You may have heard that reality teevee mogul Donald Trump has opted to pull out of Thursday's Republican debate on the grounds that Megyn Kelly was mean to him one time (i.e., asked him a question). Instead of joining the rest of the field on the Fox News debate stage, Trump plans to hold what he's called a "Special Event To Benefit Veterans Organizations." Lest you think there is actual altruism behind this move, rest assured that Trump has specifically positioned the event as a spite-driven harrumph intended to hurt Fox News' ratings, with military veterans serving as props.
It's pretty saddening to see veterans caught up in the middle of this primary's stupendous nonsense. Nevertheless, this is a great opportunity for Trump's opponents to differentiate themselves from the frivolous hooligan in their midst, by rediscovering a little statesmanship and reasserting a little seriousness.
As you might expect, this is not what's happening. Days before the Iowa caucus, combat vets are being treated as poker chips in a daffy game of Texas Hold 'em, and Trump's main competitor is going all in. As The Hill's Bradford Richardson reports:
Super PACs supporting Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz say they will donate $1.5 million to charities committed to helping veterans if rival Donald Trump agrees to a one-on-one debate with Cruz.
“Not only would this be a heck of a debate, but it would also be a terrific opportunity to generate millions of dollars for the veterans,” the Keep the Promise I and II PACs said in a joint statement Wednesday night.
Phew! At last, we finally have a "terrific opportunity" to support veterans. Man, I was wondering when one of those would come along! All it took was for Cruz to decide to do what he does best: a little opportunistic grandstanding.
As Richardson reports, Cruz's super PAC's came out with the cash offer very soon after Cruz himself announced that he'd gone and booked a venue for this one-off debate. So the added fun of this is that everyone gets to watch political reporters sort of shrug and hedge at an obvious example of a campaign coordinating with its own super PAC. This is, of course, technically illegal, but it hardly matters when everyone's decided to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that nothing is happening. I guess you'd have to be a real heel to point out that this whole arrangement looks awfully corrupt when there are potential veterans' benefits on the line.
If you thought all this conditional patriotism couldn't get any crasser, think again, because also-ran former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is still skulking around in the root cellar. Over the past few days, Fiorina has injected herself into this to-do with this series of tweets:
Right, so what you just witnessed was Carly Fiorina staking $3.5 million to buy her way into either the televised Fox debate (which has shut her out because her polling numbers have dropped so low that she's now surplus to requirements) or Trump's competing event. Pretty classy thing to do -- flaunt a thick bankroll, try to extort your way into the sanctioned debate from which you've been barred by promising the cash to a good cause, and if that fails, use a bigger bankroll to extort your way into Trump's umbrage-fest.
Pretending that all of this is some act of courage is an additional nasty touch on Fiorina's part. But it's all good, right? It's like a reality TV show where some wounded combat veterans might get better health care if everyone properly debases themselves.
Since there seems to be a lot of confusion, let's use the Eat The Press telestrator to draw up a flowchart explaining what everyone with a functioning soul is supposed to do in this situation.
And that settles that.