The Donald Trump Follies: An Integrity Check for GOP Presidential Contenders

Some of the people more qualified to moderate a presidential debate than Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is staging yet another debate among the increasingly depressing field of Republican presidential contenders, with The Donald as the moderator, in Des Moines on December 27. This is extremely useful in assessing the field, and everyone in America owes him a debt of thanks, for anyone who agrees to participate in this offensive farce is unqualified to be President of the United States. Trump has created an excellent integrity test.

Several candidates have already flunked.  Newt Gingrich has agreed to participate—granted, there weren’t many questions about his integrity, so this is no surprise. So has Rick Santorum. I am somewhat surprised at this: Santorum holds some truly objectionable views, but integrity has never been one of his ethical  weaknesses. Well, the Trump Debate is a judgment test too—if you agree to go, yours is none too good. Now that I think about it, Santorum’s decision was predictable too.

Trump, as if this should even need to be written (he locked up the annual Ethics Alarms “Jerk of the Year” title on May 16), is a blight on several national scenes— political, business, and cultural. He almost single-handedly justifies Occupy Wall Street, because any culture that can create such a revolting distortion of American values without throwing it into the REJECT bin within 24 hours is seriously ill. The man is crass, crude, self-obsessed and shameless. He was handed a family business and a fortune and still almost managed to crash and burn, rescued only by family and connections. His genius, if one can call it that, is branding and self-promotion, and the miracle is that he has been successful at it with a product—Donald Trump—that anyone with taste and values ought to respond to with a gag reflex.

Trump is a birther, which is bad enough. But he also degraded the nation’s democratic process by using the  presidential race as a publicity prop, pretending to be a serious presidential candidate himself. Naturally, the shameless and slobbering media allowed him to do it, and the nation was subjected to weeks of this egomaniac’s fatuous macho posturing about how he would run the country. His objective was apparently to pump up the ratings for his reality show, “The Celebrity Apprentice.” To enlighten those of you with a life, this is the show on which Donald assesses whether creatures like Dennis Rodman, Joan Rivers, Jose Canseco and Gary Busey would be effective business executives. That’s right: to Donald Trump, the greatest demonstration of democracy in the history of civilization is just another way to attract an audience for Jose Canseco.

Trump has no credentials as a moderator; he has no interest in fairness; his taste is low-brow and his manners are wretched. He is not particularly quick on his feet or articulate, he lacks wit and humor, and he speaks in hyperbole and generalities. In a ranking of qualified debate moderators that has Jared Loughner, John Hinckley, Jr. and a zombie in the last three slots, he sits in the bottom third, somewhere between Pauly Shore and Kanye West. Bill Maher would be a more appropriate moderator. Joy Behar would be a more appropriate moderator. Dr. Phil.  Rod Blogojevich. Elmo. Barney. Giving Trump the stature of a presidential examiner burnishes his facade while degrading the process, its objective, traditions, and the office at its core. It is an insult, and America has been insulted enough lately. We don’t need a president who can’t even recognize one.

Three candidates have already passed the test by spurning The Donald: Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman, both of whose integrity has never been in doubt, and Mitt Romney. That leaves Texas Governor Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, who has not accepted but told CBS that she has “great respect” for Trump.

I guess it’s an intelligence test, too.

23 thoughts on “The Donald Trump Follies: An Integrity Check for GOP Presidential Contenders

  1. As an independant, it makes for entertaining reality tv. Next thing- they probably will put phone numbers on screen to vote.

  2. Well, duh. January is the start of Celebrity Apprentice, so naturally, he’ll be pulling stunts like this and saying he might still run as an independent if the wrong GOP nominee is selected. That’ll keep him in the headlines while his season gets underway. Publicity stunt. That’s all.

  3. I guess the problem here is I think it is hilarious. Maybe we need to stop taking ourselves so seriously. The man is a success. He is a master of self-promotion. What the heck? He cannot make a bigger fool of the GOP than they’ve made of themselves these past three years. As a Republican, I am disgusted with the way the far right and the libertarian right is acting. We have so many clowns tumbling out of the old VW, is another one going to really matter in this great three ringed circus?

    People are weird. Unfortunately, from what I can tell, the average person is far more pop-culture and television, celeb oriented than they are about serious news. Maybe with “The Donald” moderating yet another circus act, people who might not bother with a GOP debate, will. Sure, he’s going to promote himself and his new book. Then again, most of us do. ( for information on my books)

    We have become far too serious. What about Harry Truman and Margaret playing the piano? Teddy Roosevelt’s kids turned the White House into a zoo. If Lincoln-Douglas had come along today, I suspect they would be plastering their faces and debates all over the place, with someone like Trump right in the middle of it.

    This national emotional depression we are in is getting old. For over a year I’ve been saying that the person who wins is going to be the most positive, offering people very real positive. Maybe we need to laugh. If a person can over-come the insanity of the moment, I suspect the debate might not be such a disaster. We need to get over ourselves. I am so sick of these fake candidates with their perfect teeth, perfect hair, perfect families, perfect everything, that I’d like to see something a little different.

    Let’s face it, how much worse can Trump be? How much more biased and unfair, with idiotic questions such as paper/plastic, boxer/briefs style questions the “serious” debate moderators have asked? Sure, he’s crass, self-absorbed, self-promoting, and self you name it. If you want real dignity, go to England and watch the Queen. We have none. I think it is just totally appropriate for our society.

    The GOP has a major problem going up against Barack Obama. He has created a larger than life figure for some. If we can humanize our candidates, bring them into pop culture the way Oprah did with Obama, then the whole shameless ploy might be worth it.

    The Pink Flamingo

    • This is quite a collection of rationalizations, chief among which is my least favorite of all, “It’s not the worst thing.” So having Trump handle a debate is OK because there are worse things? What kind of an argument is that? (Answer: A lousy one.) Or how about “Everybody does it!” So because the questioners at the other debates have been inept, it’s now acceptable to participate in a debate run by someone who is guaranteed to be as bad or worse. “Can’t say I completely approve of your police work there, Lou.” Or the “Giant shrug”–everybody is pop culture oriented now…so that’s a good argument for lower the level of the process to 3rd grade level? Why stop at Trump? Why not let Kim Kardashian handle a debate?

      Taking ourselves too seriously is one thing….taking the nation and its future seriously is something else. People are losing their houses, people can’t find jobs, Iran soon will be able to blow up Israel, the US is heading down a road to bankruptcy, and I, for one, am worried about the kind of life my son is going to have. You think these things are funny? They can be the fodder for jokes, but they aren’t funny, and choosing a leader is as serious an enterprise as I can think of.

      Barack Obama was “a little different.” That worked out well. I honestly don’t comprehend an attitude like this. Trump is a buffoon. His involvement “could” turn out OK—so “could” having the debate hosted by Shamu. But the stakes are huge, and it makes no sense to hope for million-to-one shots so we can “lighten up.” In fact, it’s irresponsible.

      • I think we are looking at it entirely differently. I’ve reached the point where it is a comedy of errors. I can’t take any of it seriously when it comes to these debates. I think this entire debate process is disgusting. To me, the Trump thing just highlights it.

        I fear my sense of humor and sarcasm get in the way. It has become a long-term SNL skit. To me the Trump debate is just the cherry on top of the soda. Sarcasm and irony don’t work well online.

        We cannot have a rational political discourse when multi-billionaires are pouring tens of millions of dollars into the process to purchase their hand-picked candidates. This is where I fear for our future. This nation is turning into a plutocracy bought and paid for by Spy (Koch) v. Spy (Soros) money. When entire elections are bought and paid for by special interest money pushed by one or the other of these factions, we have no say. I am sick over this. What I fear is your son will become what the rest of us are becoming – noting but a surf watching the billionaires purchase one election and politician after another with their PACs and special interest groups.

        A more disgusting indicator of our future is what happened in South Fulton, TN the other day. The pay to play system put together by the tea party elected mayor and town council allowed a family’s home to burn because they did not pay their $75 subscription. My concern is not about the subscription but the discussion and abject lack of humanity, pity, concern, and basic human decency people have. I would be terrified for the future of my child, if I had one.

        I have an entirely different take on the housing market. (which is another discussion). Something really weird is going on in Iran, and I suspect it is internal. The Taliban may be on the brink of imploding due to factional fighting. The world is not coming to an end. Perhaps part of the problem with us – today, is not anticipating the abject changes technology have wrought – sociologically. We are very much in the same place the UK was in 1817 – 1840 or so, complete with our own version of Luddites. Look how that turned out – the 1800’s belonged to the UK.

        (I’m rather “into” that time period right now – and the parallels to today are striking).

        Trump is a footnote, and maybe a much needed diversion. I simply cannot take any process seriously when someone like Ron Paul is allowed to participate in any debate. I find Donald Trump far more serious and much less of a insult than Ron Paul. The RNC is the real problem here.

        The RNC created the debate mess. I guess that’s why Trump doesn’t bother me. It’s the least of it. In order to solve the problem we must face some very unpleasant facts. Unfortunately the GOP and conservative universe are very good at not facing facts.

        The Pink Flamingo

        • “the GOP and conservative universe are very good at not facing facts” ???
          Talk about only mentioning half the problem!

          The debates have worked fine, except that they have given Newt a rebirth of sorts by letting him make points by attacking the debate formats. We know the Rick Perry is a dolt—I didn’t know that before. I knew Bachmann was frightening, but the debates have made that clearer. They have shown that Romney is smart, clear, articulate and moderate (good) and also thin-skinned, slippery, and two-faced (bad.) They have shown that Huntsman is rational, qualified, moderate, articulate, principled, and too boring to get elected. They have shown that were he
          not a religious zealot, anti-gay bigot, Rick Santorum would have a lot to offer. They exposed Herman Cain as the fraud he is. You think this is worse than the old system, when voters had no idea what the candidates
          for President were really like? Nonsense.

          Billionaires don’t purchase presidential elections, because real voters aren’t that controlled by ads and TV commercials. Are you? I’m not. We just like to claim everyone else is stupid. And often they are, but it’s not because they are manipulated by PACS and big donors. You want a President elected by money, corruption and manipulation? Meet John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Chris Matthews’ hero. And he also won because in debates where he was matched or beaten by his opponent on the issues and debating points, he didn’t have a dark five o’clock shadow and jowls. Ah, those were the good old days, right?

          Your cynicism is based on selective memory or willful ignorance.

          • It’s not cynicism but far too much research – to the point where there are days when I am terribly distressed. I am of two minds with the debates. I’ve been complaining about them, the format, and the vast unfairness to Rick Perry, who physically cannot stand for more than an hour at a time without being in intense pain. I know far too much “inside baseball” and I don’t like what I’ve learned. I am basically of an positive nature, so I am attempting to make the best of it. I think you have a much better view of the average voter than I do. Unfortunately there are blocks of voters who are so driven by loyalty to a single person or cause that they can be manipulated and used – as in the Ron Paul Bots.

            We have so much money coming into the scene now that it is deplorable – and yes, we are in a situation where people can drop a million hare in a PAC and one there, and there is no accountability or reporting. There are ways that the credit card security systems are turned off for “moneybombs” – both parties use them – and money comes in from purchased pre-pay credit cards given to go into campaigns. At least two of our GOP candidates have gamed the system. Money can come in from off-shore, which is illegal. There are paid operatives of specific candidates and public interest groups who do nothing but go around commenting on blogs and doing their best to crash the “enemy”. I’ve been targeted, I have a colleague who has been targeted. My colleague is tracking the money, ISPs, lawsuits are being filed. The FEC is so overwhelmed that there is absolutely no accountability. The Citizen’s United ruling was the last straw. Unlimited amounts of money from industry, etc. can be poured into a PAC or SuperPAC and none of it is accountable.

            No, when you put things in historical context we may not be as corrupt, but it’s getting very bad out there. I’m a historian. I study American history. Trust me, it is reaching that “worst” point.

            The Pink Flamingo

            • Votes and laws are being bought, but I think elections being bought is wildly exaggerated, and much less of a problem than it once was. The fact is that money can no longer hide the truth about candidates—if the media was unbiased, the system would work even better. Tell Meg Whitman about how money buys elections. Tell Jon Corzine. There isn’t even convincing data that commercial advertising works for businesses.

              Citizens United is a boogeyman for the left (what kind of Republican are you?). Why should media corporations get to spew biased opinions about candidates and other groups not? One Solicitor General Kagan agreed that the law should permit the banning of books funded by organizations, the case was lost, and deserved to be.

              Things are not good, but we are so far from the “worst” point that you’d need the Hubble to see it.

  4. I’m probably never going to be a terribly regular commenter on anyone’s blog, but I sort of feel like my handful of comments here have been me jumping on things I disagree with. Read this and I just thought I’d say: I agree with you completely.

    To echo a previous commenter: beautiful.

  5. The frustrating thing to me about the candidate exposure process on TV is how the “debate” formats are more about the theater of self-promotion created by, and for the benefit of, all the players besides the candidates. Did you see the panel of three state Attorneys General basically interviewing each GOP candidate one at a time in the hot seat, on Fox News? The emcee was Mike Huckabee (there is one affable Tricky Dick, but that is another matter; everybody misses Tim Russert). That format for public candidate-screening, I liked; it was not perfect, but it was much better than previous formats I’ve seen. Journalists, bloggers, academics, and many other kinds of shrewd, sharp-elbowed experts at attaining celebrity to rival that of candidates for elected office have destroyed whatever credibility and trustworthiness any among them have, for worthiness to participate in the interrogation of candidates.

    If I were a Republican, I would suggest that in the future, the party conduct a lottery to select from two sets of volunteers meeting specific qualifications (and disqualifications) – one set, of partisan Republicans and the other, a set of persons with well-known, consistent and fierce opposition to Republican candidates and party planks. A panel composed of the lottery winners could then stalk the field of candidates for months on end, interviewing one at a time in a studio (instead of in some fractious street-shouting-match atmosphere) in a series of meet-the-candidates interview nights. They could strive to broadcast all such exposures on PBS and NPR – but ultimately, on any network(s) or station(s) that are willing to take a feed.

    It’s too bad that genuine debates are not part of the down-select process for all the races for national elected offices. The current “third-party” system of exposing candidates, their views and vision to the general voting public is broken, much like the federal budget, and the voting public knows it. Both broken institutions and their brokenness pose mortal threats to the public’s liberty and prosperity.

    • I like the idea of having candidates be open to questions from both friend and foe (not like that’s ever going to happen though). We at least need some moderators who will ask tough questions and FOLLOW UP ON THEM instead of just letting the candidates slide with a half-baked, nonfactual semi-answer like happens now.

  6. We have to find a way to keep this thread going, to ensure a continuous supply of Jack’s stream-of-consciounsness nominees for moderator. Each one makes me giggle more than the last. Pauly Shore, Jared Loughner, Joy Behar, Dr. Phil, John Hinckley Jr., Kanye West, Bill Maher, Rod Blogojeich, Kim Kardassian, Shamu, Elmo, and Barney. That’s quite an impressive list. Might I suggest adding Groundskeeper Willie?

  7. Willie would be excellent. I hadn’t gotten around to animated characters, only puppets and purple dinosaurs. Other animated candidates who would be better than Trump include Space Ghost, Shaggy from Scooby-Doo, Squidward, from SpongeBob, Bender, from Futurama, Yosemite Sam and El Kabong
    Especially El Kabong.

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