Many apologies to my regular readers for my temporary absence from blogging, but I have been mentally laid up with a tremendous case of Trump Fatigue. The recent episode of Donald Trump vs the Media, pitting His Nibs against Fox News (and particularly Megan Kelly) was just a stunt too far for me to go on trying to write about this as politics, and it isn't even exactly media criticism--the only way to discuss this is as a television review for a reality show.
I had long wondered what debates mean to people who don't follow policy minutia. I no longer do. They are a talent contest for political spokesmodels. Who delivered cleverer lines? Who looked poised? Did one candidate or the other seem nervous or badly prepared for some ambush question? It's superficial--and backing out of the tiresome thing makes sense for a frontrunner who considers himself far enough in the lead to get no benefit out of it whatsoever--and already anticipates he won't get slammed for it. So Trump created his own counter-event. It even drew two of the undercard debate performers, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, who seek attention like blind snakes seeking warmth. Did they realize they were practically signaling an endorsement? (Who knows what people with this little likelihood of winning the nomination, who still claim to be in the running, actually are aware of?)
Without Trump, the debate went on, arguably with more discussion of the issues. Sen. Ted Cruz took his shots at the absent frontrunner--but it looks like none of the other stiffs on the stage felt like that was their cue to take advantage of the opportunity to bury Trump while he was offstage. I found it a source of disappointment, but not surprise. They could have said he "cut and run" and challenged his seriousness, but no. Jeb Bush tussled with Marco Rubio. Rubio tussled with Cruz. Boring.
So Trump gambled that he wouldn't get painted as unserious for ditching the debate to have a rally for disabled vets--and was proven absolutely right. He flatfooted the competition, who simply did not know how to respond. And he won the media cycle, because once again, he was all the news could talk about.
I don't know when everyone else will be as exhausted by this sort of thing as I am, but I feel like the media should catch on that they are being played for publicity, and maybe his nasty little habit of turning on journalists who displease him only stops when they do what his GOP rivals refused to.