There is a 1970 movie entitled "Suppose They Gave A War And Nobody Came?"
Based on Bill O'Reilly's interview with the recalcitrant Donald Trump this week, it is apparent such a scenario unfolding in prime-time airspace has become a real fear among the newsrooms of America, especially Fox, the network hosting the final GOP debate.
This is because without the unpredictable theatrics of the GOP front-runner, Fox stands to lose millions of viewers, and the advertising revenues that go with them.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at the University of Iowa Field House, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016 in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Thus it was clear that Mr. O'Reilly had his marching orders last night. Plead with his friend, The Donald, to show up to the Fox debate. Be coy. Do your good cop/bad cop thing. Be oblique but stay on message. Even bribe him with milkshakes if nothing else seems to be working, but for God's sake get him to show up or we're toast.
Otherwise, as Chris Matthews of MSNBC asked in a moment of racist caprice that would be the cause of crucifixion if said by a conservative: "Who's going to watch a debate between the two Cuban guys [Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio]."
But Fox News and its stable of on-call beltway insider pundits from Karl Rove to Charles Krauthammer as well as the donor class who have already poured over $80 million and counting down the rat hole of Jeb Bush have more to lose than just advertising dollars.
As the National Review's all-out carpet bombing of Trump's candidacy recently demonstrates, the so-called conservative establishment who fancy themselves the legitimate mediums to the ghosts of William Buckley, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan can see their influence waning. They seem at a loss to figure out what happened? Why is nothing going as they had carefully orchestrated when two years ago the bundlers and donors decided for the rest of us that Jeb (yet another Bush) was to be their newest avatar?
The squirming GOP suits remind me of Little Bill Dagget in "Unforgiven" staring down the barrel of William Munny's rifle aimed straight at his face. Dagget, still so clueless about how much his own arrogance and abuse of power has led to his impending demise, protests: "I don't deserve this. To die like this. I was building a house."
So insists the flummoxed conservative elites whose house they built over the weathered foundation of Ronald Reagan's memory (a man you'd have to be over 50 years old to have cast a ballot for). How did this happen?
The question is rather: How couldn't this happen? Why should the GOP establishment retain influence given their record both when in power and out? They have called the shots for decades and who have they produced as GOP standard-bearers? George "No New Taxes" Bush 41--a one termer who rode the coattails of Reagan into office. The dour Bob Dole. The ancient and acerbic John McCain. The taciturn and aloof Mitt Romney. These men are the epitome of the establishment class. They are also quite adept at delivering classy concession speeches.
Enter The Donald: The conservative establishment cannot stand him. But I suspect the reasons they offer up are smoke-screens to mask their greater sense of threat to everything they have built for themselves over the past quarter century.
They say Trump is just too unhinged to be president...as opposed to the quick-tempered John McCain, whom conservative doyen George Will admits cares for nothing that doesn't fly or explode.
They say Trump is rude and resorts too much to the ad hominem in demonizing his opponents ...to see how well the "high road" works in presidential politics Google: "Romney 2012."
They say Trump is too egotistical to be president...as opposed to their chosen one Jeb who petulantly insists he is so vital to the survival of the Republic, so entitled by his grand surname, that two Bush's in the space of a quarter century are not enough.
And of course, they say Trump is not "conservative" enough. Maybe he is, maybe he isn't. But this criticism comes from folks like Rove who gave us the budget-busting George W. Bush. Rove helped orchestrate a presidency that left in its wake a $1 trillion dollar unfunded prescription drug plan even Ted Kennedy gleefully supported. His idea of a conservative president's first reaction to Sept. 11, 2001 (after racing to the nearest mosque) was to expand the already jovian federal government with yet another full scale department of Homeland Security. And he is the one Fox turns to for conservative analysis?
Such are the people who unilaterally declare themselves the voice of the American right in 2016. Is it any wonder that such an insular group of Little Bills have so miscalculated the fallout of Donald "William Munny" Trump's "mis-steps"?
Every time the self-professed political experts predict Trump's fall because he says this or does that, he attracts more followers. It is as if the collective American body politic is sending a message that this time the tail of the Press Club Dinner clique of politicians, commentators, reporters, bundlers, and puppeteers will no longer wag the dog of the American people confined to the other side of the velvet ropes.
I don't blame the establishment really. After all it must be difficult to tell from the confines of a posh Chevy Chase fund-raiser cocktail party just how much concern over the unwinding of the very fabric of the United States, from immigration to bloated government to loss of prestige around the world and a sense of political correctness morphing into cultural suicide at home has people galvanized.
How ironic then that it took a man worth more than most of these handlers combined to see past the Party glitterati to connect with whom Monty Burns on the Simpsons calls "Johnny Punch-clock and Joe Six Pack." Burns was of course being pejorative. Trump sees them as the backbone of the nation.
This may be a ploy and by tonight this piece moot. But if Trump does go through with his debate boycott and still wins Iowa on Monday then he will have broken the strangle-hold of the GOP establishment and banished an entire entrenched class to the ash-bin of irrelevancy, at least for this election cycle. It is as if Trump watched the Seinfeld episode where George Costanza does the opposite of every traditional impulse he ever had and soars to new heights of social and career success.
One also gets the feeling that, deep down, some in the conservative movement would rather see Hillary win, than lose their lifestyles and power.
If Trump wins Iowa without a debate appearance, the conservative establishment may even have to take down their signs that read: "All conservatives are equal...but some are more equal than others."
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