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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

The impeached impresario takes his show on the road

Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg was a foil

Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg was a foil to President Donald Trump on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum. Credit: EPA/Alessandro Della Valle

For a few moments, even the impeachment had the feel of a Donald Trump celebrity contest.

The president had built a drumroll for who would join his defense team. Those who remember the 1990s know two of its well-publicized picks, prosecutor Ken Starr and defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz.

Their past positions on the law and other cases matter little. Trump's team booked them for his big show, a balance to his regular staff and workhorses, such as attorney Jay Sekulow and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who both have broadcast-ready voices.

Like any good studio production, the impeachment trial, "co-hosted" by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will include a scripted ending.

As an impresario, the president shows an odd versatility by fueling celebrity for those he scorns.

Trump appeared Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where Greta Thunberg, the 17-year-old climate activist, again urged an immediate halt to investing in fossil fuels.

Thunberg told the gathering: “I wonder, what will you tell your children was the reason to fail and leave them facing the climate chaos you knowingly brought upon them?”

From a showbiz perspective, her persona as the earnest and plucky underdog is enhanced by Trump playing the humorless heavy deploring her fame.

“I don’t really know anything about her,” Trump snipped to The Wall Street Journal when asked about Thunberg on the sidelines of the forum. But then the president, as before, called her “very angry.”

Apparently he was reviewing her performance as well as attacking her message. During his own speech, Trump denounced "perennial prophets of doom" in reference to the environment.

America's impresario took a more collegial tone in addressing the powerful president of China, Xi Jinping.

“He’s for China, I’m for the U.S., but other than that we love each other,” Trump said. “Our relationship with China has probably never been better. We went through a very rough patch, but it has never, ever been better.”

That sounds like an applause prompt for the studio audience of a talk show. Outstanding flashpoints between the U.S. and China on trade, currency, property rights and military positions seemed almost beside the point in this impresario's moment.

Trump once was the business rival of a real-life impresario, the late talk-show host Merv Griffin. In the 1980s, Griffin, who made millions in hotels, bested Trump in a battle for control of the corporation Resorts International.

The president's obsession with TV ratings has been well-known from the start. As noted by Vanity Fair in 2017, a framed printout of a TV Guide ratings chart adorns a wall at the entrance to Mar-a-Lago, citing a single episode's top performance.

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