Well, that’s going to be tricky given Trump’s penchant for delivering brickbats to the media at campaign events and via Twitter. The New York Times has an entire interactive devoted to tracking his insults to anyone who bruises his outsize, yet tender, ego. But that got me to thinking. Who could possibly pass muster with him without damaging the credibility of the entire enterprise? And there’s this: I’m not convinced he will show up at Hofstra University on Sept. 26. Bringing his petulant jerk mien to so serious a stage while also not being prepared to go beyond well-worn applause lines could snuff out his candidacy over the course of two hours.
Politico Playbook reports that “debate buzz” is centered on nine excellent choices. Trump has had a beef with almost all of those listed or the news organizations that employ them during his year-long racist, xenophobic and misogynistic presidential campaign.
ABC’s Martha Raddatz: Nary a peep about her. But Trump accused the political unit of telling a “LIE” about what he said. He also called one of ABC News’s star correspondents “a sleaze.”
Fox News’s Megyn Kelly: C’mon, do you really need me to remind you?
Fox News’s Chris Wallace: No attacks on him. But Trump has had plenty to say about the network. “Totally biased and disgusting reporting,” read a tweet sent in March. Nevertheless, when The Donald has something to say, he will pop up on the friendly Fox terrain of “Hannity,” as he did Tuesday night.
PBS’s Gwen Ifill: Trump has not commented on the veteran journalist and debate moderator pro or her employer. #unicorn
CBS’s John Dickerson: The anchor of “Face the Nation” has escaped rhetorical cross hairs. Just one CBS News reporter has been slammed by Trump.
NBC’s Chuck Todd: Trump has had plenty to say about the moderator of “Meet the Press.” One tweet last month read, “totally biased against me Chuck Todd, and the entire show, is against me.” Trump’s preferred dis of Todd is “sleepy eyes,” which he employed during a rant against the NBC anchor last month. Todd’s response to the tirade was pure gold. “I’ve been sleeping,” he tweeted, “what I miss?”
NBC’s Lester Holt: The anchor of the flagship “NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt” has interviewed Trump several times. I couldn’t find any attacks on him by Trump.
CNN’s Anderson Cooper: No direct attacks on the CNN anchor, but Trump tweeted last year that he “has the absolutely worst anti-Trump talking heads on his show.” As for Cooper’s employer, Trump has rebranded it the “Clinton News Network.”
CNN’s Jake Tapper: Not a word.
Ifill and Dickerson are the only people on that list who haven’t incurred the wrath of Trump nor have their respective employers. So two out of the three presidential debates could be covered by Trump’s fungible fairness doctrine.
Like I said, I’m not convinced any of this is going to happen. Presidential debates are pivotal moments. The first one will be a political event unlike any other. It will be an opportunity for Trump and Clinton to reset their respective campaigns and to pivot to a more favorable public image. And if we’ve learned anything this past week, Trump is constitutionally incapable of resetting or pivoting. Why would he set himself up for such post-debate failure?
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj