SCHLICHTER: Of Course Trump Should Opt-Out of Wednesday's Debate

He should do what's best for his campaign – and in purely strategic terms, Trump debating right now is nuts
By Kurt Schlichter
I really wish Donald Trump would participate in the Republican debate on Wednesday, August 23rd – mostly because I support Ron DeSantis in the primary and participating in the Fox-sponsored panel has nothing but downside for the ex-president. But the objective observer in me has to say the opposite – Trump joining his competitors on that stage is bad strategy. He should sit this one out.


Don’t the voters deserve to hear from every Republican candidate and have the opportunity to weigh their policies and consider their presentation? Ugh. Can the goo-goo nonsense. Republicans can be such prissy dorks. Wake up. This is a knife fight, and it should be. As hard as Trump and Ron DeSantis – who I openly favor as the best chance to win in the 2024 general – are pummeling each other, the Dems will treat the nominee even worse. 

He should do what is best for his campaign, and in purely strategic terms, Trump debating right now is nuts.

But that does not mean he won’t do it. After all, he been known to do things against his own self-interest on occasion.

Why is Trump debating such a bad idea?

First of all, what’s his upside? What does he get out of debating?

He’s at about 50% of the GOP electorate, according to polls five months out of Iowa. That’s not great for a former prezzy, but his current lead dwarfs all his competitors, including his nearest rival and my personal choice, Alligator Ron.

The calculus for Trump's competitors is different. All the other candidates, from Ron through Nikki! through Soft Tim Scott through rappin’ Vivek Ramaswamy to heavyweight Chris Christie, will be looking for A Moment. A Moment lets you break out. A Moment changes everything.
Reagan: “I am paying for this microphone.

Bentsen: “And you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

Or it can doom you.

Perry: “WHPOFIHnnuotyeyhc.

They all need A Moment. They should debate. They have an upside. They have room to grow and no ceiling. Keep in mind that Trump’s ~50% is not solid – months ago it was way lower.

So, the potential for A Moment is there, and you know how you get A Moment? You take a swing at someone running ahead of you. Now, most of the midget monsters of the kaiju menagerie besides Trumpzilla and King Ron are weak-hearts who will never dare cross Trump, either from fear of his wrath or because they entertain the dream that he will pick one of them as Veep 2.0. Most likely, they will try to take out DeSantis, who better be ready to counterpunch them into oblivion. 

But who knows – some might take on the Big T. And Trump is not invulnerable. He’s got some explaining to do, from pinning a medal on Fauci to his obsession with his 2020 loss to the fact that he has yet to explain how he is going to win in WI, PA, MI, GA, and AZ after losing them in 2020 and having his hand-picked candidates lose in them again (except Ron Johnson) in 2022. Why risk that?

Yeah, Trump’s response will probably be to brag about his polls, insult their wives, and/or maybe accuse their moms of kidnapping Jimmy Hoffa, but there is a risk that what was unusual, edgy and, you got to admit, fun back in the 2016 primaries is now tiresome, boring, and childish.

In light of the deadly serious attack on our Constitution that is the disgraceful criminal lawfare against him, people might expect something besides his same old antics. So, there’s a chance he misplays his hand even if it was a winning hand in previous cycles. Why would he ever risk that?

He's in the lead. Sure, some people will call him a coward for not debating. Look for lots of Trump/Chicken memes. His superfans will eagerly excuse his absence as some sort of stroke of genius, though it’s actually a pretty obvious course of action. The smart move is for Trump to sit back and do a play-by-play on Truth about how Meatball is very low energy and how Mike Pence is very disloyal and how Chris Christie looks like he might eat Asa Hutchinson. That way, only his diehard fans will see that side of him and they will love it.

There’s another consideration, one that goes right to Trump’s, well, excessive self-regard.

Going on stage in the debate will give the voters a close, long look at him. I hope I have one-tenth his energy at 80. Hell, I hope I have one-tenth his energy tomorrow. But the guy is old. He’s eight years on from 2016 and he is pushing 80. What if he looks old and tired at the debate? The guy is under a lot of stress, from bogus charges to money woes. Remember how Nixon fared against young, vigorous Kennedy in their debate? Conventional wisdom is that the contrast was decisive. Why risk looking his age?

And there is another reason to stay away – that as a lawyer, I especially appreciate.

He’s got four sets of manifestly false charges pursued by leftist prosecutors pending against him. Someone is going to ask him about them, and anything he says is going to get played to some leftist jury. That is not going to help him, because Trump cannot help himself from saying whatever comes into his head. I expect him to lose the show trials, but having him admit or concede something unfavorable on video is not going to help with the appeals that are his only chance of him winning his freedom, barring one of his competitors getting nominated, winning, and pardoning him on the federal beefs.

Finally, there is another reason not to debate – maybe the hardest of all for him to work around.

Getting into the debate requires Trump to publicly back down on something – which he's not inclined to do. His stubbornness can be his best quality, as well as his worst. He would have to back down before his handpicked minion RNC Chairwoman’s demand that he promise to support the eventual GOP nominee in the General Election. He said he will never do that. To debate, he will have to give up and give in – unless Ronna surrenders in gratitude for him picking her. Sure, some people would spin a Trump climb-down as another brilliant 4D chess move, but it would have to be humiliating for him to submit in order to be allowed on stage.

There’s no advantage to debating. He has nothing to gain, and absolutely no one is going to watch Trump one more time after eight years in the political spotlight, and after all these bogus witch hunt frame jobs say, “Well, this is a side I have never seen of Trump. I will reconsider my objections to his mean tweets and qualms about his electability and board the Trump train.”

So, the smart play for Trump is to skip the debate, but Trump plays by his own rules. Who knows what he will do?

The only thing for certain is that it will probably be the opposite of what everyone else thinks he should do.

Follow Kurt on Twitter @KurtSchlichter. Get Inferno, the seventh book in the Kelly Turnbull People's Republic series of conservative action novels set in America after a notional national divorce, as well as his non-fiction book We’ll Be Back: The Fall and Rise of America.

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