PopPolitics: R.J. Cutler on Trump’s Brand Bump (Listen)

Also: GOP Debate Dilemma; Norman Lear 'Sings'

Donald Trump continues to lead in polls, despite widespread predictions that his comments about John McCain’s military service would deflate his campaign.

On the latest “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM’s POTUS Channel, R.J. Cutler, director of documentaries like “A Perfect Candidate” and producer of “The War Room,” says Trump “is the first candidate I can think of who is basically running on a brand — and the brand is called Trump.”

“The only time he refers to the third person is when he is putting the brand forward,” Cutler says. “‘Who provides more jobs than Trump? Who can negotiate better than Trump? It is a fascinating thing, so he is putting the brand forward without any specificity, and when you ask for specificity, he relies on the brand name and says, ‘This brand will take care of you, and this brand will run your country, and this brand will negotiate with Mexico and get them to pay for the wall that this brand will hire people to build.'”

Cutler says, “If ever we deserved a candidate at this moment in our culture, that candidate is Donald Trump.” He says that it is a symptom of the speed of information “whipping by us at lightning speed,” but also because Trump “is touching a nerve in the Republican base.”

But he says that it is still very early in the process — as the scrutiny of Trump is just starting. He notes that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) “is waiting in the wings for Donald Trump’s following.

“He will not say anything bad about Donald Trump because he wants his followers and also he most closely shares his views at the moment,” he says.

Listen below:

More from Cutler on Trump here.

Cutler talks about why a cinema verite documentary about a presidential campaign would be so difficult to pull off today.

“I don’t really think they can be done,” he says, noting that “now campaigns have their own films, their own documentarians… They are stage managed to an inch of their lives.”

Listen below:


The Republican party made a concerted effort this cycle to gain more control over presidential primary debates, limiting their number in hopes of avoiding the spectacle of 2012, when such gatherings started taking on the feel of a reality show.

How is the plan working out?

“Not very well,” says Alan Schroeder, professor at Northeastern University in Boston and author of “Presidential Debates: 50 Years of High Risk TV.”

“The party itself abdicated its responsibility and allowed the networks to pretty much determine not only how they are going to be run, but who gets to be in them.”

The first primary debate will be on Aug. 6 on Fox News, which is limiting the main event to the top 10 candidates selected from the results of five national polls.

Listen below:

The candidates left out of the first debate will participate in their own forum on Fox News earlier in the day. The result, Schroeder says, could be a ratings bonanza for the news network.

Listen below:

Comedy or Class?

President Obama went on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” this week, and talked extensively about the deal with Iran to limit its nuclear weapons capabilities. That drew some criticism from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who questioned the venue for talking about such a serious security issue.

David Cohen of Variety and Nikki Schwab of U.S. News talk about whether latenight TV really can be an effective way to convey a foreign policy message. They also talk about Donald Trump’s $110,000 pension from SAG-AFTRA.

Listen below:

Norman Lear Sings

Who knew? Norman Lear turns 93 on Monday, and to mark the occasion, he has put out a new music video, fulfilling an item on his bucket list. The song was written by musician Paul Hipp.

Watch below:

“PopPolitics,” hosted by Variety’s Ted Johnson, airs Thursdays at 11 a.m. PT/2 p.m. ET on SiriusXM’s POTUS Channel 124.

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