The Tabloid Myths of Jennifer Aniston and Donald Trump

Going by the tabloid reports, I found that Ms. Aniston should have given birth to some two dozen babies in the last few years. According to OK! alone, she has acquired up to 15 kids since 2013, having been pregnant nine times — twice with twins! — while also adopting a third set of twins.

.. It’s no mystery why In Touch and OK! keep printing these false stories. At a time when gossip magazines are suffering right along with more serious publications and digital outlets, they no longer have the reporting ranks they once relied on to dig up real celebrity scoops.

.. And the gossip industry provides a rich, if anachronistic, narrative indeed: The approachable-seeming Ms. Aniston gets the better of a glamorous rival — Angelina Jolie — and finds contentment through being reunited with the supposed love of her life. And baby makes three (or 18).
.. Never mind that Ms. Aniston herself finds that view of a woman’s happiness to be offensive. “We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete,” she wrote in 2016 HuffPost essay that debunked the endless false tabloid reports about her love life and supposed pregnancies.
“With Jennifer Aniston, you have to start with the fundamental thing that people like her, and they’re pulling for her,” said Larry Hackett, the former editor of People magazine. “They would like to see her have the baby, because they’re operating under this archaic, old-fashioned notion that without a baby she must be unhappy.”

Mr. Hackett sagely noted that the mix of reality and fantasy contained in the Aniston story line isn’t all that different from the contrived, highly edited versions of reality presented by “unscripted” shows like “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” still going strong in its 15th season. More important for the purposes of this column, it’s not all that different from a onetime stalwart of the genre, “The Apprentice.”

.. As Patrick Radden Keefe wrote in a recent article on “The Apprentice” for The New Yorker, Donald J. Trump’s star had dimmed in the years before it aired. By papering over his business organizations’ bankruptcies, not to mention the fraud accusations against Trump University, the NBC prime-time hit “mythologized him anew, turning him into an icon of American success.”

Mr. Trump ran his campaign and at times runs his White House with a reliance on the same mix of fantasy and truthiness typical of supermarket tabloids and reality TV. Just as a large group of people can’t get enough of the tales about Ms. Aniston, a large constituency seems eager to believe a reality-show narrative about the 45th president.

.. On “The Apprentice,” he was a straight-shooting, street-smart businessman. To rally-goers during his campaign, he was the outsider who sought to smash a calcified ruling elite. As president, he has been the man willing to fight off resistance from “the deep state” to do what’s right, even if it means shutting down the government.

.. In this scenario, the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III plays the role filled by Ms. Jolie in the Aniston saga — the foil who thrives on thwarting our protagonist.

.. Just as I have found myself tempted to believe the Pregnant Jen story line, the president’s fans seem more than willing to embrace this version of reality — a story line that has been fleshed out by The National Enquirer, his unignorable Twitter feed, his Fox News cheering section (Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, the gang at “Fox & Friends”), his radio boosters (Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin), and his longtime adviser Roger Stone, who fed a new “deep state” theory to Infowars a week before his arrest on Friday.

.. Driving the belief in political conspiracy theories and celebrity pregnancies alike is “a desire to have the truth fit” the heart’s desires, said Renée Ann Cramer, a professor of law, politics and society at Drake University in Iowa. “They want it to be true,” she said.

Trump Pulls Back From Declaring a National Emergency to Fund a Wall

WASHINGTON — President Trump has stepped back from declaring a national emergency to pay for a border wall, under pressure from congressional Republicans, his own lawyers and advisers, who say using it as a way out of the government shutdown does not justify the precedent it would set and the legal questions it could raise.

If today the national emergency is border security, tomorrow the national emergency might be climate change,” Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, one of the idea’s critics, said this week. Another Republican, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, told an interviewer that declaring a national emergency should be reserved for “the most extreme circumstances.”

.. “What we’re not looking to do right now is national emergency,” he told reporters gathered in the Cabinet Room as the shutdown approached its fourth week. Minutes later he contradicted himself, saying that he would declare a state of emergency if he had to.

.. Instead, Mr. Trump would use his authority to transfer funds to the wall that were appropriated by Congress for other purposes. Toward that end, the Army Corps of Engineers has been directed to study whether it can divert about $13.9 million in emergency aide set aside for Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and California. And with the money secured, the president could drop his opposition to the appropriations bills whose passage would end the shutdown.

.. Former White House aides, who noted that Mr. Trump did not focus on the wall during the first two years of his presidency, said the optics of fighting for the wall were more important to the president than erecting it.

.. But opposition has come from many Republican quarters. Some conservatives see it as an unacceptable extension of executive power. Kellyanne Conway, a White House aide, has said it would essentially give Congress a pass. Representative Mike Simpson, Republican of Idaho and a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said it was not clear to him that an emergency declaration would even lead to the prompt reopening of the government.

Is Trump Duping Putin?

Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to think that he has been using his strategically incompetent American counterpart to advance his ends. In fact, Donald Trump has dragged everyone into his reality-TV world, in which sensation, exaggeration, and misinformation all serve his only true goal: to be the center of attention.

But the truth is that neither Democrats nor the media have actually had much success in reining in Trump. As for the Republicans, who control both houses of the US Congress, even once-vocal opponents – such as Senators Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz – now lick Trump’s boots. With Trump having bullied his party into submission, it seems unlikely that his failure to deliver for Putin can be blamed on others.

The more likely explanation for Trump’s betrayal of Putin is that his warm rhetoric was, like everything else that comes out of his mouth, driven by his desire for ratings, not any actual interest in – let alone commitment to – helping the Kremlin. Consider how Trump’s early overtures to another strongman, Chinese President Xi Jinping, gave way to a full-blown trade war against that country, which Trump now portrays as America’s enemy.

.. Of course, the world has come to expect broken promises and capriciousness from Trump. What is surprising is how Putin has misread the situation so badly. How could such a keen observer of the US, whose former career as a spy honed his ability to decipher people’s motives and intentions, fail to recognize the falseness of Trump’s promises?

.. If anyone knows that actions speak louder than words, it is Putin, whose words often include transparent denials of documented wrongdoing, from meddling in the US election to violating treaties. Yet Putin continues to ignore Trump’s actions and seeks for more meetings “to touch base” with the ever-complimentary US president, such as at this month’s World War I centenary in Paris or the G20 summit in Argentina.

Putin seems to think that he has been using the strategically incompetent Trump to advance his ends. In fact, Trump has dragged everyone into his reality-TV world, in which sensation, exaggeration, and misinformation all serve his only true goal: to be the last “survivor” on the island. By the time Putin finally realizes that he has been duped, the world will probably have paid a high price in terms of political stability, strategic security, and environmental damage. And Putin will have to pay it, too.

Trump and Omarosa Are Kindred Spirits

My conversations with him about her star power.

Donald Trump and I used to talk a lot about Omarosa Manigault Newman. The future president was fascinated by her. He was fascinated by her self-absorption and nastiness, fascinated by her fleeting star power and fascinated by the fact that she was publicly recognizable by her first name alone, sort of like Prince or Madonna.

.. Viewers gravitated toward Omarosa because, on a show that exploited a “Lord of the Flies” scenario to see how badly an average group of men and women wanted to please Trump, she could behave so horrifically that it reassured folks that they probably wouldn’t be — couldn’t be — that monstrous themselves.
.. The producers of “The Apprentice” originally thought that the show’s dog-eat-dog world would be its main attraction and that Trump’s now famous boardroom firings would just be icing on the cake. They soon discovered that Trump decapitating people with his signature phrase — “You’re fired!” — and most of the other scenes he inhabited were what gave this ensemble act its real juice.

in the show’s first season in 2004 Omarosa owned her own peculiar space. Viewers loved hating her.
I’m going to crush my competition and I’m going to enjoy doing it,” she declared on the show.
.. she dispensed with decorum and bluntly told people off. She often belittled her own teammates when strategy was debated.
If she decided she wasn’t up for a particular challenge she found a way to dodge it.
.. She was scheming, deceitful, ruthless and unapologetic, and Trump was mesmerized.
.. Trump told me that he initially had been worried that some of “The Apprentice” contestants lacked star power. Omarosa changed his mind.
I didn’t think she had it. But she was great casting,” he told me. “We didn’t know she was the Wicked Witch until the audience found she was the Wicked Witch. We had an idea but you never know how it is going to be picked up.”
.. Worried about what would become of him if and when NBC canceled “The Apprentice,” he sought advice about how best to secure his stardom. He told me he rang up Lorne Michaels, the producer of “Saturday Night Live,” for counseling... “Which is bigger, a television star or a movie star?” he asked.

“A television star,” Michaels replied. “Because you are on in front of 30 million people, every week, virtually every week.”

All of this gave Trump a newfound appreciation of Omarosa.

“I would have never thought that Omarosa was a star,” he told me. “I didn’t think she was that attractive. I didn’t think she was anything. And she became a star.”

.. When Omarosa bungled her final task (shopping some art) toward the end of the first season, Trump canned her. His own star was shining brightly and he didn’t need Omarosa’s added glare.

..  By most accounts, she treated her White House stay the same way she handled “The Apprentice” competition — full speed ahead, detractors be damned.

.. Trump tweets relentlessly when he feels cornered or obsessed, and he is currently obsessed with Omarosa. She is just as craven and self-absorbed as he is, and betrayal by a kindred spirit has never sat well with him.

.. Trump’s response is also evidence that the man elected in part because of the managerial and business prowess he demonstrated on “The Apprentice” can’t get his country’s priorities in order. Expect him to wallow in moments like this for years to come.