Posted Monday, Dec. 5, 2011, at 2:19 PM
Why is Donald Trump hosting a debate for Republican candidates? The debate was promoted on Friday. On Saturday, I stopped by a supermarket and noticed that the shelvers had put out something new: A book on politics and policy by Donald Trump. At the time, it was chugging quite low on Amazon. Now, it's selling a bit better. Mission accomplished: Some members of the GOP, and some of the media (especially Newsmax, which is sponsoring the debate and which played a forgotten but huge role in "drafting" Trump for president), are going to help Donald Trump sell books.
I said "some" of the media, because other elements of the conservative press are denouncing the sideshow. National Review is the loudest.
Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich can, at least in this instance, be said to lack the good sense of Paul and Huntsman, as the three have RSVPed in the affirmative. The first two responses are perhaps understandable, if unfortunate, political moves — Bachmann is an avowed Trump fan, and Santorum’s poll numbers make it difficult for him to be selective. Gingrich’s decision is something worse. Sure, we see the angle: Gingrich excels in debates and he knows it, and in light of his threat to Romney in Iowa, his participation all but dares the yet-uncommitted Mitt to irk the pro-Trump rump of GOP voters by refusing. As a serious contender running a campaign with maximal pride in its own seriousness, Gingrich lowers himself by association with this consummately unserious man. Romney should refuse to follow suit.
NR goes into more detail about the meaning of "unserious" -- Trump has no identifiable political or philosophical core. I'd go further, and point out that he's a liar. In Trump's interview with Chuck Todd today, he resurrected a trope from over the summer, that Jon Huntsman had called him multiple times to ask for a meeting.
"Huntsman never called him," sighed Huntsman spokesman Tim Miller, "and this was litigated in the summer."
At that point in time, though, Trump was polling well enough to get treated like a real candidate. Questions got asked about whether he was telling the truth; reporters dug into the financial empire he'd built, sussing out the degree to which he used his name to promote shoddy courses (Trump University) or bad products. Trump couldn't take the pressure, but now he's found a way to distract politicos without attracting more accountability journalism. One thing to point out that a possible president is a rambling know-nothing, but a debate moderator? Just another celebrity to cover.