In announcing that their candidate would not attend the Newsmax debate set to be moderated by Donald Trump in Iowa later this month, the Ron Paul campaign wrote, “The selection of a reality television personality to host a presidential debate that voters nationwide will be watching is beneath the office of the Presidency and flies in the face of that office’s history and dignity.”
We could not have put it any better than the Paul campaign, but it is bizarre that such a response was necessary in the first place. The statement goes on to assert, again quite rightly, that Trump’s participation “will distract from questions and answers concerning important issues” and “contribute to an unwanted circus-like atmosphere.” Paul deserves credit for declining to step into the clown car — as does Jon Huntsman.
But 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.
We had hoped that after the brief and frivolous publicity stunt Trump branded as exploration of a presidential run, there would be no further occasion to rehearse the many ways in which his sometime association with the Republican party hurts the conservative cause. So we’ll keep it brief: Trump is a tax-hike-supporting, missile-defense-opposing, universal-health-care-advocating, eminent-domain abusing, Schumer-Weiner-Rangel-Reid-donating, long-time-pro-choice economic protectionist who in 2008 called George W. Bush “evil” and lauded president-elect Barack Obama as a potentially “great president” who would “lead by consensus.”
The Trump debate is a sideshow, and those who would be the Republican nominee for the presidency of the United States are, one and all, better than it. The nominating process must be about which candidate can lead the country back to fiscal and economic reality, not about which candidate can best truckle with a reality-TV star.