I have heard dozens of pundits and talking heads spewing venom over Donald Trump’s latest antic – bowing out of the next Republican presidential candidate debate in Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday evening – and most of them have missed the whole point here. They have called Trump a spoiled brat, a “fraidy cat” scared of Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, or a sore loser who doesn’t play by the rules. All of these descriptions are way off mark by a wide margin.
Trump is doing what he does best – he is playing his “trump card” if you will – by bowing out of the debate he is making it known that he is clearly not any part of the establishment. On the far end of the spectrum from Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders (who also is way out of the establishment of the Democratic party) – Trump is saying that he is not going and the hell with the rules. This may annoy GOP loyalists and Fox News fans, but Trump is putting his foot down and looks like a maverick or some kind of hero to his supporters.
What clearly is happening here is that Trump is playing an excellent game of poker. Whether you want to call it a trump card or not, what he has done is make the debate itself a casualty, and by default an unmitigated disaster for Fox News. This is the master at work – by bowing out of the debate, he is putting a spin on the event straight out of his bestselling book The Art of the Deal, by creating his own fundraising event in Des Moines on the same evening.
By pulling himself out of the center of the mix at the debate, Trump has manifested what you could call “the art of the steal.” He has taken the thunder away from the network, and no doubt the ratings along with it. I for one would have never tuned into any of these Republican debates except for one thing: to see what crazy thing Trump was going to say next. Now it is going to be a bore fest, almost worse than having to watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians or The Bachelor (both of which I have never wasted time watching but have caught glimpses of as my family members tuned in).
On the Democratic side Bernie Sanders has also said he is skipping the next debate before the New Hampshire primary. No, he is not taking a page from Trump’s book but rather Sanders is doing this because he doesn’t want to run afoul of the Democratic National Committee when it has its next “sanctioned” debate.
Still it says something that both “outsiders” in this campaign will not appear at the last debates before the primary. Sanders and Trump are polar opposites, except for the fact that they are not considered insiders. I suppose that is their greatest appeal to their respective supporters.
Everyone who talks about Trump says that he lays out his whole philosophy in The Art of the Deal, so I went to the library and started reading some of it. While it’s not a great read, it is interesting to get into what makes Trump tick.
Besides telling all about his rise to power and wealth starting with simple real estate deals in Brooklyn, the most important aspect of the book is his 11-step guide to success. His number one tip – Think Big! Well, I guess he has followed his own advice with his candidacy for President of the United States.
The thing that the book made clear to me is that Trump wants to see life as a business deal – and no deal is a good one unless you come out of it a winner. Trump has gone much farther than anyone thought he would or could in this process, and soon votes will be cast and then we shall see if it is deal or no deal for the Donald.
As for Megyn Kelly, she has held her head high and also has spoken with great professionalism in regards to the situation. Trump may have said that he didn’t want to be at the debate because Kelly will be a moderator, and that doesn’t hurt Kelly but only helps her street cred among fellow journalists.
But make no mistake – Trump bowing out of this debate has little or nothing to do with Kelly and everything to do with Trump having things go his way. To borrow a concept from Mad Men, Trump didn’t like what people were saying so he has changed the conversation.
The biggest question is will more people be talking about Donald Trump around the water coolers across the country on Friday morning than Megyn Kelly or any other candidate on that stage in Des Moines Thursday night? My bet is on Trump, and if that’s not “the art of the steal,” I don’t know what is.
Photo Credits: Fox News, NBC, CNN