It is not too surprising that with a panel on Saturday composed of both Trump supporters and detractors, there was really no consensus answer.
Instead, it seemed to raise other questions, topics, and conversations.
“I am not quite ready to call him a lunatic and I sure as hell am not calling him a genius. He’s a narcissist,” concluded Clay Aiken, the singer, “Celebrity Apprentice” runner-up, and former congressional candidate.
He recalled going to one of his rallies in Wilkes-Barres, Pa., last year in an arena that Aiken had once sold out when he performed with Kelly Clarkson.
“I knew in that moment that is why he was running, because I remember what that is like,” Aiken said. “I remember the energy of the people from that crowd when they are playing that video of you before you come out. It is something you don’t want to give up. Donald Trump ran for that attention. He is continuing to do his rallies for that attention.”
Actually, attention is the currency of Politicon, too. The New Republic earlier this week called it the “Perfect Media Racket for the Trump Era.” It’s heavy in talk radio personalities and media pundits, politically interested celebrities, and many people who have recently written books. Organizers have hopes of exceeding the 8,000 who attended last year, with an admission fee of $50 each day. As you can imagine, those who attend are interested in politics and have very strong points of view, whether they be pro- or anti-Trump (As a safety precaution, attendees do have to go through metal detectors).
One woman — wearing a red, white, and blue dress, no less — was the first up when the “Trump: Genius of Lunatic” panel was opened up for audience questions, and she insisted that Trump was “by far the most accomplished president in his first six months ever.”
“The left lunacy continues to focus on such ridiculous nonsense,” she said to cheers from the crowd.
Then, to the relief of moderator Sally Kohn, she got to her question: “When will you on the left stop acting like lunatics?”
One of the Trump detractors on the panel, Anthony Atamanuik, who plays Trump as the the creator and star of Comedy Central’s “The President Show,” tried to sound understanding. He told her, “What I have empathy for is the frustration of not being heard.”
Coming off a week in which Trump replaced his chief of staff and saw healthcare reform legislation skid in the Senate, among many other things, his supporters at Politicon seemed just as enthused as they were last year.
Robert Davi noted that Ronald Reagan got “the same ridicule, even within the party.” He said that Trump has shown that he has a “compassionate heart,” and he chalked up some of the turbulence of his first six months in office to Washington politics. He called it a “viper’s nest.”
Davi added, “They had seven years to go across the aisle and say to the Democrats, ‘How do we fix this for the American people?’
Scottie Nell Hughes, a CNN commentator, complained of the way that the media has covered Trump, instead of focusing on “what is really on the minds of the American people.”
When Kohn pressed her on Trump’s accomplishments, Hughes cited Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court and Trump’s effort to get NATO countries to pay their fair share of defense, but she also said, “Folks, it is just six months, and he has to fight his own party as much as he has to fight the other side.”
And Hughes also defended Trump’s tweets, a constant source of media distraction, as a way to “send the American people a pathway they can trust.”
Aiken added that Trump craves the attention — positive or negative — and conceded he was a “wonderful entertainer.” But he turned to his experience on “The Apprentice” to try to deconstruct how Trump thinks.
On the set, Aiken said, Trump relied on cue cards.
“I always noticed that when he would get to a point on the cue card that he actually understood what was going on, he would repeat it. He’d double down on it. And when I watched him do these speeches at these rallies — which he why he ran — when he gets to the speech and repeats something, it is because he has gotten to the place in the script where he realizes, ‘Oh. I understand what I am saying.”
He added, “He took credit for firing people [on the show]. He didn’t know what happened during the day. I said a few times, he had a little TelePromoter in front of him on the table, and he’s running this country in the same way that he ran ‘Apprentice,’ which is producers are kind of telling him what is going on, and he is trying to make it look like he is getting something done.”