Last night, I happened to catch Bill O’Reilly trying to persuade Donald Trump to change his mind and participate in tonight’s GOP Debate on Fox News.
O’Reilly was his usual annoying self, but I thought Trump was truly intolerable: egomaniacal (“I won all six debates!”), petulant, self-entitled, thin-skinned, vindictive, odiously tyrannical, and childishly spiteful.
I’m rather amazed that there are still lots of American adults out there still inclined to be supporting Trump after such an exhibition of irresponsible behavior.
El Rushbo, for instance, looked on yesterday, and interpreted Trump’s blowing off the Fox Debate as a commendable case of “not playing by the rules” made by the elites, and as a case example of the application of one of his own rules published in his book, The Art of the Deal. That rule being: You have to know when to walk away.
I rarely disagree with Rush, but this is one of those times.
Running for President of the United States is actually different from negotiating a real estate deal. Even if you are a bigshot and a billionaire, in politics, unlike your own private business activities, you cannot expect everything to be specifically arranged for your comfort and advantage. There is a complex process, partly derived from tradition, partly contrived by happenstance, ruled over in the final analysis by nobody in particular, through which American Democracy arrives at its decision and expresses its will. That process is bigger than Donald Trump.
A long time ago, candidates for the presidency were expected to sit in dignity at home, while others sought their nomination, and the country as a whole, in essence, politely invited them to serve. Today, Americans expect presidential candidates to go through a kind of ordeal involving submitting themselves to be tested on their personal history, political record, and grace under pressure by facing hostile questioning by the press and hostile attacks by their opponents. You know this, I know this, and Donald Trump knows this.
For a 69-year-old man, who expects to be taken seriously as a candidate for the presidency, to become petulant and complain that a girl reporter treated him unfairly by pointing to his personal history of saying less than polite things about different women is childishly unrealistic.
For a candidate to carry a grudge over one question for six months, to demand special treatment, to keep threatening a personal boycott of the debate process on the basis of his own self-perceived unique status, and then finally to announce that he will not participate in the final debate occurring directly before delegates actually begin to be chosen is fantastical behavior.
Trump’s refusal to participate is selfish, infantile, petulant, tyrannical, unrealistic, and it certainly should be self-defeating. He may have persuaded himself that he is proving to be oh-so clever, but I think most Republicans are going to agree with me that Donald Trump has definitively discredited himself as a presidential candidate.
Yes, a lot of us agree with Trump that Republican candidates get a kind of hostile treatment from members of the press, including those working for Fox News, that democrats don’t get. Some reform of debate formats and a better selection of journalistic participants is highly desirable. Donald Trump had an opportunity to exercise his alleged leadership skills here. He could have gone to his Republican rivals, and said: “Look, guys, what are we doing holding debates on thoroughly hostile venues like NBC and CNN? Why do Republicans let the likes of partisan lefties like Candy Crowley run the debates? Let’s do all of them on Fox and get Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to do the questioning.” Then, he could have stood back, pointed to an improved process and stronger GOP prospects, and taken the credit. Instead, Trump has delivered a disgraceful exhibition of thin-skinned egomania and rich kid self-entitlement. He obviously has neither the brains nor the character to hold any elected office. If you had a business, despite his megabucks, you would not want a petty tyrant like him as a customer.
Inspired by trailers for “The Artist” (2011):