As he often is, Lawrence O’Donnell was right: Donald Trump’s campaign was fake, and he’d announce that he wasn’t running for president on May 16—which is exactly what Trump did on Monday.  

May 16, as O’Donnell’s been reminding us, was the day that NBC would announce its fall lineup—if Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice was on it, there’d be no candidate Trump. A few weeks back O’Donnell criticized the Beltway media for not pressing NBC on whether it would renew the show, and he zapped NBC, his own employer, for not immediately ending Trump’s charade—and all the birther time it bought—by revealing what it already knew.

But O’Donnell went beyond crowing “I told you so.” He went to the heart of the matter: the political pundits’ “inability to understand what is happening right in front of them.”

And it’s not just Trump. In his excellent rant (video below), O’Donnell went at the New York Times for treating Huckabee’s announcement that he wouldn’t make a presidential bid “as news, when, in fact, Mike Huckabee, at Fox News Roger Ailes’s insistence, had made it patently obvious that he wasn’t running for president as far back as March 2.” That was the day that Fox News suspended Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum from its payroll because Fox knew they were running, but kept on Huck and Sarah Palin, because it knew they weren’t. But to this day, O’Donnell complained, political pundits frame Palin in the will-she-or-won’t-she category.

Whether it’s buying into fake WMDs, fake “urgent” issues like the deficit, or fake political campaigns, the MSM seems unable, or unwilling, to grasp the difference between real politics and hype. 

These charades may or may not be good for ratings, but they’re definitely bad for connecting even the most glaring of dots: they continually tell viewers and pundits alike that getting by on ignorance and wishful thinking is the way to go.

“Political pundits,” O’Donnell said at the end, “have been given their first intelligence test of the 2012 campaign.”  

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CORRECTION: D’oh! In the original version of this story, I wrote that MSNBC contributor Jon Meacham believed that Donald Trump would be the next president of the United States. But in the Morning Joe segment I linked to, he and Joe Scarborough were totally, and quite wryly, joking. I apologize to Meacham, whose views on Trump are in fact much closer to O’Donnell’s.