This weekend, just before Saturday Night Live began its show, a commercial aired on NBC in Washington, D.C. The ad featured a man in a home gym, lifting weights. “President Trump, I hear you watch the morning shows,” he said. “Here’s what I do every morning.” The camera panned out to reveal that the man was missing a leg. “Look, you lost the popular vote, you’re having trouble drawing a crowd, and your approval rating keeps sinking,” he said, still directly addressing the president. “But kicking thousands of my fellow veterans off their health insurance by killing the Affordable Care Act and banning Muslims won’t help. That’s not the America I sacrificed for.” He paused. “You want to be a legitimate president, sir? Then act like one.”
The anonymous veteran—or rather, the ad he starred in, from the political action committee VoteVets.org—was embracing one of the most common clichés of the young administration of Donald J. Trump: that this is a president who, forged in the fires of television, remains malleable when placed in the vicinity of that medium’s particular kind of heat. Trump owes much of his national fame to TV in general, and to NBC in particular; he is also, journalistic reports and his personal Twitter feed have long suggested, a regular viewer of cable news, from the “fake” to the “less so.” He is also a regular watcher of Saturday Night Live. After a December sketch, starring Alec Baldwin, mocked the then-president-elect’s impulsive tweeting, the actual Donald Trump, my colleague David Sims pointed out, offered a condemnation of Baldwin’s impression. Via, yes, a tweet. One sent at 12:13 a.m. East Coast time—about halfway through SNL’s live broadcast.