Unlike most other GOP contenders, Congressman Paul hasn’t flown to New York for a sit-down with the Donald and some sort of public meal. For his part, Mr. Trump for months has dismissed Paul as a candidate who has no chance to win the Republican nomination.
Now they’re feuding over the fact that Trump is scheduled to moderate a GOP debate on Dec. 27. Will Paul attend? No. He’s planning to be busy.
But the Texas libertarian didn’t just check “Won’t be there” on the RSVP card and send it back to debate sponsor Newsmax. He had his spokesman issue a scathing press release that made it clear Paul would rather triple the budget of the Department of Education than answer questions posed by the developer/reality show star.
“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 fact of that office’s history and dignity,” the release starts.
Among the words that figure in the rest of the text are “circus-like,” “inappropriate,” and “frivolously.” You can figure out the rest from there.
Trump was on morning shows Monday promoting a new book and pushed back against Paul’s criticisms.
Warming to the subject, Trump dismissed Paul as someone who is “cutesy” and has some “nice little slogans.”
Who do we think is winning here?
Well, given that many of the debates this cycle have featured production values just short of a reality show, the fact that an actual reality show star will host a GOP confab should not be that surprising. The leap from Wolf Blitzer to Donald Trump may be shorter than we journalists suspect.
However, Paul has lots of allies on this issue – among them GOP establishment figures who think things are going too far. On Sunday, columnist George Will said that the GOP hopefuls should skip Trump’s show. The candidates should “do something presidential, stand up and say, ‘We’re not going to be hijacked and participate in this,” said Mr. Will on ABC’s "This Week."
Karl Rove agrees. The former Bush political guru said on Monday during a Fox News appearance that it’s odd for Trump to moderate a GOP debate given that the billionaire has continued to hint he might run as an independent.
“The Republican National Committee chairman ought to step in and say we strongly discourage every candidate from appearing,” said Rove.
So in that sense, Paul is just giving voice to the suspicions of many in the GOP that Trump is using the party for his own gain, rather than the other way round. Given that part of Paul’s appeal to his core supporters is his tough talk, they’ll probably love him all the more for schooling the Donald.