More specifically: Donald Trump threatened to drop out of the Fox debate Thursday if Fox moderator Megyn Kelly is on that stage and asking questions. Said threat is being done in the traditional politician style – which is to say, using a campaign manager and let’s-see language to give an air of plausible deniability to the whole thing – but one of the more interesting things about Donald Trump is that he in fact is perfectly capable of dropping out of the debate if his demands are not met. It’s a bad idea to assume that he wouldn’t, honestly.
And it is also a bad idea for Donald Trump to drop the debate, not that he’d take my advice anyway. The RNC has already indicated that they’re not going to indulge Trump by taking his side on the issue; and Fox News is signaling that they’re not going to drop Megyn Kelly, either. For that matter: which campaign spokesman should we believe? This one?
Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, indicated that Trump could walk away from the debate if Fox won’t exclude Kelly. “Let’s see what happens,” he told me. “It’s fair to say Mr. Trump is a significant ratings driver for these debates. If we aren’t on stage for some reason, they wouldn’t have the record 24 million viewers and would be back with 1-2 million people.”
Or this one?
“There’s no love lost between Megyn Kelly and Donald Trump after that first debate; that’s been a very publicized disagreement there,” [Trump spokeswoman Katrina] Pierson said on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” adding that Trump hasn’t mentioned anything about skipping Thursday’s GOP debate, for which Fox News is partnering with Google and YouTube. “But, I think it’s going to be fine.”
If nothing else, this is bad message discipline. It’s entirely possible that both Lewandowski and Pierson legitimately believe that they’re conveying the official thoughts of the Trump campaign*. And, sure, every campaign will have a communications breakdown from time to time. But if I had to describe the Trump campaign in one word, the word would be capricious. And I would not use that word as a compliment at all.
PS: There’s a part of me that has a lively scientific interest in seeing just what would happen if Donald Trump followed through on his quasi-threat to schedule a town hall opposite the Thursday debate. It’d be interesting to get some data showing just how much of the interest in the GOP debates is driven by Trump; after all, he doesn’t actually talk for two hours straight at any of the regular debates (not that any of them do, of course). Taking a purely detached view of the whole affair, having Trump in the race is certainly allowing us to test all the old assumptions on how to run a campaign…
PPS: I grant that there is an argument that you cannot effectively defend against a campaign that is essentially random and unpredictable. Sure, fine. …Now tell me how to combine that strategy with one involving artillery strikes that doesn’t involve liberal use of the phrase ‘friendly fire.’ Since we’re using a military metaphor, and everything.
*To be fair: there’s an alternative explanation, which is that Katrina Pierson is an idiot. An anti-Catholic, blood purity-obsessed idiot, at that. I will allow my readers to decide if that’s really a positive spin on things for the Trump campaign, though. My immediate gut reaction? …No. No, it is not.