Donald Trump is no American Idol

LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 28: Chairman and President of the Trump Organization, Donald Trump, speaks to several GOP women's group at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino April 28, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Trump has been testing the waters for a presidential run with stops across the nation in recent weeks. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Donald Trump;
David Becker
Donald Trump greets supporters before speaking to a crowd of 600 people during a gathering of Republican women's groups, Thursday, April 28, 2011, in Las Vegas.
Donald Trump greets supporters before speaking to a crowd of 600 people during a gathering of Republican women's groups, Thursday, April 28, 2011, in Las Vegas.

Donald Trump has gone from reality show stardom into 2012 presidential politics. It's a natural evolution. Both are competitions that require winning favor with judges.

The problem for Trump is that the reality show model he fancies isn't great for conducting a presidential campaign.

His reality show, NBC's "The Apprentice" franchise, is set up so that he plays an autocrat. Trump is the hanging judge of reality TV, unaccountable to any voting public. He is the man who filed a patent to trademark the phrase, "You're fired."

Trump's campaign is similar to a reality show. The would-be candidate plays a game of hide and seek with his candidacy, creating an air of suspense, teasing the audience to stay tuned in for the end of the show.

He has been promising a big surprise about his presidential ambitions following the May 22 finale of "The Celebrity Apprentice."

But if Trump were truly concerned about being hired by the American people to run America, he would be better served by taking his cues from a more democratic reality show, "American Idol."

Unlike "Celebrity Apprentice," as well as shows like "Top Chef" in which all-powerful judges determine who takes their knives home, the fate of "American Idol" contestants is in the hands of the people.

In a given week more than 50 million votes (individuals can vote online up to 50 times per performance program) are tallied. The "American Idol" competitor with the lowest number of votes goes home. The judges have some influence in how the voters perceive the contestants, but in the latest incarnation of the show they don't attempt to dictate the outcome.

Winning "American Idol" requires currying the favor of a voting public. Trump seems oblivious to addressing in detail the issues that concern voters. If he were in it to win it, he wouldn't have focused so much of his campaign trail remarks on the subject of President Obama's birth certificate and college records.

Trump appears to be more interested in showcasing his sizable ego than articulating a plan for dealing with the difficult set of issues facing the nation, or winning the vote.

He related that his greatest triumph since hitting the campaign trail is the disclosure of Mr. Obama's long-for birth certificate.

"Today I am very proud of myself, because I have accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish. I was just informed while on the helicopter that our president has finally released a birth certificate," Trump said during a visit to the important primary state of New Hampshire.

Trump articulated his foreign policy toward China exports in Las Vegas last month: "Listen you mother-----er, we're going to tax you 25 percent." He said he wouldn't help struggling nations such as Libya or South Korea unless the U.S. were compensated. "I'm not interested in protecting none of them unless they pay," he said.

He is not without some ideas, but they not are fleshed out into any kind of solution. For example on the nation's involvement in military actions overseas, he said, "We build a school, we build a road, they blow up the school, we build another school, we build another road they blow them up, we build again, in the meantime we can't get a f----ing school in Brooklyn."

Trump is caught up his own political reality theater, complete with polls show him leading the GOP pack. He viscerally connects with the public displeasure with Congress and big government, offering statements such as, "Our leaders are stupid, they are stupid people."

But polls at this stage are about popularity, like Nielsen ratings on TV, not electability. If he runs, he will do so only until the polls show that his ratings are sagging. 

The Donald won't stick around long enough to be fired by the GOP or dragged through the mud as the media examines into every nook and cranny of his life and controversial career. With his billions, he will go back to the reality show he can control and enjoy his celebrity.

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    Dan has more than 20 years of journalism experience. He has served as editor in chief of, CNET News, ZDNet, PC Week, and MacWeek.