Donald Trump withdraws as debate moderator. Did he just fire himself?

Donald Trump won't moderate a Republican debate after all. The problem, he said, was that the GOP establishment is terrified that he himself might run for president as an independent. 

Don Himsel/REUTERS
Real estate magnate Donald Trump waves as he leaves a Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce business expo at the Radisson Hotel in Nashua, New Hampshire in May.

Donald Trump on Tuesday said he would not moderate a Republican presidential debate planned for later this month in Iowa. So we’re not going to have the delicious spectacle of the Donald asking which of the candidates on stage most agrees with him. (Because we’re pretty sure that’s how a Trump “debate” would have proceeded.)

The problem, said Mr. Trump in a statement, was that the GOP establishment is terrified that he himself might run for the White House as an independent. They want him to pledge he won’t, and he refuses to do so, so he’s withdrawing as moderator of the proposed Dec. 27 Newsmax debate as a matter of high principle.

“I must leave all of my options open because, above all else, we must make America great again!” said Trump in a statement.

But isn’t this spin? Didn’t Donald Trump just fire himself?

OK, perhaps that’s too obvious a way of putting it - other headlines have undoubtedly gotten to this point before us. But consider our reasoning as to why this might be case.

The Trump debate was already a flop. Only Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum had agreed to attend. Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and even Michelle Bachmann had said they were arranging to be busy that day, but thanks for thinking of us – drop the check on the table on your way out.

(Was Ron Paul even invited? He and Trump were feuding over this debate, you know. Mr. Paul the other day issued a press release that said, in part, “The selection of a reality television personality to host a presidential debate . . . is beneath the office of the Presidency.” We’re pretty sure the Trump people put him down as a non-attendee.)

Plus, GOP all-around smart guy Karl Rove was publicly begging candidates not to go, saying that a Trump-led circus was not going to help the party oust President Obama. So in general, the debate was drawing a bad GOP vibe. And Trump, the brand, cannot be associated with bad-vibe flops. So Trump, the person, needed to find a way to get out of the corner he had talked his way into.

He had to find a way to withdraw without saying he was doing so because there wasn’t going to be much of a debate anyway. Voila! He’d continue to pretend that he really is thinking about actually running!

After all, Trump in interviews is continually asked about a possible independent run. He always holds it out as a vague possibility. Why? Because if he says he won’t run, then news folks will stop asking him about it, and for Trump that would be no fun at all.

Thus today’s self-firing statement.

“It is very important to me that the right Republican candidate be chosen to defeat the failed and very destructive Obama Administration, but if that Republican, in my opinion, is not the right candidate, I am not willing to give up my right to run as an Independent candidate,” said Trump.

As to who Trump’s move benefits, that is obvious – the Republican Party. Or at least, all those establishment figures who have been worrying that the Trump debate would bring the equivalent in bad PR that Rick Perry’s what’s-that-third-thing brain freeze did, only for the entire GOP.

And who does it hurt? Journalists. Do you have any idea how much the fourth estate was looking forward to Trump acting like a Wolf Blitzer-wannabe?

Quite a bit. Trust us.

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