That time in 2012 when Trump wasn’t allowed on GOP debate stage
As numerous Republican officials engage in the distasteful process of finding ways to declare Donald Trump an acceptable nominee – despite everything that was said in the past – it’s important to note that this mother of all flip-flops looks much worse when measured over a 4-year span.
Republican commentators who bemoan the party’s shameful status with Trump at the top have forgotten how the brash billionaire was treated by the GOP during the 2012 presidential campaign.
While Trump is now increasingly labeled as defensible, in December 2011, just a few weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Trump was viewed with such contempt by the GOP presidential candidates that they refused to appear on stage for a debate if Trump was the moderator.
Newsmax, the far-right website, had announced that it was sponsoring a Dec. 27 debate and Trump, at that time still hosting his “Celebrity Apprentice” TV show, was chosen to moderate the event.
Ron Paul and John Huntsman quickly balked, blasting Trump’s participation in the presidential process as a “wildly inappropriate” move that would district from serious issues. Other embarrassed candidates, including eventual nominee Mitt Romney, soon followed suit, vowing a boycott in order to keep Trump off the stage.
In a statement at the time, the Paul campaign said: “The selection of a reality television personality to host a presidential debate that voters nationwide will be watching is beneath the office of the presidency and flies in the face of that office’s history and dignity.”
Four years later, many in the party appear ready to embrace that same TV personality as presidential material. Trump hasn’t changed; the GOP clearly has.
At the time, conservative columnist Stephanie Slade wrote:
Virtually no one in the Republican mainstream is happy about the prospect of a GOP debate featuring celebrity billionaire Donald Trump as moderator. Texas Rep. Ron Paul, in declining his invitation, said the event would create an “unwanted, circus-like atmosphere.” Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has likewise refused to participate, and conservative voices like George Will, Karl Rove, Ari Fleischer, and the National Review editorial board have lambasted Trump’s involvement.
The reaction to the debate on the right has been one of alarm, and for good reason: the choice of Trump as moderator contributes to the perception that the Republican Party no longer takes itself seriously.
When it reached the point that only Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were willing to show up for the Iowa debate, Trump bowed out. But not before he demonstrated the same shtick that has made him so successful with Republicans in 2016.
He called Rove, Will, and Charles Krauthammer of Fox News “political hacks” and Paul and Huntsman “joke candidates.”
The he offered this self-absorbed retort, which had no impact four years ago but certainly was a winning message among Republicans in 2o16:
“Why is a person who has built a more than $7 billion net worth, with more than $270 million in cash … not the right person to lead this country out of economic chaos or at least to moderate a debate?”
The Republican National Committee members should be asking, how is a guy who was so unsuitable that he could not sit on the same stage with GOP candidates of four years ago now seen as acceptable to sit in the Oval Office?
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