Does being a shameless self-promoter qualify a person to moderate a presidential debate? The Donald thinks so. Despite his billions and extraordinary success, mogul Donald Trump just can’t stand it when other people are getting too much attention. So, with everybody talking about Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich, Trump announced plans to moderate a Dec. 27 debate that will be sponsored by NewsMax and ION TV to turn some of the limelight onto himself.
It’s working. The Republican establishment is in a tizzy over the mere prospect of his moderating what is supposed to be a serious forum. After all, the party’s nominating race already has been more like a season of The Bachelor or Bachelorette, with voters romancing one candidate after another but unable to find true love. They question whether Trump can resist making the event all about himself and the temptation of using telling the participants they’re hired or fired.
Current frontrunner Newt Gingrich, whose ego is at least as large as Trump’s, immediately accepted the offer. But others, like Rep. Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman, aren’t having it. They’ve also refused to travel to New York to hold court with him as Romney, Gingrich, Cain and Michele Bachmann have.
“I’m not going to kiss his ring and I’m not going to kiss any other part of his anatomy. If he had any courage at all, he would be running as a candidate for president as opposed to manipulating the process from the outside,” Huntsman told CNN.
Trump has said that Huntsman called his office repeatedly to set up a meeting, which the former Utah governor denies.
“Like with a lot of things he’s said, it’s pure BS,” Huntsman said, adding that he called Trump after he announced he wouldn’t launch a presidential bid to wish him well.
Romney, who has met privately with Trump, politely declined this latest invitation with the excuse that he needs to spend the time campaigning in Iowa where the event is to take place. Bachmann told Politico Thursday that her team is still “mulling” it over and one of the concerns is that Trump has hinted that he might still enter the race after the next season of The Apprentice has aired.
GOP strategist Karl Rove has called on Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus to ban the candidates from participating, but Priebus has asserted more than once that the candidates must decide for themselves. He did, however, suggest that he doesn’t think it’s a good idea.
“I think that having a successful businessman serving as moderator has a lot of volume. But the issue here is whether the moderator should be a person who’s still batting around the idea of running as an independent,” said Priebus in an interview Thursday on Fox News. “I think that should give some of these candidates some concern.”
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(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)