Donald Trump has once again taken over the media cycle and forced every outlet to cover his latest move.
On Tuesday night, Trump upped the stakes in his dispute with Fox News by pulling out of Thursday’s debate. The reasoning: he believes moderator Megyn Kelly is biased towards him and the whole event would be designed to torpedo his chances in Iowa. (RELATED: Trump Backs Out Of Fox News Debate)
So far though, Fox News isn’t backing down and has called The Donald’s tactics “terrorizations.” But the man is already winning this fight by sending the leading cable network into panic mode and turning all the cameras on himself.
More importantly in terms of the election, Trump’s opponents are finding themselves largely ignored in the lead-up to the Iowa Caucus. It’s not the first time the other Republican White House hopefuls have found themselves overshadowed by the front-runner’s antics — much to their well-voiced chagrin.
While Trump’s rivals like Rand Paul and Chris Christie may complain about the lack of media attention they’re receiving, there is one thing The Donald has done for them that they should be thankful for: eliminating the power of gotcha questions conjured up by clever, left-leaning reporters.
For several presidential elections, Republican candidates have had to field catch-22 questions which are designed only to shame them. The favorite for a long time has been the all-important inquiry: Do you believe in evolution?
That may be important to know when you are applying for a job as a high school science teacher, but probably has little to do with your ability to serve as commander in chief. During his 2008 presidential bid, Mike Huckabee knocked down this question with just that line of attack.
In 2012, Republican candidates were questioned over whether they would appoint a Muslim to their cabinet. This hypothetical tripped up Herman Cain and he was skewered by the media as an Islamophobe and a bigot for not giving a satisfactory answer on the matter.
Before Trump permanently stole the spotlight of the 2016 campaign, intrepid reporters were already scoring easy hits on Republican hopefuls. At the beginning of February 2015, Chris Christie and Rand Paul were beaten down over questions on whether it is right for a parent to not have their child vaccinated. Soon after, every potential candidate had to give their opinion on vaccinations.
Later that month, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker suffered his first wounds of the 2016 campaign over his fumbled responses to the all-important queries: “Do you believe Obama loves America?” and “Do you believe Obama is a Christian?” (RELATED: WaPo To Walker: Do You Think Obama Is A Christian?)
In April, Republican hopefuls then faced inquisitions over whether they would attend a gay wedding. How that relates to presidential duties is unknown, but Slate did declare it the “perfect question for the GOP.”
The reason why journalists love asking candidates these questions because it is an effective way to make Republicans squirm or look “bigoted” on the national stage — and all over nonsense hypotheticals voters don’t care about.
If a candidate, like Walker, flubs his answer, it can sow the seeds for an embarrassing news cycle where he or she is forced to clarify their remarks and play by the media’s game. It’s a tactic designed for demonstrating dominance and letting Republicans know the media is morally superior.
Enter Trump in June, and the easy hits haven’t been so easy. The Donald’s brash, unrepentant and completely politically incorrect style has baffled the chattering class and deflated their gotcha questions.
For instance, several reporters tried to have a “shame on you” moment by demanding to know if it was appropriate to call anchor babies anchor babies. Trump cut through the outrage machine and declared he was going to continue saying anchor babies. His archnemesis Jeb Bush stated that he too would say anchor baby without apology. (RELATED: Trump Shuts Down Reporter: I’ll Use ‘Anchor Baby’)
The manufactured cycle quickly died and since then the media hasn’t really been able to score effective gotcha questions. They tried to get Ben Carson with a question on voting for a Muslim president, but his poll numbers actually went up after the dust-up and he didn’t respond with the mandated “clarification.”
So far, America hasn’t witnessed a debate this cycle where Republicans were asked their views on evolution. Or what they would do if their child announced he or she was really another gender. Or what they would do if they were stuck with a refugee family on a boat in the Mediterranean Sea.
The credit for this goes to Donald Trump. Love him or hate him, his ability to suck up all the rage of the Left and not cave into pressure has dramatically changed the way the mainstream media covers Republican primaries. Instead of “clarifying” or apologizing, he tends to double down and demand apologies from his accusers.A recent University of California-Los Angeles study showed it may be beneficial for politicians to never apologize for making controversial remarks as the person admitting fault loses support among observers and does nothing to satisfy the aggrieved. For The Donald, the lack of contrition at least shows a willingness to flout the media’s rules on proper decorum. (RELATED: A New Study May Prove Trump Is Right To Never Apologize)
Before Trump, liberal reporters were able to essentially bully candidates and set the tone without any consequences. With The Donald in the race, reporters have someone who doesn’t apologize for anything he says or does — no matter how offensive — and is able to assert dominance over them.
The mogul’s rivals may be peeved by the lack of attention, but they should at least give thanks for not getting badgered on whether they’d appoint a transgendered Muslim to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.