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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Can Donald Trump be president if he can't take a joke?

Donald_trump Donald Trump had to be flattered that he got the lion's share of attention at this weekend's White House correspondents dinner. 

Washington's equivalent of a Friar's Club roast, the dinner is often viewed as a barometer of a president's likability quotient, particularly when it comes to the matter of whether the sitting president can perform a decent comedy monologue as well as laugh along with a monologue from a comedy pro where most of the jokes are at his expense.

President Obama passed the test with flying colors. His monologue was clever and generally funny, especially when he gently poked fun at the industry that helps the Democratic Party raise tons of money: Hollywood.

There were plenty of showbiz stars in the audience, including Zach Galifianakis, Jon Hamm, Scarlett Johansson and Sean Penn, who got to hear Obama jokingly admit that he has let down a big segment of his key core constituency -- "movie stars." The president singled out Matt Damon, acknowledging that Damon had recently said he was disappointed in Obama's performance.

"Well, Matt, I just saw 'The Adjustment Bureau,' so ...." as the laughter began to swell. "Right back at ya, buddy." 

But when it came to barbed humor, both from the president and the dinner's host, "Saturday Night Live" writer and performer Seth Meyers, the real target was Trump. Meyers was at the top of his game, blithely making fun of everything about Trump, from his hair ("Donald Trump often appears on Fox, which is ironic because a fox often appears on his head") to his taste in women ("Donald Trump owns the Miss USA Pageant, which is great for Republicans because it will streamline their search for a vice president.")

Surely Trump must know by now that the appropriate response to being hammered is to grin and bear it, especially when the cameras cut away to Trump every time a joke about him detonated. But Trump sat stony-faced through the whole ordeal, as if he were actually insulted by a few routine political zingers.

Trump made things even worse on Sunday when, in the course of several interviews, he attacked Meyers, telling the New York Times that "Seth Meyers has no talent" and saying on "Fox and Friends" that Meyers' "delivery frankly was not good. He's a stutterer and he really was having a hard time."

I guess this kind of nasty overreaction shouldn't exactly come as a surprise, but it once again proves that, despite all the media frenzy, the Trump Political Carnival isn't going to last very long. You can't make it as a boxer if you can't take a punch and you can't make it as a serious political candidate if you can't take a joke. Even Richard Nixon had the brains to go on "Laugh-In" and make fun of himself (thanks to his savvy young media consultant, future Fox News chief Roger Ailes).

Trump is clearly surrounded by sycophants, which is fine if you're a reality TV host, where the bar for good judgment isn't all that high. But presidential aspirants have to kiss babies, fend off hostile questions and always keep their cool, which is still clearly foreign territory to Trump. 

If Trump is serious about running for president, he's going to need a sense of humor transplant. In America, after watching TV sitcoms all our lives, we're a nation that demands having a leader we can like, and if you can't laugh at yourself you'll never make it anywhere near the White House.

-- Patrick Goldstein

Photo: Donald Trump arriving at the White House correspondents dinner in Washington. Credit: Jim Bourg / Reuters


Comments () | Archives (20)

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Trump is clearly a media hound, a narcissist, and egomaniac. Since he joined the recently discredited birther movement, we should boycott all Trump branded "birther hotels" and properties. Bu not just for that reason... Use your memory. Let us count the reasons...

As the laughter in the room swelled when Meyers made the crack about Trump's political aspirations being a joke, the game he has been playing as a media whore to boost Celebrity Apprentice ratings was over. Racist or not, it's over. Who cares if NBC picks up his scripted and edited "reality" show so he could tell other losers that they're fired? He's over, and I'm bored. Send in another clown.

Donald Trump is the skin, cotten candy hair, fake smile, pompous pretensions, and what about his income tax returns????

Obama is clearly one of the most defensive presidents we've ever had. His constant comments about Fox News demonstrates this. President Bush had to endure far worse criticism and handled the verbal jabs far better (He was constantly compared to Hitler, after all). So now you're laughing about Trump having thin skin? Ideological hopscotch.

Pity the Donald. He can't take a joke? Wow, I will feel really safe if he becomes president. Mad all the time, because he WILL be the but of late nite comic's jokes...he won't be able to handle it. His face turns almost purple, he takes things so personally. I don't think we need to worry. He is his own worst enemy.

Trump is not a presidential candidate, much less a Republican candidate, much less anything approaching a CHOICE of anyone serious. He is a "colorful" mogul in the same vein as Ross Perot.

Few people on the right are shooting him down because he is hitting on Obama to the point where it visibly gets under his thin skin.

Also, since the press has been and still is "in the tank" for Obama, the ones who will actually run are waiting it out to not become press targets before they need to be. If you can't see that Obama was and has been handled differently by the press, then you aren't observant.

Hilarious jokes about Trump; loved the "fox" joke and "the blacks". Never saw Trump crack a smile - no sense of humor.

Trump is stunningly narcissistic. Of course he has no sense of humor. He has zero self awareness. He gets outraged and abusive if anyone disagrees with him. He can't understand why people don't believe or agree with everything he says, especially how truly and magnificently amazing he is. It's really sad and pathetic.


I'm not an American national, and watched the bit where President Obama poked fun at Trump on the Daily Show, commented by John Stewart. Even that short clip demonstrated Trump's painful inability to roll with the punches, and how very out of his depth he seemed - to mix my metaphors - to the treatment.

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