By any reasonable account, Donald Trump's pseudo-debate should be laughed off as a media spectacle. Ron Paul had the appropriate response, immediately rejecting the invitation. His campaign chair said that the debate "is beneath the office of the presidency and flies in the face of that office’s history and dignity."
Unfortunately, Newt Gingrich—who never passes up the opportunity for a good clown show—is the field's current front-runner. "This is a country of enormously wide-open talent. You know, Donald Trump is a great showman. He's also a great businessman," Gingrich said yesterday after an hour-long meeting in New York with Trump.
With Gingrich committed, it'll become a real debate—few of the candidates will want to pass up a free media opportunity days before Iowans vote and two weeks before New Hampshire's primary. And that means the ugliest side of conservative paranoia might resurface later this month.
Trump appointed himself birther-in-chief when he toyed with a presidential campaign at the beginning of the year. It seemed like the final bit of air had sucked out of that argument when Obama revealed his full birth certificate this spring, but even that wasn't enough to satisfy Trump. “A lot of people agree with me,” Trump told reporters yesterday. ”They find it amazing, that out of—that all of a sudden, miraculously, this birth certificate just appeared. People have questioned the birth certificate, and many people do still question it. … Look, I have real questions, but I also know Obama is totally protected by the press.”
It's a terrifyingly plausible scenario that Trump will use his perch later this month to quiz each of the candidates on Obama's birth certificate; let's hope they won't take the bait and will rebut Trump's crazy ramblings, but since the majority have visited Trump Tower, they may kowtow with the hopes of securing the reality-TV star's endorsement.