Palin and Trump: Celebrities or serious politicians?

Richard Carter | 8/24/2011, 3:38 p.m.
"They're like an advertising firm. They manufacture rousing affirmatives..."-Spencer Tracy, "Keeper of the Flame" (1943)...
Colony Records was my place for original Black R&B

"They're like an advertising firm. They manufacture rousing affirmatives..."-Spencer Tracy, "Keeper of the Flame" (1943)

This is a tale of two presidential wannabes-Sarah Palin and Donald Trump. But they are not peas in a pod. Their main similarities are blatant self-promotion, blind ambition, boring celebrity status and a strong belief that Barack Hussein Obama is beatable.

As anathema as they are to many-and rightly so-each has undeniable attributes. Palin is, by far, the best looking female ever in big-time politics. So much so the lame Tina Fey-who spoofs her on TV's "Saturday Night Live"-comes off as a wet noodle.

Trump, of course, is a New York real estate tycoon and one of the wealthiest persons ever to seriously consider running for president. His huge financial resources-sweetened by a two-year, $80-million NBC contract for "Celebrity Apprentice"-would enable him to buy oodles of TV advertising to make his case, which is key in a successful campaign.

At this writing, neither the gorgeous Palin, 47, nor the filthy-rich Trump, 65, has definitely ruled out a 2012 run for the Oval Office. Indeed, many politics-watchers feel Palin may go after the Republican nomination if, for no other reason, than to reclaim the female power mantle from newly formidable U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann.

So what do we make these days of Palin, the self-styled "Mama Grizzly"? Will her opponents-including some Democrats questioning Obama's competence-continue mocking her? How close is she to the Tea Party movement? These are burning questions for the political media, as well as Democrats, Republicans and independents.

As to Palin's relationship with the Tea Party so feared by Democrats, the vivacious mother of five is now second to Bachmann. Both of these strong women represent relatively unpolished, plain-spoken conservatism untainted by association with the blunders, compromises and failures in Washington during the George W. Bush years.

Remember, it was less than three years ago that Palin's GOP went down in flames in the presidential election, leaving the party in shambles. Since then, she has successfully reinvented herself. Regular appearances as a commentator on the top-rated (and much hated by liberals) Fox News Channel, which provides her an unmatched, wide-ranging public forum.

In addition, she's cashing in on a best-selling book and $60,000 speaking fees, has made headlines with her ballyhooed bus tour, upstaged Mitt Romney in New Hampshire and is basking in "The Undefeated," a docu-movie about her time as Alaskan governor that opens on July 15. And, of course, she won big in her high-profile dissing contest with TV's lame David Letterman.

Palin's bubbling personality and outspoken sensibility doesn't appeal as much to the political middle, as well as to many Tea Party activists.

However, her cause was boosted by the GOP landslide in last November's midterm elections. Meanwhile, it's clear she has something up her sleeve besides shapely arms. Like her or not, you don't want to sell Palin short.

On the other hand, Trump was leading some Republican polls before pulling out to continue his lucrative top-rated "Celebrity Apprentice" TV show. But he says he may enter the race next year as an independent-depending on the viability of the candidates.

Yet, like charismatic, savvy and smart Herman Cain, the plain-speaking Trump has never held public office. While nobody doubts his business smarts and success, especially in New York, his egomaniac persona and know-it-all rich boy attitude turns off many.

In addition, Trump's history is replete with public and personal negatives. Why did he jettison his Democratic Party leanings for the GOP? Why did he say "motherf-" several times during a recent, high-profile speech? Why did he use the term "the Blacks" when referring to African-Americans? And what's up with his three marriages?

And do his brazen threats to China and Iran and vicious put-downs of Obama qualify him for serious consideration as a presidential candidate? I think not. Indeed, such issues trump curve balls Trump has pitched at Obama, such as producing a birth certificate for where he was born and his need for affirmative action to get into Columbia and Harvard.

And there's no way Black people in New York will forget how Trump insinuated himself in the Central Park Jogger rape case in 1989. I was with the New York Daily News at the time and wrote often about the assault on the white jogger, Trisha Meili.

In my editorials and on "Showdown"-the national TV show on CNBC I co-hosted with the late Morton Downey Jr.-I pounced on Trump for his full-page ads in the city's white newspapers calling for the death penalty for five accused Black and Latino teens. Although innocent, each was convicted and served eight to 13 years in prison. They were vindicated in 2002 when the real rapist confessed and are now suing the city for $250 million.

Trump has yet to apologize for these racially tinged ads. Such nonsense-as well as his many goofball statements-proves he is rich and dangerous, but not very smart.

Yet, it would be foolish for anyone-Black, white, Democrat, Republican, private citizen, elected official or member of the news media-to underestimate Palin or Trump. Like 'em or not, they've got a lot going for them. Think about it.

Finally, can either become a viable nominee for president? Possibly, but not likely. Could either be elected president? Probably not. But like the wise man once said, never say never. And that's the name of that Palin-Trump tune.