Donald Trump’s decision to call off the “debate” he was set to “moderate” means that the American political process gets to keep its last shred of dignity, at least for now.
Given the way this campaign has been developing, this should be cause for celebration throughout the land — except among the clever people who write for “Saturday Night Live,” “The Daily Show” and late-night comedians. They must be devastated.
It’s hard to be disingenuous and bombastic at the same time — the former requires subtlety, the latter is mostly a matter of volume — but Trump managed the trick in explaining why he was calling the whole thing off. “I am not willing to give up my right to run as an Independent candidate,” he said in a statement. “Therefore, so that there is no conflict of interest within the Republican Party, I have decided not to be the moderator of the Newsmax debate.”
Trump also thanked “Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum for having the courage, conviction, and confidence to immediately accept being a part of the Newsmax debate. I believe this would not only have been the most watched debate, but also the most substantive and interesting debate!”
Practically every word is misleading. Trump has no constituency in the GOP, at least not as a candidate; by the time he ended his sorta-kinda campaign earlier this year, his poll numbers were heading into the subterranean range. The only conflict would have been between the truth and whatever it was what came out of Trump’s mouth.
And his effusive praise of Gingrich and Santorum dances around the fact that all the other candidates declined to participate, with at least two, Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman, pointing out the obvious: Trump was setting up a reality-show spectacular that would obviously demean the presidency, not to mention any candidate for the presidency who was foolish enough to take part.
Also, Trump surely knows that Gingrich said yes because his mouth must have outrun his brain, which would be a real problem if he ever became president and had to negotiate with, say, Vladimir Putin. Oh, and Santorum said yes only because his campaign has long since reached the “whatever” phase.
Trump was right, though, that the Dec. 27 debate would have been the most-watched. It’s just human nature, I guess, that when a train wreck is clearly about to happen, it’s awfully hard to look away.