Having only secured two GOP hopefuls—Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum—for his planned debate late this month in Iowa, Donald Trump has cancelled plans
for to moderate* the televised showdown. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Trump cancellation without a face-saving, self-aggrandizing reason for it: Trump says he’s decided he should not moderate a debate because he may yet run for President as an independent candidate.
*(Update: While Trump’s statement says that he won’t moderate the debate, sponsored by conservative news outlet Newsmax, it’s ambiguous as to whether the debate itself might still take place with another moderator; reworded accordingly.)
Maybe Donald Trump should have consulted with himself before announcing the debate! In any event, you can now look forward to his “considering running as an independent” all the way up until the exciting Apprentice finale on May 20, after which he will disappoint lovers of democracy and carnival-geek shows by deciding against it, again.
In my column in the most recent TIME magazine, I looked at how the Trump debate proposal became a wedge issue among the primary candidates, forcing them to choose up sides between the party Establishment (which considers Trump an embarrassment) and conservative primary voters who like Trump’s style (if not necessarily him as a candidate). Perversely, then, I have to wonder if the cancellation is the best of all possible outcomes for Gingrich and Santorum, who got to make a symbolic gesture to anti-GOP-Establishment Republicans and Tea Party Trump fans, without the potential embarrassment of, well, whatever Donald would have cooked up.
Or, you could argue, maybe they’ve hurt themselves by agreeing to the debate, and thus lacking the gravitas so clearly important to primary voters this election cycle. Ha ha ha ha ha! No, but seriously, if you have any further thoughts on this, leave them in the comments. In the meantime, I guess we just have to entertain ourselves with VH1 countdowns the last week of December.