Donald Trump has backed himself into a corner — the most beautiful, luxurious corner in the world, with many, many trap doors for him to escape from.
The billionaire Republican presidential front-runner announced Tuesday that he wouldn’t participate in Thursday’s Republican presidential primary debate hosted by Fox News because he feels moderator Megyn Kelly is biased against him and because the network refuses to donate to veterans charities the money it generates from hosting the debate. Instead, Trump declared he will participate in another event at the same time as the debate that would raise money for vets.
Who knows what will happen in this showdown, but what’s clear is that Trump has once again placed himself in a win-win situation. For starters, he has hijacked another news cycle or two. He may also get Fox News to give some nominal amount of money to charity in order to get him to reconsider his decision to skip the debate, thus providing him a victory he can tout on the campaign trail. Alternatively, he’ll host something like “The Donald Trump All Star Town Hall Extravaganza In Support Of America’s Veterans” on some rival network with some of his more famous supporters like, say, Sarah Palin, Sylvester Stallone and Mike Tyson participating in some capacity. He’ll probably get as many or more viewers than the actual debate if he does something like this and he’ll be able to claim he did some good by raising money for a worthy cause to boot.
No other candidate could do this. No other candidate would even think of trying to do this. If you haven’t realized it already, Donald Trump is a political genius. He makes Bill Clinton look like Jim Gilmore. Ted Cruz’s Father Cautions Voters To Consider Donald Trump’s Past Stances On Abortion And Marriage
But we should have known all this from the start. Almost no one predicted Trump would be as successful as he has been in the Republican primary, but there were clues to be decoded if you looked closely enough. After all, this is a man so brilliant at media manipulation that he has been able to sustain himself as one of the most famous men in America for nearly four decades. Pop quiz: Name another local real estate developer who is known around the world? Trump didn’t achieve such notoriety by accident. He made it happen. He is the greatest brander and media mastermind of his generation — of perhaps any generation.
Trump’s campaign at times seems unorganized and ramshackle. And perhaps, in some ways, it is. But in other ways, there is much more than meets the eye. The truth is Trump has been running for president for a long time; we just didn’t know it. Shortly after Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election, Trump petitioned to trademark his now famous campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” Even before that, he began courting conservative and evangelical leaders, donating to their causes, attending their events and hosting them at his properties. This has paid off for him, in part because some of America’s so-called conservative leaders are willing to sell their souls to the highest bidder.
None of this is to say Trump has been good for our politics. I don’t think he has been. His feud against Megyn Kelly, one of the best television hosts in the business, is completely cynical. A lot of his policy proposals are totally ludicrous. His rhetoric has so often been coarse and divisive. He may lead to the destruction of the conservative movement if he wins the Republican nomination. Who knows what will become of the country if he is elected president?
But looking at Trump’s political success in a purely technical way, it’s hard not to stand in awe of how he has confounded all the experts while steamrolling his way toward capturing the Republican nomination. For good or ill, we are witnessing a political Da Vinci paint a masterpiece.