politics can be about created reality. Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic reported that Trump had a low opinion of the military. 26 On a visit to Europe in 2018, Trump apparently declined to visit the Aisne-Marne Cemetery, located in northern France where Americans who died fighting in the First World War are buried, because he, reportedly, said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” Did Trump really say this? Does it matter? As one article stated:
Trump’s time in office has transcended fiction, and even though Goldberg’s sources are anonymous — and even though there are certainly plenty of former administration officials itching to make the president look bad — everyone knows deep down that brushing off dead American soldiers as “losers” to get out of an event he thought might mess up his hair is exactly the type of thing Trump would do. 27
It sounded like something Trump would say so that was good enough. Isaac Schoor writing in the National Review, a conservative magazine, stated, “Goldberg’s article will persuade no one. No opponent of the president will be surprised by the piece. No supporter of the president will take Jeffrey Goldberg’s word for it that Trump is a veteran-hating monster.” 28 Schoor may have a point about the Goldberg article persuading essentially no one since it was published two months before the 2020 election. What will be interesting to see is whether the Goldberg article adds to how Trump is seen as his post-Presidential years develop. Just the thought of something seeming to be feasible is enough to give oxygen and life to an event.
In The Good Fight, the story ends (well, sort of) where the Russian woman who claimed to be one of the women in the room signs an agreement with the Justice Department that this was a fake tape and she gets to stay in the United States. The Justice official asks if the tape she was receiving was the only copy of the tape and the answer is yes. But the next scene shows a Democratic Party official (Margo Martindale) who has a copy of the tape and she puts it safely away with instructions to open during the 2020 Presidential campaign. A feasible situation where the pee tape may take on a life of its own.
Melanie and The Donald, a Marriage made in the Theatrically Fascinating: The Good Fight as Marriage Broker
Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo) an attorney but not a partner at Reddick, Boseman & Lockhart 29 has two people walk into her office and hand her a cell phone. This Season three episode of The Good Fight (“The One with the Celebrity Divorce”) has Melania Trump, well maybe or maybe not, seeking advice on divorcing Donald Trump. It is never clear whether the person on the phone or later in a hotel room meeting between Quinn and a shadowed figure is Melania Trump. Perhaps by keeping the audience guessing future episodes can return to a Melania and Donald Trump divorce—something that, no doubt, will receive a great deal of speculation about in Trump’s Post-Presidential years.
The pee tape arises regarding the issue of Melania considering divorcing Trump. Melania asks about the tape and that it can help her if she pursues divorce. No doubt Trump having sex with Stormy Daniels and receiving a payoff to remain quiet about the affair was not enough ammunition to use in a divorce: The pee tape is just icing on the cake.
In the hotel room meeting, Melania refers to Jacki Kennedy and that both women are Catholic and states, “[I have a] duty to the American people to see this through.” As Melania stands up to leave, Lucca calls out the name of an actress who impersonates Melania Trump. There is a momentary pause in Melania’s movement but then she keeps walking out of the room. Was this the real Melania Trump or not? In other words, within The Good Fight, the real and the not real are confronted. Was this a set-up by possibly Donald Trump or Republicans to get their hands on the pee tape? Leaving viewers wondering may serve to add to future episodes. The “moral ambiguity” of this scene adds to real life where clear-cut choices are often not what we all face, dilemma and conundrum confront all of us, and that enhances the feasibility of what viewers are watching. One article on moral ambiguity in TV drama stated, “Viewers are not repelled by morally ambiguous entertainment because they are willing to forgive characters for bad actions if the characters’ motivations are good.” 30 If The Good Fight addresses Melania Trump in some future episodes it will be without Lucca Quinn. Cush Jumbo (Lucca Quinn) is leaving the series, although she might return to wrap up some storylines that were not completed. 31
Melania Trump’s time as First Lady will not be marked as a high-water mark in the service of First Ladies to their country. She spent most of her time quietly out of the limelight. An enigma might be the best way to describe her. She had the opportunity to become something of an icon and inspiration if she had frequently and publicly addressed the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of people. A First Lady rising above politics to express sympathy and show compassion and expressing a general message that, in the end, we all, collectively will prevail, would have done much for her. Instead, what she might be remembered for is her visit to a children’s detention center on the Mexican-American border wearing a jacket that said, “I really don’t care, do u?”
To see a First Lady who seemed so out of step with developments around her, may invite her post-White House years to be a time for television to address her, perhaps in unkind ways.
Mary Jordan, author of a biography on Melania Trump said, regarding her marriage to The Donald, “Love is complicated and Trump love is ultra-complicated.” 32 Jordon’s assessment of the Trump marriage was not the stuff of Ronald and Nancy Reagan or Barack and Michelle Obama. As Jordon stated:
I don’t know any couple that spends as much time apart. They are often in the same building, but nowhere near each other. She rarely goes into the West Wing. She doesn’t like to golf. She has her own little spa. She likes to be isolated. She is a loner. He is a loner. They’re perfectly happy to be separated. 33
As soon as it was being announced that Trump lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden, rumors began circulating that Melania would seek a divorce. 34 Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former White House aide and participant in The Apprentice when Trump hosted the show, stated, “Melania is counting every minute until he is out of office and she can divorce [him].” 35
Speculation on a Trump divorce will probably only increase as Trump’s post-Presidential years begin. A divorce litigation specialist addressed a divorce while the Trumps were still in the White House:
If they were to divorce now or after he’s no longer president, there’s going to be security detail, there’s going to be all sorts of things that are going to be very different for her as a former first lady than if she was just Donald Trump’s wife. 36
One article surmised that Melania Trump in a divorce would receive as much as $68 million. 37 If there is a divorce, a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) would, no doubt, be tied to the settlement which would serve to fuel rumors of whether Melania was planning to divorce Trump perhaps shortly before he won the Presidency and held back because no President and First Lady ever divorced while living in the White House. The Good Fight has already addressed NDAs so a storyline exists. 38
Trump had several divorces, but none while President. Ronald Reagan divorced actress Jane Wyman in 1948, 32 years before winning the Presidency.
The Good Fight and the Post-Pandemic, Post-Trump Presidency
A large part of how Trump will be looked upon by a broad part of the public will be related to how he handled COVID-19. We are still very much within the grip of a pandemic, but someday, hopefully, soon it can be a distance memory. Trump, the President who had to confront the pandemic and Trump the former President who will live in a world with a pandemic eventually behind us, are two different people, although it is too early to see the latter. TV dramas will address the pandemic, but The Good Fight might address it in ways different from other dramas.
The Good Fight will be returning for a fifth season. The fourth season production schedule was cut short because of COVID-19. The executive vice president (Julie McNamara) and head of programming for CBS All Access, in announcing the fifth season used the following to tease viewers about what to expect stating, “[there will be] even more…timely [and] gripping storylines.” 39 As a number of TV shows return, COVID-19 will be addressed, The Good Fight will do the same. 40
Trump may want to put a pandemic behind him, TV drama may not let that happen. While a number of shows may address the human drama of living through a pandemic, and do so without direct reference to Donald Trump, The Good Fight, may not do that. If it follows its more direct storylines on Donald and Melania Trump, such as the pee tape and raising the issue of Melania divorcing The Donald, then The Good Fight may go in a different direction. Will The Good Fight confront Trump’s leadership, or lack of it, during the pandemic?
Michelle King addressed using TV drama to look at reality:
The real world is what can be frustrating and spur wanting to do something about it. [The Good Fight is] an emotional reaction to what’s going on in the world. It borders on group therapy in the writers’ room. 41
The pandemic, either as an event that is still unfolding or one that is in our rearview window, provide different ways of approaching how TV drama handles it. Michelle King said that The Good Fight would confront the pandemic:
We will not ignore the pandemic. We’re not going to live in a universe where we pretend that there was never a pandemic. It’s unclear where we’re going to pick up the story, in terms of when it is. How the characters are working in their offices, social distancing, all those things we’re talking about right this second. It’s unclear how we’re going to approach that for the show, but we will not be living in some magical place where there was no pandemic, there was no economic fallout. 42
This wait-and-see statement tells us nothing, but viewers of the series probably expect the pandemic will be a storyline. How the pandemic is addressed is what matters to how the public may begin to consider Trump in his post-Presidential years.
The pandemic came to dominant Trump’s Presidency. Ignoring it or playing down its impact will be part of how Trump is remembered. As Americans distance themselves from how they lived and how they remember family members and friends who died during the pandemic, that distance may add to how the public looks back on the Trump Presidency. 43
Some insight into how a broader public might assess Trump’s time in office related to COVID-19 might come from looking at Thabo Mbeki, the former President of South Africa between 1999 and 2008 and how he confronted AIDS. A 2008 study on Mbeki’s time in office and his administration’s policies toward AIDS stated:
South Africa is one of the countries most severely affected by the AIDS epidemic. According to Joint United Nations Programme on HIVAIDS (UNAIDS), the prevalence of HIV/ AIDS in the adult population is 18.8% with approximately 5.5 million persons infected with HIV. In 2005, it is estimated that about 320,000 persons died of AIDS, almost 900 deaths per day. Approximately 1.2 million children younger than 17 years have lost 1 or both parents due to the epidemic.
In 1999, President Thabo Mbeki, under pressure to provide zidovudine (ZDV or AZT) for prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) and AIDS treatment, announced that the drug was toxic and dangerous to health and that the government was not going to provide it.2 He then questioned whether HIV was the cause of AIDS, and this broadened the debate from the usefulness of ZDV to the usefulness of all antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in fighting the AIDS epidemic because they all target HIV. 3 President Mbeki’s government restricted the use of freely donated nevirapine4 and obstructed the acquisition of Global Fund grants.5 The facts of the case have never been denied. 44
This study concluded that Mbeki’s policies contributed to more than 330,000 unnecessary deaths to AIDS in the first five years of his time in office. 45 Some of Mbeki’s attitudes on race had an impact on his policies. In one speech while in office he criticized those advocating AIDS treatment as having a view of black people that saw them on a lower level. Mbeki stated, for example, that those advocating to aggressively confront AIDS saw black people as “germ carriers and human beings of a lower order.” 46 Criticism of Mbeki’s AIDS policy while he was in office was often muted. But twelve years after he was out of power criticism of him appears to be mounting. Mbeki, in fact, started a public letter campaign in 2016 to counter the criticism of his policies. 47
If Mbeki’s reputation is now being challenged, more than a decade out of office, imagine how shows such as The Good Fight can have an impact on how the public looks upon Trump and how he handled a pandemic. TV shows such as Shameless and how it has presented people with a variety of mental illnesses has helped to foster a greater appreciation of issues such as bipolar disorder. In addition, Parenthood addresses autism and the difficulties that confront families dealing with this disorder. 48 Shows that address crime and the police have an impact on viewers. As one study stated, “fictional TV crime dramas …have a significant impact on our attitudes about police, specifically when it comes to use their use of force.” 49 The pandemic and its yet-to-be-presented storylines on various TV dramas, has the potential to influence how viewers develop their attitudes toward Trump and his leadership, or lack of it, in the midst of a pandemic.
As a vaccine is distributed and life returns slowly to something close to the pre-pandemic days, remembering some of Trump’s odd statements about the virus may take on a bigger-than-life role in how many view Trump. 50 Trump statements such as, “It will go away and, as I say, we’re rounding the corner,” made in October leading up to the Presidential election, may take on a life of their own. Trump seen as foolish and out-of-touch may begin to resonate with a much broader cross-section of Americans, than was the case at the time he made that statement. 51
Trump may receive some praise for putting billions of Federal dollars behind the efforts of these companies through what is known as Operation Warp Speed, to speed up vaccine development. 52 The issue, however, is still how Trump handled this pandemic separated from federal government involvement in vaccine development.
Trump’s constant comments referring to the virus as the “China virus” as though that absolved him of any responsibility to act to keep American deaths down, will be an issue that will not easily go away. Will the successful and, apparently, quick development of a vaccine offset the number of deaths from the virus? As with Mbeki and AIDS, Trump may be seen as having done little which contributed to what may be described as “unnecessary” deaths. 53
Trump’s calls to stop testing was, fortunately, not followed. Trump said, “Cases are going up in the U.S. because we are testing far more than any other country, and ever expanding, With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!” 54 The American Medical Association strongly criticized Trump’s call for less testing, stressing that asymptomatic people needed to be tested to slow the spread of the virus. 55 The United States managed to avoid more deaths because a President’s call for less testing was ignored. Leadership is evaluated both by what is successfully accomplished and what it fails to achieve. In this case, a great deal more American deaths were avoided because Trump’s desire to, essentially, “sweep things under the rug” was resisted by people who knew his suggestion was dangerous.
There are huge variations in how we look at leadership. A pandemic is a time of crisis and expecting political leadership to, well, essentially lead is not asking too much. Throwing up your hands and blaming China, is not leadership. The Good Fight through how it addresses the pandemic may help a broad of the part of the public articulate how they saw this pandemic unfold (once it is fully behind us).
The Yet-to-be-Defined Post-Presidential Trump Years
Television can add to and enhance what passes as reality. Brian Lowry, a CNN analyst who focuses on media, expressed concern that what passed for reality has been stretched too thin. As Lowry wrote:
[W]e’re seeing the impact of having stretched the word “reality” to accommodate this popular genre [of reality TV], and being reminded that with television, seeing is often believing, even if what’s being presented isn’t precisely true. 56
Trump benefitted from this created reality. His years on The Apprentice served to create and reinforce a belief that he was a successful and clever businessman, which may not have been the case. 57
That thin line where reality is stretched can be seen in the blending of documentaries and docuseries—and both can blend into TV drama that has the appearance of the plausible. One TV critic addressed reality stretched thin in how he commented on documentaries and their blending into docuseries and TV drama:
[Documentaries] have always carried with them an air of legitimacy and highbrow sheen. But the arc of the docuseries in the past five years—the way a show like Tiger King was able to consume all the cultural oxygen…-reminds me of what happened to RTV dramas over the past two decades. The distinction between a network drama and one made for a premium-cable outlet…came down to a narrowly defined specialness. 58
If TV dramas, and The Good Fight passes as one, blend that line where documentary, docusery, and TV drama run together, then reality may seem to come from a TV drama. How much of what passes as entertainment and how much passes as reality on The Good Fight might create a belief that something can seem plausible. TV dramas, such as The Good Fight, can develop complex plots and create character development that can seem real spread out over several episodes, something that movies may not be able to accomplish. 59 The “power of the narrative” 60 can draw the audience into looking at an issue in a different way.
The Donald Trump a public believed it came to know from his years on The Apprentice, was a television creation. 61 Is it any wonder that a TV show should play a role in helping to define his image and his legacy? Weaving through episodes of The Good Fight are issues addressing Trump such as the law firm making a bid to represent the Democratic National Committee in an impeachment process against Trump.
Robert King, again, addressed the blending of reality and plausibility when he said:
[W]e decided to make [the second season] not so much about Trump as Diane’s reaction to Trump. It’s probably our most first-person season, because you’re not sure if what you’re seeing is reality or Diane’s micro-dosing (drug use) reaction to reality. 62
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit on NBC had plans to show an episode where a presidential candidate was accused of sexual misconduct charges. The show was scheduled for October 2017, then rescheduled for November of that year. Ice-T who plays Detective Fin Tutuola on the series described this unaired episode:
There was this guy who was running for president—he was very Trump-ish, and girls were coming out of the woodwork saying he was raping them. And me and Mariska Hargitay, who plays Lt. Olivia Benson],we’re on his bumper, and he’s sweating it. But at the end of the day, it comes out that he was innocent. He didn’t do it. So we’ve got to apologize, and he’s still doing his thing, talking his shit. And it turns out that his campaign advisor, who was his best friend, was booby-trapping him because he knew he would be terrible for America! 63
There was some concern that Gary Cole, the actor who played the presidential candidate acted too much like Donald Trump and that may have led to the decision to not run the episode.
The Good Fight addressing the pee tape or if Melania will divorce The Donald are acceptable for a TV drama, but sexual assault allegations against a fictional Presidential candidate who may share some similarities with Trump was not. Where the line is that a TV show can and will cross regarding issues associated with Donald Trump is not clear. Revelations about Trump’s taxes and whether he committed serious violations regarding filing and claiming deductions, as New York state Attorney General Letitia James is investigating, or, if E. Jean Carroll’s accusation of her being sexually assaulted by Trump in the 1990s leads to prosecution, could inspire new TV storylines about Trump. In the case of Carroll, her attorneys want a sample of Trump’s DNA to see if it matches an unidentified male DNA that is on the dress Carroll says she was wearing the day of the assault. 64 What this dress beholds may significantly change a public perception of Trump, even among some hard-core supporters.
It is safe to say that TV shows are not done with Donald Trump. How this pandemic will be addressed and Trump’s role in it may be played out on several TV dramas. Donald Trump was born politically in an entertainment environment and, unlike previous former presidents, entertainment may add to and create his image and legacy.
- https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/tv/2018/05/24/good-fight-cbs-all-access-explicitly-anti-trump-robert-king-michelle-king-christine-baranski/636222002/ ↩
- https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-xpm-1989-05-19-8901260043-story.html ↩
- https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-03-04-tm-2327-story.html ↩
- ibid. ↩
- Capitalized words in the original, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1989/10/28/ronald-reagan-toast-of-tokyo-but-controversy-mars-his-symbolic-trip/11cdc265-ee18-4682-8e1f-5de188dc3ee8/ ↩
- ibid. ↩
- https://www.irishtimes.com/news/cbs-cancels-reagan-tv-mini-series-1.508599 ↩
- https://web.archive.org/web/20110525155105/http://www.cbs.com/homepage/popups/hp_popup_reagans.shtml ↩
- https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-pennsylvania-rally-only-there-his-campaign-going-south-votes-2020-10 ↩
- https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=trump+november+5th+remarks ↩
- https://www.jacksonsun.com/story/opinion/columnists/2016/07/27/trivial-entertaining-mask-real-issues/87622748/, and, Thomas Reeves, A Question of Character: A Life of John F. Kennedy, (Three Rivers Press, New York, 1997) ↩
- https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-good-fight-season-2-eviscerates-trump-and-searches-for-the-pee-tape ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- https://www.projectveritas.com/about/ ↩
- https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/project-veritas/ ↩
- https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/30/magazine/trump-voter-fraud.html ↩
- https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1461670X.2017.1375388?journalCode=rjos20 ↩
- https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-good-fight-season-2-eviscerates-trump-and-searches-for-the-pee-tape ↩
- https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/05/us/politics/trump-white-house-aides-strategy.html ↩
- https://www.aol.com/article/news/2017/02/07/photo-of-trump-in-a-bathrobe-emerges-amid-spat-with-new-york-tim/21709047/ ↩
- https://www.businessinsider.com/michael-cohen-new-book-trump-golden-showers-vegas-club-2020-8 ↩
- https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/02/michael-cohen-donald-trump-pee-tape ↩
- https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8865415/Russian-source-infamous-golden-showers-claims-Donald-Trump-speaks-time.html ↩
- https://www.justice.gov/storage/report.pdf, p. 27n ↩
- Ibid., p. 27n ↩
- https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/09/trump-americans-who-died-at-war-are-losers-and-suckers/615997/ ↩
- https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/the-most-damning-part-is-how-believable-it-is/ar-BB18Ijr5 ↩
- https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/jeffery-goldbergs-story-is-believable-it-should-not-have-been-published/ ↩
- originally called Reddick, Boseman & Kolstad, but the named changed when Diane Lockhart became a partner. ↩
- https://www.deseret.com/2014/6/9/20542769/why-moral-ambiguity-is-popular-on-tv-and-the-big-screen ↩
- https://www.eonline.com/news/1157188/the-good-fight-exit-shocker-cush-jumbo-departing-ahead-of-season-5 ↩
- https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/20/donald-melania-trump-love-relationship ↩
- ibid. ↩
- Annie Walton Doyle, “Melania Trump Responds to Rumors She’s Divorcing Donald,” 22 Words. Scrolling down the page does not show where Melania responded to any divorce rumors. Here: https://twentytwowords.com/melania-trump-responds-to-rumors-shes-divorcing-donald/ ↩
- ibid. ↩
- https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-divorce-donald-melania-prenup-2019-7#the-terms-of-the-divorce-were-likely-changed-before-melania-entered-the-white-house-according-to-a-divorce-expert-3 ↩
- https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/melanie-trump-donald-trump-divorce-settlement-001935365.html ↩
- The Good Fight Short: NDA – Bing video ↩
- https://www.eonline.com/news/1152004/the-good-fight-renewed-for-season-5-after-coronavirus-shortens-season-4 ↩
- https://ew.com/tv/returning-tv-shows-covid-pandemic-storylines/ ↩
- https://ew.com/tv/michelle-robert-king-influences-the-good-fight/ ↩
- https://www.etonline.com/the-good-fight-creators-say-season-5-wont-ignore-coronavirus-exclusive-147289 ↩
- In November, it was announced that Donald Trump, Jr. tested positive for the virus. His odd Facebook statement read, “Apparently I got the ‘rona. You wouldn’t know it based on anything that I felt or have seen.” The “‘rona” as though can he can dismiss the seriousness of this virus with an odd and incredible insensitive label. Found here: Donald Trump Jr. has the coronavirus, Jeremih leaves ICU, plus more famous people diagnosed with COVID-19 (msn.com) ↩
- https://africacheck.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/harvard-universityreport.pdf ↩
- A good overview of Mbeki and AIDS policy: https://www.newsweek.com/thabo-mbeki-south-africa-hiv-aids-434745 ↩
- https://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/04/opinion/thabo-mbeki-and-aids.html ↩
- https://howsouthafrica.com/how-mbekis-character-and-his-aids-denialism-are-intimately-linked/ ↩
- 10 Television Series That Raise Awareness On Current Social Issues (theodysseyonline.com) ↩
- The Frame | Study shows impact TV crime dramas have on perception of police use of force | 89.3 KPCC (scpr.org) ↩
- This article addresses a slow return to some type of normal: https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/09/25/how-covid-19-pandemic-ends-421122 ↩
- https://www.newsweek.com/fact-check-us-rounding-turn-covid-trump-claims-1542145 ↩
- https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/fox-news-geraldo-rivera-suggests-naming-covid-vaccine-after-trump-would-be-a-nice-gesture/ar-BB1bd3P0?ocid=msedgntp. This article partially addresses Geraldo Rivera of Fox News who suggested naming the drug after Trump. I am quite proud of my son for playing a role in AstraZeneca’s development of its vaccine in its Stage Three trials where he developed mathematical models that have been used to evaluate the effectiveness of their drug. Another piece that addresses federal government involvement is, https://www.businessinsider.com/moderna-vaccine-trial-was-part-of-trump-operation-warp-speed-2020-11 ↩
- There is a problem with the word “unnecessary” since where is the line drawn between unnecessary and whatever is on the other side. It is, however, Trump’s failure to aggressively confront COVID-19, but to make it political rather than about something the country as a whole should have addressed, that will not easily go away, regardless of the successes of vaccines. Deaths toward the end of November are addressed here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/11/20/250000-covid-deaths-map/ ↩
- https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/23/trump-blames-rise-in-coronavirus-cases-on-testing-despite-signs-of-spread.html ↩
- https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/513918-american-medical-association-criticizes-new-trump-testing-guidance ↩
- https://edition.cnn.com/2020/10/07/entertainment/trump-reality-tv/index.html ↩
- https://the-artifice.com/the-donald-show/ ↩
- https://www.vulture.com/2020/10/docuseries-reality-tv-the-vow.html ↩
- https://www.grunge.com/95963/things-believed-tv-ended-wrong/ ↩
- http://terpconnect.umd.edu/~nan/738readings/Slater%20et%20al%202006%20television%20dramas.pdf ↩
- https://the-artifice.com/the-donald-show/ ↩
- ibid. ↩
- https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/03/law-and-order-svu-donald-trump-episode-when-will-it-air-ice-t ↩
- https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/06/politics/e-jean-carroll-donald-trump-justice-department/index.html ↩
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