Trump backs out of debate with Sanders

Those of us who were eagerly anticipating the debate seemingly agreed to by Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were disappointed by the Trump campaign statement delivered at a classic document dump time slot: late Friday afternoon on a holiday weekend:

Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. Likewise, the networks want to make a killing on these events and are not proving to be too generous to charitable causes, in this case, women’s health issues. Therefore, as much as I want to debate Bernie Sanders -  and it would be an easy payday - I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.

The famously blunt voice of Trump now is couched in weasel words like “inappropriate,” designed to conceal more than to reveal.

It took little time for Sanders and his supporters ridicule Trump:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) had a bemused response on Friday to Donald Trump’s decision to back out of a suggested debate between the two.

“Well, Mr. Trump, what are you afraid of?” the Democratic candidate said.

Sanders said reporters were the first to inform him that Trump pulled out of the prospective debate, shortly after a tech firm offered to put up the $10 million donation the presumptive Republican presidential nominee had named as a condition.

“Mr. Trump comes across as a big tough guy,” Sanders said. “If you’re so tough, let’s sit down and have that debate.”

So what could have caused Trump to reconsider, disappoint his supporters, and hand the macho card to Bernie Sanders?

While no network apparently stepped forward with a $10-15 million offer (ABC offered to donate its profits), a high tech investment  company offered $10 million and wanted to stream the debate on its own internet streaming service, as well as television coverage. But the Trump campaign statement does not use money as the excuse. Instead, it refers to Sanders not being allowed to win, a second place finisher – i.e., a loser.

I can only speculate that the calculus of the campaign was that a loser has nothing to lose, and that Sanders, who now seeks influence on the Hillary campaign more than victory itself, would have been a political kamikaze, relentless attacking Trump in the debate. That would have left Trump on the defensive, and having two different opponents. The important one, Hillary, would not have been in the hall. But defending himself against Sanders would almost inevitably lead him to his trademark hit-back-harder approach. That would be useless, however, as Sanders is not going to be the candidate. Tearing him down in front of a large audience would accomplish nothing other than smooth the path for Hillary.

Trump signaled his refusal earlier:

…it was pretty clear Trump was never very serious about the prospect of a debate, despite the Sanders campaign's goading. Almost immediately, reports began to emerge that Trump was "joking," and at a rally Friday in Fresno, California, Trump said that although he wanted to "debate him so badly," he probably wouldn't do it.

"If you're in first place, you don't want to really debate a guy who's in second place," Trump said.

Trump may also have realized that the entire debate suggestion by Jimmy Kimmel was a set-up. ABC News revealed:

The prospect of a debate originated from a question Sanders submitted to Jimmy Kimmel ahead of Trump's appearance on the late night talkshow Wednesday.

So we are left with the conclusion that Donald Trump is capable of re-evaluating what he says, and upon reconsideration, changing his mind. While disappointing those who admire his guts and feistiness, it might also in the end comfort those who are worried about him making rash statements and committing folly, unable to back down.

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