Trump is making a mistake in deciding not to show up to tonight’s Republican presidential debate.
Everyone keeps comparing his planned “no show” to former California Governor Ronald Reagan’s show of strength vis-à-vis a certain 1980 debate and how he went on to win. In so doing they are conflating an Iowa debate with the legendary one in New Hampshire, where he said, “I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green.” With that, Governor Reagan went on to win the New Hampshire primary and, of course, the presidential election that November.
Iowa 1980 is a different story. Reagan did, indeed, skip the last debate (untelevised) before the all-important Iowa caucuses. He did so at the recommendation of his campaign manager, given what a comfortable lead Reagan held in the polls. It was a fiasco. Reagan went on to lose the Iowa caucuses to George Herbert Walker Bush, father of current Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, vowing never again to skip a debate.
Trump has a valid issue. Megyn Kelly did treat him unfairly in the August 6, 2015 FoxNews debate when she asked the candidate, in the first question of the night, about allegations he has said bad things about women. (Imagine Reagan being asked in a debate about allegations, reported in Bill O’Reilly’s book, Killing Reagan, that he was promiscuous in Hollywood!) Furthermore when Trump responded by saying those bad things were mainly about Rosie O’Donnell in the entertainment realm, where you’re supposed to ‘yuck it up’ and she gave as good as she got, Kelly unprofessionally corrected him, alleging it went beyond O’Donnell.
Be that as it may, debates are important. And, none is so important than tonight’s when voters in the hawkeye state will take the final measure of the candidates as they decide – as the majority are doing in these crucial last days before the caucuses on Monday, February 1 – who is the most presidential.
What to do?
Here’s a modest proposal.
Fox News should make a sizable contribution to a vetted wounded warrior organization out of the proceeds from this debate, which assuredly will be more sizable and lucrative with Trump on stage.
Then, Trump should graciously accept this gesture and decide to participate after all, saying that enduring Megyn Kelly’s jawboning, as the case may be, pales in comparison to what our troops and their families have suffered.
As for the rally at Drake University, let Sarah Palin and other stars who have endorsed Trump of late do that show!
If some sort of an accommodation is made, well, then the Trump reality show will have been another hit and his “decision,” which was, after all, only temporary, will have proved to be a boon.
At least in the TV ratings department.
We’ll see what the voters of Iowa have to say on Monday for the final determination on how smart his gambit was.
As we learned in “The Music Man,” Iowans are pretty gosh darn stubborn and don’t like being taken for a ride.