News & Politics

Assessing the Primetime Aftermath of Trump's Debate Decision

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In the immediate primetime aftermath of Donald Trump’s decision not to participate in Thursday’s Fox News debate, before the breaking news could be properly processed, it was interesting to watch the development ripple through the news cycle:

Bill O’Reilly did not have a segment on the decision. (I think Trump’s official decision not to appear came after 8 pm eastern, just as The Kelly File went on air.)

Megyn Kelly played it coy, resisting attempts by Michael Moore to make this all about her. (She’s right, it isn’t, or, if it is, the decision not to participate is ridiculous.)

America’s mayor Rudy Giuliani was forced to go on with his planned endorsement of Trump, mugged by the reality of his candidate’s unseemly bow-out. Smiling broadly (I love this guy), he offered Kelly and Roger Ailes a journalistic vote of confidence after the endorsement.

Fox contributor Marc Thiessen proclaimed the decision Trump’s first major strategic mistake, and had an expression akin to the way Hannibal Lecter looks when he knows there’s a good meal in the works. Contributor Guy Benson wants Trump to “put on his big-boy pants” and show up for the debate.

Governor Chris Christie phoned it in, effectively reprising his role as the toughest-talking candidate of the bunch. The “scared of Megyn Kelly” trope is inaccurate, but for millions of macho-minded Trump fans who won’t analyze further, it is a very troublesome storyline.

As if on cue, evangelical leader Tony Perkins came on to personally endorse Senator Ted Cruz.

Governor Mike Huckabee asked for a seat at the grown-up table, and I think he should get it. Or Carly Fiorina. (Loved her Mistress of Doom pronouncement about Planned Parenthood during the September 2015 CNN debate.)

Senator Cruz doubled-down, like Denny Crane (William Shatner) from the old NBC series Boston Legal, sensing a bloody opening, calling for a mano-a-mano, one-on-one debate, and revealing the real reason he thinks Trump backed out: to avoid a substantive, feet-to-fire, Cruz-missile assault on Trump’s suitability for the office of commander in chief.

Sarah Palin was tending to matters at home, and could not be reached for comment.

Over at CNN and MSNBC, the mock-concern was palpable, along with fifty shades of opportunism and a smattering of gallows humor.

Sean Hannity said that he was “disappointed” and seemed genuinely hurt (as did Geraldo Rivera) by Trump’s decision. Hannity closed his show with a personal plea to Trump, apparently on behalf of the entire Fox network, to show up at the damn debate.

Across the political landscape, the wagons of journalism circled to protect the integrity of the profession, and the woman of the hour, Megyn Kelly.

The development has been processed, but that’s the way it was.

Meanwhile, I’ll second Hannity: Mr. Trump, please reconsider.