Donald Trump, presidential debate host. I didn't think New York's contribution to the Republican primaries could get any more embarrassing. But it has.
Last week Trump continued to develop his new role as Important Republican Personage by agreeing to moderate a debate in Des Moines on Dec. 27. Then on Monday, Newt Gingrich made what is now becoming a traditional part of the Republican presidential race: the pilgrimage to New York to seek Trump's blessing.
The pair lavished praised on one another following a meeting at Trump Tower, and agreed to help a group of underprivileged New York City schoolchildren. As it turns out, the needy tykes and tots will be branded.
"We're going to be picking 10 young wonderful children and make them 'apprenti'," the star of Celebrity Apprentice explained.
Hasn't the GOP noticed that Trump is popular because he's strange and unpredictable, not because he has an interesting vision of the nation's future? Would they be impressed if the Democrats had Barack Obama sit down for an interview with Lady Gaga?
"I don't understand the marching to his office. I didn't know he had the ability to lay on hands and anoint people," complained Ron Paul on CNN. (Jon Huntsman has also put the kibosh on a sit-down with Trump, telling Fox News: "I'm not going to kiss his ring and I'm not going to kiss any other part of his anatomy.")
Paul, the crusty libertarian, is definitely not Trump's favorite presidential candidate. Recently, the reality TV host said that if the Republicans went astray and nominated the wrong person, he might feel compelled to re-enter the race as an independent. Asked for an example of a wrong person, he picked Rep. Paul. Maybe that was, as Paul has surmised, because of their philosophical differences about the Federal Reserve. But I'm guessing it was because the Texas Republican failed to travel to Manhattan for the ritual sucking up.
Michele Bachmann, on the other hand, has not only been here several times, she's said that Trump would make an excellent running mate. A Vice-President Trump actually begins to sound less surreal if you're contemplating a world with a President Bachmann.
Trump is valuable entirely for his ability to attract attention. Remember, this is a man who ran his brief, phony presidential campaign around the question of whether Barack Obama was born in America. Remember that he very specifically asserted that his decision on whether to save the country by re-starting his campaign would depend on the more pressing demands of hosting Celebrity Apprentice.
"Our readers and the grass roots really love Trump," said Christopher Ruddy, chief executive of Newsmax Media, which is sponsoring the new Iowa debate. "They may not agree with him on everything, but they don't see him as owned by the Washington establishment, the media establishment."
No, he's only owned by several sponsors, a raft of product-placement agreements, a ton of investors who put up the money for his various real estate projects, and heaven knows who else. To say more, we'd have had to get a look at that financial disclosure form, which Trump claims he was thisclose to filing in the presidential race, but somehow never quite got around to.
Now what do you think? Will this debate in Iowa generate excitement about the presidential race itself, or simply provide a welcome programming alternative during a period when The Walking Dead is on hiatus?
Gingrich doesn't care. He can't wait. "I would want to go just for the entertainment value," Forbes quoted Gingrich as saying. "I can't imagine what a debate hosted by Donald Trump would be like."
No word yet from Mitt Romney. And while Romney made the obligatory Trump visitation, he didn't allow any photographers to record the meeting. Perhaps if the whole Donald connection becomes too humiliating, Mitt will just deny that he ever did it.