Gilded coprolite Donald Trump held a very classy, very beautiful event today at one of his many very classy, very beautiful properties in Manhattan. Trump said many words as part of this event, though I hesitate to call that assemblage of words a “speech,” as that would unjustly imply that any level of organization or forethought went into his remarks. The polite adjective for Trump’s performance is “meandering,” but such courtesies are wasted on that leathery slug. More accurately, Trump offered a roughly 50-minute stream-of-consciousness extrusion of verbal diarrhea that seemed to be influenced primarily by Trump’s garish ego and/or an undisclosed but serious head injury. But sandwiched in between all of Trump’s insane braggadocio and aggressive ignorance was one key phrase: “I am officially running for president of the United States.”
Now, keep in mind that saying it doesn’t necessarily make it so. As of this moment, Trump still has not filed any paperwork with the Federal Election Commission, which one must do to actually run for president. Until such time has he signs on the dotted line with the FEC, he’s just trolling for attention.
But I’ve made the case previously that if Trump wants to play this game, then we should treat his platform and policy positions as we would any other candidate for the presidency. One problem with this approach, as made clear by Trump’s announcement remarks, is that he’s largely incapable of expressing coherent ideas when it comes to policy. He seems to believe that it is the policy of the Mexican government to send all its drug dealers, criminals, and “rapists” over the border into the United States. He’s in undisguised awe of China’s economic central planning but also claims to be a small-government conservative. On Obamacare, he said this, which… I have no idea what this is: “You have to be hit by a tractor, literally, a tractor, to use it, because the deductibles are so high, it's virtually useless.”
So yes, Trump is a lunatic braggart who parades his insecurities around in a vain attempt to slake his unquenchable thirst for attention, but that’s not anything we didn’t know. By actually declaring himself a candidate, however, Trump has made the lives of Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus and several Fox News executives hilariously difficult. Before today they could hope that Trump was once again just pulling his quadrennial “I might run for president but obviously I won’t because I’m a sad clown” routine.
But by taking the next step, Trump officially made himself eligible for inclusion in the GOP primary debates. The party and Fox News have said that, given the sheer volume of candidates this cycle, participation in the first scheduled primary debate in August will be determined by polling strength, with the top ten candidates making it to the big stage. Right now, Trump is in the top ten – he’s actually polling higher than Rick Perry and isn’t too far behind Chris Christie. That means Priebus and honchos at Fox News are faced with the dilemma of having a cloddish reality TV star stand on the same debate stage with the GOP’s top-flight candidates. They may also face the embarrassment of inviting the Obamacare-tractor guy to debate but not the sitting governor of Ohio, or the sitting governor of Louisiana, or the senior senator from South Carolina, or the only woman in the Republican field.
That would obviously suit Trump just fine. Ask him and he’d probably say he’s more qualified than all those bozos put together because none of them ever built a golf course. He’s not running to win, he’s running to make a spectacle, and he’d turn a Republican primary debate into transcendent farce.
The RNC and Fox News may still have an out, though. As already noted, Trump hasn’t filed any paperwork with the FEC yet. According to the debate criteria set by Fox News, to get an invite, a candidate has to have all their paperwork squared away. If they’re lucky, Trump will “forget” to fill out certain disclosures and they can justifiably decline to invite him to participate.
And really that could be also be what Trump wants: he can pretend-run for president for a couple of months, get excluded from the debates because he hasn’t met the eligibility threshold, and then quit the race because he’s not being treated fairly by the Republican Party. He’ll get to brag about how he ran for president and would have won if the GOP hadn’t sabotaged him, and he won’t have actually had to do anything required of a candidate beyond giving speeches and going on TV, which is what he’d be doing anyway. It’s a win-win for The Donald, and a dispiriting loss for democracy.