William F. B. O'Reilly Portrait of Newsday/amNY columnist Bill O'Reilly (March 28,

William F. B. O'Reilly is a consultant to Republicans.

Donald Trump says that he's forming an "exploratory" committee for president.

And mermaids have been spotted near Atlantis.

The perennial game Trump plays with the American electorate, and with the media, where he pretends to run for high office to get his name back in the headlines, has become more than just disingenuous. It's downright insulting at this point, not to mention undignified. But dignity has never been The Donald's strong suit.

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Trump makes a mockery of himself -- and of the American political system -- every time he sticks his snout into a race, which is pretty much all the time. Last year it was governor. This year it's president -- again. He's been "seriously considering" a run for one office or another for going on 30 years, greedily commanding news attention along the way. It's amazing he still gets coverage.

Meanwhile, the nation has real and serious challenges that deserve sober candidates and substantive debate, not another Trump circus act.

For awhile I thought Trump was trying to be funny. I thought his act was tongue-in-cheek performance art, a P.T. Barnum routine of sorts. But I don't think so anymore. As hard as I look, I can find no kernel of art or humor in his game.

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Charlie Brown trying to kick Lucy's football was funny -- she always snatched it away at the last second, leaving him flat on his back -- because Charles M. Schultz knew how to keep a gag evergreen. Trump and his team of handlers do not. They just appear to be media gluttons.

We have to think back nearly 30 years to remember a time when Trump was actually considered a legitimate candidate for public office. It was in 1986. Trump was flying high after fixing Central Park's Wollman Rink, which the City of New York couldn't seem to do despite millions of dollars spent. Trump's skating rink represented a triumph of private sector know-how over government paralysis and overruns. Privatization was a big theme in the 1980s, and The Donald basked in its glory. He hemmed and hawed for months that year about challenging Mario Cuomo for governor, playing the media and the public, including yours truly, like a violin virtuoso. And then, of course, he walked away, like he always does when things get serious.

Anyone who works in politics or who follows the field closely knows two things about The Donald. One, he's never been that big of a political player. He talks a gigantic game, but his contribution levels have been modest, ranging in the low thousands in an arena where millions are routinely thrown about. And two, his contribution history is ideologically insane. He's been giving to left-wing Democrats for years, including Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Charlie Rangel and Ted Kennedy. He wouldn't stand a chance in a Republican primary, and the Democrats certainly don't want him either.

Trump's talent has been his ability to attract the klieg lights around him. I wonder whether he knows how he looks under them these days.

 

William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican consultant.