When you hear about one or more billionaire businessmen staging a large televised event and dragging up a bunch of United States soldiers and veterans to be used as props, the natural reaction is: This must be an NFL game.
But Thursday night’s much-hyped veterans event turned out to be a Donald Trump rally, and it had nothing to do with the NFL, apart from the host resembling a Cincinnati Bengals jersey.
Trump made full use of his walking, talking, camouflaged props, calling veterans onto the stage to fistbump him, pose for pictures, and generally be co-opted for political purposes. Nearly $6 million was allegedly donated to veterans groups– approximately $5,943,000 more than Trump donated to veterans when he wasn’t being filmed.
It was a mirror image of the NFL’s “Salute to Service” carnival act, where troops are hauled out to model branded content and lend their image to a league otherwise known for military-grade head trauma.
But at least Trump had this on the NFL: He actually raised money for veterans rather than charging them for the privilege of being on stage with him. In fact the roughly $6 million supposedly raised by Trump last night is equal to the roughly $6 million the NFL charged the Department of Defense to recognize soldiers at their games– thus fulfilling the near-impossible objective of making Donald Trump look like a moral authority.
Trump was joined on stage by fellow candidates Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, which is like the NFL’s Roger Goodell getting accompanied by the commissioners of the World Shuffleboard Tour and Major League Ping Pong. And while the totals raised at the rally were roughly double what Huckabee has raised in his entire campaign, and quintuple what Santorum has raised, the fact is that neither had anywhere better to be.
By night’s end, the event had it all: Boasting and bravado, troops on display, and a billionaire running the show. All Trump needed was an uber-bland set from Coldplay, and it basically would be this year’s Super Bowl.