Ever since it was announced that Donald Trump would be moderating a debate between the Republican presidential primary candidates, the focus of the press and pundits was centered on the absurdity of a clown like Trump being taken seriously in that role. After all, he is charlatan who pretends to be a successful businessman, but in reality he is fraud who has presided over four bankrupt enterprises and rescued his floundering career by becoming a TV game show host.
GOP luminaries from George Will to Karl Rove to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, have all dismissed Trump a distraction, a joke, or worse. And consistent with his pugilistic personality, Trump fired back with a barrage of petulant insults. More importantly, the candidates themselves have shunned Trump and his Narcissistic endeavor. Huntsman, Paul, Romney, Perry, and Bachmann are all officially out. When Bachmann gave notice on Fox News she complained to Gretchen Carlson that…
“…[Trump] was also on television saying that he was leaning toward one candidate. Even if he was leaning towards me it suggests the idea of bias and I just don’t know if that’s necessarily the right format.”
And just to illustrate how clueless the characters on Fox News are, Carlson responded to Bachmann saying…
“That’s interesting, because I had not thought about the latter part of what you just said as being possibly a conflict of interest if he actually is leaning towards one candidate.”
Yes, Gretchen, that is interesting (I mean the part about you having thoughts). And while Huntsman and Paul spoke candidly about their reasons for sitting out the debate, Romney, Bachmann, and Perry all polished their snub by lavishing the Donald with flagrant flattery and shameless adulation. Nevertheless, it has become glaringly apparent that Trump holds no sway with either the public or the political players. The roster for the much ballyhooed debate (mostly ballyhooed by Trump himself) is now set with only Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum participating. That should make for some compelling TV drama. However, it is unlikely to result in the fulfillment of his prediction that “We will get, probably, the highest ratings of any debate.” Such grandiose hyperbole can only come from the ego of Trump.
But lost in the sublime comic relief of all of this Trumpling is any substantive review of his partner in this debasement of debate. NewsMax is a popular conservative magazine and web site. Popular among the curmudgeon crowd of over-65 conspiracy nuts, that is. Its editor, Chris Ruddy, is the author of a book that advanced the scurrilous lie that Bill Clinton’s aide, Vince Foster, did not commit suicide as all available evidence proved, but was – murdered! When Ruddy could not get his employer, Rupert Murdoch of the New York Post, to go along with this fable, Ruddy struck out on his own with the help of another right-wing media baron: Richard Mellon Scaife. It ought to be a warning sign if Murdoch is uncomfortable with your lunatic ravings.
Scaife is a stalwart anti-communist who seems to believe that anyone to the left of Barry Goldwater is a Trotskyite. His largesse extends to a who’s who of rightist foundations like the American Enterprise Institute, David Horowitz’s Freedom Center, and the Heritage Foundation. He is similarly generous to organizations that oppose public education, unions, and global warming science. But he is best known for bankrolling the investigations of sex scandals and drug-running plots that he was convinced Clinton was engaged in back in Arkansas.
So in addition to the embarrassment of being associated with Donald Trump, the two remaining participants in his debate must also account for their connection to NewsMax and Scaife. This is about more than just Trump’s ego and Birtherism. It also extends to extremist delusions about murdered White House staffers and drug traffickers. Even worse, NewsMax once published an article that was a thinly veiled call for a military coup against the Obama administration. Or as it is referred to legal circles – treason.
Santorum doesn’t have much to worry about because he isn’t going anywhere anyway. But Gingrich is the current GOP frontrunner (and the likely beneficiary/victim of a Trump endorsement), and he should be asked to comment on the appropriateness of aligning himself with these controversial figures. Sadly, it may be too much to expect the media to hold Gingrich’s feet to the fire when they haven’t even bothered to report that there is a fire. While it may be tempting to fill the airwaves with the Tales of Trump, that is only half the story. NewsMax and Scaife are as much a part of this ludicrous debate as Trump and deserve a little attention as well.
[Update] Trump spoke with Don Imus on the Fox Business Network this morning and delivered some deeply depressing news. Imus asked Trump if the debate would be going forward with only Gingrich and Santorum participating. Trump said, “I don’t know. I have to look into it.” Aside from being an enormous insult to Gingrich and Santorum, canceling the debate would eliminate one of the most eagerly anticipated comedy events of the holiday season. Come on, Donald…stick with it.