It has been more than five years since I wrote my last op/ed for the Lebanon Democrat. Generally, this is not something I miss doing. However, if I were still writing newspaper editorials, this would be my next column:
“Trump ‘handles’ FOX”
We find ourselves on the day of the final GOP debate before the Iowa caucus without the leading candidate. Donald Trump has made the decision to forego the last debate because of a months-long feud with Megyn Kelly, who will serve as one of the debate moderators.
Not only has The Donald removed himself from the debate, he has scheduled air time on rival network CNN to broadcast a Wounded Warrior special — at the same time as the GOP debate. This is vintage Trump.
In a statement released by FOX on Tuesday that Mr. Trump accurately pegged as “childishly written,” the network questioned how the leading GOP candidate would handle President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran if he could not handle Ms. Kelly.
Oh, FOX News, believe me, you have been “handled.”
This has become the standard go-to line whenever a Republican criticizes the media. President Obama has used it, Jeb! has used it, and probably many others. If you can’t handle the American media, how can you be expected to handle Foreign Despot X or Foreign Despot Y? It’s a trite comment, already over-used, completely unimaginative, and also irrelevant.
FOX News has just had the tables turned and completely flipped over, and they don’t even know it. Or maybe they do. Their ratings will no doubt plummet, possibly to the point that they suffer the ignominy of being out-watched by CNN during the debate slot. After all, what is a GOP debate without Donald Trump? Not worth watching.
Shame on FOX News for allowing this to happen. Tonight, the biggest personalities won’t be the candidates. It will be the moderators, one in particular. This is akin to a sporting event where the referees become the biggest players. It should never be allowed to happen. I know FOX News is in the business of garnering the biggest ratings it can. And big personalities draw big ratings. I get that. But are you doing news or are you putting on a show? Is it about the candidates or is it more about you?
In its latest statement, released on Wednesday, FOX News calls Trump’s absence “near unprecedented.” Oh, the horror! The man who might become the next leader of the free world is doing something that has never been done before. It can’t be tolerated. I mean, where would the country be today if no one ever did anything that had never been done before?
Personally, give me the candidate who is willing to do the unprecedented. Believe me, it takes far more courage to do what Trump is doing than to simply walk out on stage tonight like the other seven candidates, politely fold his hands together on a podium, answer whatever questions he’s asked, stop talking when the bell rings, wait your next turn in line, and follow the long-accepted rules of engagement that have always been followed without question.
This is the formula that has been followed by every relevant candidate since I can remember. Except Donald Trump isn’t following the rules this time. Effective leaders don’t always play by the rules, not when there is a better way. And so I give you the Trump Phenomenon. He doesn’t always follow directions. Sometimes he doesn’t play well with others. When he gets punched, he hits back twice as hard. We’ve never had a candidate like this before.
And every time Donald Trump rocks the boat the way he’s rocking it tonight, both the media and establishment politicians alike have gleefully pronounced “That’s it! Trump’s really done it this time! His candidacy can’t survive this!” And every time, Trump’s poll numbers go up.
So, FOX News, if Trump “handles” you by walking away and one-upping you, imagine how he’s going to handle President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran.