Harry Shearer is best known for his roles on The Simpsons and in Spinal Tap, but he's also enjoyed a long career in political satire. So, along with the rest of America, he's been tracking the ubiquitous Donald Trump campaign – and he recently shared his thoughts on it with Rolling Stone.
"I recall a time not so long ago when a large proportion of the American population was riveted by an incredibly boring criminal trial, the O.J. Simpson trial," Shearer says. "And the only reason that you could possibly come up with for why they would sit through eight months of that tedious stuff was the guy on trial was a celebrity. So the answer as to why Trump has retained his popularity to this point is, 'He's a celebrity!' The polls have basically been about, 'Who do you want to see on TV?' At this point that's what they are about."
Shearer also laughed at how sensitive some of the GOP candidates seemed at this week's debate – the way they responded to tough questions and lashed out at the media. For instance, Ted Cruz chastised a moderator for likening Trump's run to a "comic book campaign."
"I didn't think the questions were all that assertive or combative," he says. "My wife, Judith [Owen], and I spend a lot of time in Britain, where the ambient level of political discourse is far more, shall we say, abrasive than it is over here.... If you didn't know this was some sort of calculated crowd play, because the GOP base hates the media, you'd think, 'These guys can't stand up to the guys from CNBC, they're gonna stand up to Putin?'"
Shearer also cited a recent Washington Post article about Cruz that quotes an anonymous Republican strategist who claimed the candidate once said, "This is politics — you've got go out there and sell and perform."
"I thought that was a great quote that basically says it all," Shearer says. "I've learned, if nobody else has, that anything said during a political campaign becomes more worthless than Confederate money the day they swear in – and that's not a slam on Confederate money."