Penn Jillette: Why I Like Donald Trump, aka Scrooge McDuck
"Having strong opinions is part of the joy of being alive, and loving people in spite of those strong opinions is one of the other joys of being alive."
It takes a lot to make the affable Penn Jillette dislike you. Consider Glenn Beck. "He's a nut. I mean, he's a deep, deep nut," Jillette told Big Think in a previous interview. Nonetheless, while Beck might say things Jillette finds reprehensible, "he's not trying to kill people," the speaking member of Penn and Teller points out. "He's not hurting children. He's just thinking and sometimes he's thinking half-assed."
In sum: "I call Glenn Beck a friend," Jillette tells us. And from the opposite end of the political spectrum, what about MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell, Jr? He's a friend, too.
"I love that Lawrence O’Donnell, Jr. and Glenn Beck don’t like each other, but they both like me," Jillette says. "I think that having strong opinions is part of the joy of being alive, and loving people in spite of those strong opinions is one of the other joys of being alive. I put Donald Trump in that category."
Jillette is now appearing in his second season of NBC's All-Star Celebrity Apprentice. While he has been openly critical of the show and its host, Donald Trump, Jillette says he also relishes Trump's role as a jester in our culture. "He kind of plays this Scrooge McDuck role in our society that’s kind of fun."
To understand Jillette's perspective, first consider that he is in show business. Jillette is measuring Trump, after all, as a performer. According to Jillette, Trump is playing the role of an obviously flawed character who "doesn’t get enough feedback, enough people rolling their eyes at him." And that is at least part of the reason why Jillette sees value in watching this character on display. As Jillette puts it, Trump's character is "a nice thing for us to all ruminate on."
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Political activism may get people invested in politics, and affect urgently needed change, but it comes at the expense of tolerance and healthy democratic norms.