Journalists Trump TV personalities

It’s already hard enough to take the GOP primary seriously without Donald Trump butting in.

by David Steinberg

Nobody watches presidential debates for the moderators. Rarely do they get proper acclaim for a job well done, and they are often held in disdain for any failure, no matter the size. They are almost taken for granted, expected to ask certain questions, and prod and pry when it is needed. However, when, and if, we see a debate moderated by reality TV star Donald Trump, perhaps this whole paradigm will shift.

Moderators are tasked with allowing statements, rebuttals and questions. They must control the tempo, knowing when to move on and when to provoke, all while keeping on topic. It isnâÄôt easy, and those who are chosen as moderators are typically from news organizations that are familiar with these tasks.

So far this debate season we have seen moderators from Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer, John King, Brian Williams, Bret Baier, Chris Wallace, Charlie Rose, to last SaturdayâÄôs moderators George Stephanopoulos and Diane Sawyer. These moderators all have much expertise and are seasoned journalists. SaturdayâÄôs GOP debate will set in motion the final stretch before the primaries begin, and results start becoming tangible.

Just like any debate, the most recent one revealed much about each candidate. Mitt Romney made a terrible mistake when he offered Rick Perry a $10,000 bet on whether he was truly in favor of individual health care mandates. The mistake wasnâÄôt the substance of the bet, but rather the $10,000 offer, which is now said to be about .005 percent of his net worth.

Newt Gingrich took an opportunity to attack Romney while invoking the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. Gingrich said, after being attacked for being a career politician, that Romney himself wouldâÄôve been too had he not lost to Kennedy in 1994. These exchanges are important, and in each debate, more and more of these candidates are being revealed. For example, moderator Stephanopoulos asked a question loaded with potential to attack Gingrich over his marital infidelity. This type of questioning is extremely important: Hypocrisy runs rampant in politics and proclaiming a certain stance while not living it is important for voters to realize.

Yet, perhaps something important about debates themselves is whom the spotlight is truly shining on. While Stephanopoulos and Sawyer did very well, and the previous debate moderators have, they never drew more attention to themselves than the candidates.

For Trump to âÄúselflesslyâÄù offer himself to moderate a debate just heightens the self-aggrandizing side of the reality star. Because if he had moderated this debate, he will make it well known that he is the biggest presence on stage.

Trump has even said that he has not ruled out a third-party run. Maybe he wouldâÄôve put himself center stage and entered the race right there.

Trump ended up pulling out of his own debate after many candidates said they refuse to be involved in such a spectacle. Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul had refused on principle while Romney, Michele Bachmann and Perry all turned down their invitation due to planning problems. Santorum and Gingrich are the only two who have said they would be obliged to attend and applaud TrumpâÄôs effort, knowledge and beliefs.

We should not allow an abrasive reality star to even consider moderating important political debates and become an important part of the story. Instead, leave the questioning to those who decided to follow that career path. At the most, this would have provided a week of comic fodder to Comedy CentralâÄôs faux news programs.


David Steinberg welcomes comments at [email protected].