The Fox debate show will go on, with or without Trump

Tomorrow night is the big Fox News Republican presidential debate. We have good news and bad news. The good news is Rand Paul has made the cut and will actually be on the main stage this time. 

The bad news is Donald Trump won’t be. This will surely disappoint Fox executives who were hoping for the usual ratings bump that his presence would bring to any debate, but unfortunately the petulant Trump has an issue with Megyn Kelly being the moderator. Anyway, here is the statement from Fox News on the situation.

I do not know what Trump or his people are thinking here. Avoiding debates is bound to make you look bad. Heck, I’ve covered election debates before where I’ve made a point of publishing pictures of the empty chairs of candidates who skipped out. But usually the people who don’t show up are the people who aren’t serious about winning anyway. It makes a candidate look like a rank amateur, skipping out on a debate.

Here, Trump looks like a guy who cannot take the heat. Not that it is likely to hurt him (more on that later), but still, it’s ridiculous. It’s like a guy who is the head chef at a restaurant who doesn’t want to show up to cook the food because a particularly demanding and obnoxious customer (Megyn Kelly) has made a reservation. 

If you can’t take the heat, you really have no business being in the kitchen and that goes for anyone wanting to be a chef or a President of the United States.

As for the other candidates, I am absolutely sure at least one of them will get a big reaction by saying “I’m really happy to be here tonight” when posed their first question. And I’m sure another will roast Trump by saying anyone who cannot deal with Megyn Kelly is unfit to deal with the Russians or with ISIS. Maybe one of them will make a joke that maybe Trump has decided to drop out of the race. 

Rand Paul has already quipped this will be the best debate they ever had, and that “the IQ level of the debate went up” with news Trump won’t be there. Expect similar piling-on by the rest of the field tomorrow.

My point is tomorrow’s debate should still be fun, just to see how the other candidates bash Trump without him being there to defend himself. 

As a side note — I notice my former journalism school classmate Lisa Oake, who lives in Singapore these days, wrote a piece for Forbes trying to make sense of Trump’s domination of the media and lessons to learn from it. 

It’s nice to see someone try to do that — make sense of Trump — because I gave up on that attempt a long time ago. 

I can see why he’s popular. His speeches and rallies are entertaining and he’s a larger than life personality, and he clearly has a sense of humor, and he takes no prisoners. Trump is fully prepared to take his enemies down a notch, and people like that. 

Trump has also always been good at identifying the real problems in America — such as political correctness, for example. He nails those issues dead-on. His trouble has always been with his quasi-Fascistic, Mussolini-esque proposals to fix the problems in America, which always come across as if he thought it up on the fly five minutes before he went on stage to speak. 

Yet Trump seems to get away with it. It is almost as if the guy is the Teflon candidate — none of the conventional rules apply to him. 

For example, he made that outlandish comment the other day about how he could “shoot somebody” and not lose any voters. That’s the kind of unhinged statement that would normally sink a candidate in our uptight times we live in. Not Donald Trump. In fact, I’m convinced his support goes up with every outlandish statement he makes, because that is exactly what the American people are looking for. They’re looking for the Un-candidate. 

Which is maybe why Trump probably thinks he can get away with a usually foolish move like skipping out on a Fox News television debate. 

We’ll see. Iowa caucuses are next Monday.