The name on everyone's lips: Donald Trump

Spicer: Trump doesn't own a bathrobe
Spicer: Trump doesn't own a bathrobe

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Spicer: Trump doesn't own a bathrobe 01:37

Story highlights

  • Trump's ubiquity is especially notable for a new president
  • His constant in-your-face style also represents a risky experiment

Washington (CNN)He's everywhere.

In Hollywood, in Silicon Valley boardrooms, in the nation's highest courts, across thousands of lamenting Facebook posts, and even on the sidelines of your kid's soccer game -- there's one name on everybody's lips.
Donald Trump.
In just over two weeks as president, the former billionaire real estate mogul and reality star has seized control of the American zeitgeist. He's permeated almost every area of national life, thriving in a sea of publicity, controversy and conflict.
Plenty of past presidents, including Barack Obama and John F. Kennedy, quickly captured the national conversation after assuming office. But Trump's ubiquity is especially notable since it stems from his gargantuan, antagonistic personality and a governing philosophy that often exacerbates political and cultural fault lines.
Trump's swift capture of the national debate is testimony to the huge cultural power of the presidency and its capacity to shape the spirit of the United States and the world. But his constant in-your-face style also represents a risky experiment. He still has to prove his constant presence -- for good and bad -- can foster a successful presidency. And he's opening a new front in the cultural backlash coalescing among elites in the coastal entertainment, media and advertising hubs.
At a time when the nation is debating how and whether to provide health insurance for its citizens and is staring down a complicated world, Trump has hammered a "so-called" judge who ruled against his immigration ban. He's taken potshots at celebrity foes Meryl Streep and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
His hold on the media encompasses the deeply consequential -- he claimed Monday that journalists are underreporting the terrorist threat and he's put Iran "on notice." But it also verges on the ridiculous.
After The New York Times reported Trump relaxes in his bathrobe after work, his spokesman, Sean Spicer, triggered a controversy by saying, "I don't think the President wears a bathrobe, and definitely doesn't own one."
Cue an instant torrent of Internet-breaking social media posts showing a younger Trump lounging on a bed in a crisp white bathrobe.
The waves set off by the Trump presidency are now crashing over the business world. He's at odds with more than 100 of the nation's top companies, including Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, which are fighting his immigration executive order.

Intense emotional experience

It's just another way the intense emotional experience of the Trump presidency is careening through business, politics, the arts, and popular culture.
Sometimes the Trump effect is being manifested in unusual ways.
Within days of his taking office, copies of George Orwell's "1984," the legendary story of an authoritarian world of government doublespeak, sold out on Amazon. Readers perhaps wanted to know what happened in a fictitious political project apparently reminiscent of what Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway called "alternative facts."
But in Orwell's dystopian vision, Big Brother was watching you. In Trump's America, everyone is watching him.
For now, Trump seems to be happy just dominating the conversation. His omnipresence is such that even events that have little to do with the new President suddenly seem to take on new significance because of him.
Take the Super Bowl -- one of the few unifying events left in American life.
Going into Sunday's big game, one of the big questions was whether Lady Gaga's half-time show would be an overtly political denunciation of Trump. After all, it's now almost obligatory for Hollywood awards galas to feature anti-Trump screeds and for pop stars like Madonna and Bruce Springsteen to jab the President from onstage.
Lady Gaga did perform an anthem celebrating the LGBT community and equality -- with Vice President Mike Pence in the audience. But she did so in an understated way. Indeed, in one of the least partisan moments in a politically fraught few weeks, she put on a pageant of national unity, belting out "God Bless America" before singing "This Land Is Your Land."
But there was an undeniable political undercurrent in Super Bowl ads, which usually avoid political edginess.
Several spots appeared to contain anti-Trump themes.
In an ad for 84 Lumber, a Hispanic mother and daughter apparently set out on a journey to cross the southern US border. In the full version, published online, the pair are confronted by a huge wall before a gate swings open for them to enter a paradisaical sun-drenched America.
Given Trump's repeated vows to build a border wall, it was hard to view the ad as anything but a criticism of the President. 84 Lumber, a building-supply company, said the ad was initially rejected for being too "controversial" so it cut the wall out of TV version.
Budweiser, known for its tear-jerking ads with galloping draft horses, also took a political turn, highlighting the tough immigrant journey of one of its founders Adolphus Busch, to pursue his American dream.
"Go back home," Busch is told in one shot. Though the ad pre-dated Trump's temporary entry ban on the nationals of seven mostly Muslim nations, the message's spot seemed more powerful with that in mind.

Sudden awakening

That such a viewpoint is even possible reflects a sudden awakening triggered by Trump in a nation which now appears more politically on edge -- but also more attuned to dissent and debate -- than it has been for years.
For liberals, the crusade is being reflected in the arts.
The most notable case is "Saturday Night Live's" abrasive, sometimes sinister portrayal of Trump (by Alec Baldwin) and his advisers. This week, White House adviser Steve Bannon was played as the "Angel of Death."
Another sketch, in which actress Melissa McCarthy plays Spicer, is quickly becoming one of the most talked about SNL skits in years.
Melissa McCarthy targets Spicer on 'SNL'
Melissa McCarthy targets Spicer on 'SNL'

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Melissa McCarthy targets Spicer on 'SNL' 02:03
The President hasn't taken the lampooning well, frequently firing off on Twitter about the show.
But maybe he protests too much.
"Trump takes himself so seriously. Being parodied on SNL is like a right of passage. It's like 'Oh my God' that are writing about me, I am in the Zeitgeist," Judy Gold, an Emmy Award-winning writer and comedienne, told CNN's Brooke Baldwin Monday.
Trump may also be angry like a fox.
His feuds with Hollywood, his refusal to play along with SNL and his jousts with the media and the Silicon Valley tech titans amount to more than a rejection of the pop culture that made him.
He's aligning himself exactly with the views of many of his supporters who disdain what they see as the elite's political correctness and smugness.
Even people who have worked for Trump admit he makes an odd blue collar hero, given his eponymous Manhattan tower dripping with gold leaf and his life once lived in the pages of New York gossip columns and his obsession with one particular spoil of pop culture -- the cover of Time magazine.
"He is the unlikeliest of populist leaders," said one senior administration official who requested anonymity to talk about the President.
This person theorized that Trump already had a common touch before entering politics but that he refined his blue-collar instincts by showing deep curiosity about the lives of his voters on the campaign trail, then thinking about their lives and problems.
"That allows him to see what people are like throughout the rest of the country," the official said.
Perhaps that knowledge is one reason why Trump could not care less that he's now apparently despised by the popular culture he once strove to join.
If everyone is obsessed with him, his work might already be part done.