Thursday, December 8, 2011

Who's Afraid of Donald Trump?

With the exception of Newt Gingrich Republican presidential candidates have excelled at beating up on their fellow Republican presidential candidates.

They have been joined in this ignoble effort by a coterie of commentators, pundits, consultants and grandees.

In truth, only Mitt Romney has escaped the assaults. This is because he and his supporters are often leading them. The Romney campaign seems to want to win by tearing down the opposition.

Would this make Romney a stronger candidate in the general election?  Probably not. If Romney wins by trashing the opposition he will surely have difficulty uniting a party that contains many, many supporters of said opponents.

If anything, the tone of the national debate seems to have dampened the enthusiasm of Republican voters. So says Gallup in its latest poll.

I and many others have decried this activity—it violates Ronald Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment—but it continues apace.

Now, Republican thought leaders have found a new person to attack and insult: Donald Trump.

Republican commentators, pundits, consultants and grandees are horrified at the possibility that their candidates would sully themselves and the Republican brand by participating in a debate moderated by Donald Trump.

Sponsored by a relatively small conservative media organization called Newsmax, the debate will take place in Des Moines, IA on December 27. It will be broadcast on the Newsmax site and ION television.

Given the hubbub surrounding it and given Donald Trump’s high name recognition, the debate will surely attract a large viewership and massive media attention.

As of today, most Republican candidates are boycotting the debate. Only Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have accepted.

So Donald Trump is offering free media exposure and most Republican candidates and strategists have decided that they should reject the offer.

To their minds consorting with Donald Trump brings them too close to ignominy.

Since Donald Trump is a successful real estate developer who at one point was considered to be a viable candidate for the presidency, you have to wonder what the problem is.

And you certainly have to wonder what advantage they think they can gain by insulting him.

Trump is a good Republican, an active participant in the national debate, a man who can contribute large sums of money to Republican causes, and who can probably raise far larger sums of money.

Wouldn’t you want him on your side? Why would you go out of your way to alienate him?

True enough Trump’s career has had its ups and downs. Some of his projects succeeded; some failed. Today, however, he is richer than Ross Perot.

We all  revel in the fact that everyday citizens submit debate questions over Twitter, but Republican grandees are horrified at the idea that Donald Trump might asks questions at an open forum. 

People who presumably believe in free markets, in the power of individuals making their own free decisions, are horrified at the prospect that a debate will not be led by a member of the permanent chattering class.

Or so it seems.

The rap against Trump is that he has hosted reality shows: The Apprentice and The Celebrity Apprentice.

You would think that hosting these shows has made him into a circus clown. Yet, this activity, at which he has achieved success, has caused him to become stigmatized, shunned by polite Republican society.

Think about it. Anyone who can produce two successful television shows must know something about the media, about marketing, and about public relations.

Why should any Republicans be insulting him?

Republican grandees seem to be confusing Donald Trump with Rosie O’Donnell. In truthiness, he’s not even Stephen Colbert.

The other rap against Trump is that he still questions whether or not Barack Obama was really born in Hawaii.

It’s an opinion. Most likely, it’s a wrongheaded opinion.

But since when does having a wrongheaded opinion disqualify a distinguished businessman from questioning presidential candidates. It happens all the time, generally behind closed doors. Why not bring it out into the light of day? What's wrong with having a businessman ask questions that are pertinent to business conditions? Especially when one leading candidate is touting his business success as a major qualification for office.

Admittedly, it’s new and different. But, so what?

As it happens, the critics and consultants have empowered Donald Trump. So have the candidates who have refused to participate.

If Trump conducts a serious and substantive debate the consultants will look myopic and the boycotters will look like fools.

Trump will emerge triumphant if he conducts a sober and substantive debate. What are the odds that that is exactly what he will do?

Is the Republican brand being damaged by Donald Trump or is it being tarnished by the Republican candidates and grandees who have been spending far too much of their time beating up on their fellow Republicans.

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