Like Groucho, Trump wouldn’t attend a debate that would have him as a moderator. (Seth Wenig/AP)

In one of those mind-boggling statements that will live in infamy, he announced Tuesday that:

“The Republican Party candidates are very concerned that . . . I will announce my candidacy for President of the United States as an Independent and that, unless I conclusively agree not to run as an Independent, they will not agree to attend or be a part of the Newsmax debate scheduled for December 27, 2011. It is very important to me that the right Republican candidate be chosen to defeat the failed and very destructive Obama Administration, but if that Republican, in my opinion, is not the right candidate, I am not willing to give up my right to run as an Independent candidate. 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. The American people are embarrassed by the gridlock currently taking place in Washington. I must leave all of my options open because, above all else, we must make America great again!”

Trump might run because “above all else, we must make America great again!”? That is odd, given that the simplest recipe for making America great is for Donald Trump not to run for anything.

And of course that is why he’s dropping out — because The Donald is reserving the right to swoop in from the wings and rescue America’s greatness. Not because the only people who agreed to show up were Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.

This is one of those parties that everyone expressed interest in at first. Then gradually all the cool kids discovered mysterious conflicts, and by the time you showed up it was just you and Rick Santorum and some tepid canapes.

For Gingrich, debates are like food or the occasional bout of adultery — something he has demonstrated difficulty saying no to. But Gingrich managed to sign a no-adultery pledge. Give up debating? Never! Gingrich has never met a debate he didn’t like. He even showed up to a Lincoln-Douglas-style debate with Jon Huntsman, and before that, with Herman Cain. One might almost go so far as to say he has a problem. Generally, the sign that you have a problem with something is that you leap at the chance to do it with Jon Huntsman, Donald Trump, and Rick Santorum when no one else is watching.

A practically one-on-one evening with Rick Santorum? No wonder Trump dropped out.

But will the debate go on? At the rate people are dropping from it, Ion might be able to replace it with its usual Ghost Whisperer reruns and leave no one the wiser. But if that option is no longer open, I volunteer.

Given that Donald Trump was their most recent choice, I don’t see how they could turn me down. I have all of Trump’s gravitas and slightly better hair. And as an added bonus, I have never appeared on ”The Apprentice”!

Sure, it might wind up just being me and Rick Santorum, but that won’t be the first time that’s happened.

Trump may be fired, but the show must go on.