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.