Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his big mouth have written a yuge blank check that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders ought to cash immediately. You may have heard that Trump blurted out an offer to debate Bernie Sanders “for charity,” an offer which Sanders has accepted, and which, despite noise about Trump backing out, he would be hard-pressed to renege on. As it stands, this is a huge win for Trump and a can of Jolt! cola for Sanders’ quest to accomplish something short of securing the Democratic nomination, but it could be an irresistible opportunity for Hillary Clinton, and a way for Bernie to achieve more than he could otherwise hope for at this point.
A Trump/Sanders debate would be great for Trump because it would be devastating for Hillary, who would be the absentee guest of honor at a combination roast/two-hours hate in which she would be subject to relentless attacks from the right and the left. Sure, Sanders would score points against Trump too, but none that would hurt him with right-to-center-right voters. Sanders would benefit from the attacks on Hillary, but still stands only to go into Philadelphia a closer loser than he is now.
But picture this: Hillary Clinton wades in, the sooner the better, to say she wants to buy into the debate, too, for a good cause. Offer double whatever Trump is offering to an actual, real charity. Trump can refuse, of course, but then spend every day getting busted up by Hillary the way Ali taunted Foreman, and by the media for chickening out and denying the vets an additional windfall. The added bonus for Hillary would be a total eclipse of the email story that’s dogging her this week.
If Trump accepts, then picture Hillary showing up to the debate with a foot locker full of cash for a reputable veterans’ charity, to be placed right on the moderators’ table. Trump arrives with his usual empty promises. Bernie Sanders arrives ready to tag-team Trump with Hillary for two hours, and destroy him the way President Obama did in 2011. In fact, with all three candidates present, there’s no reason President Obama couldn’t show up as a spectator, as long as he could score a ticket. Ditto Elizabeth Warren, who has spent a couple of weeks getting into Trump’s head.
Such a spectacle would mean the end of Trump, because as President Obama demonstrated in 2011, once Trump’s tailfeathers get shot off, he never recovers. He’d be over-matched by Hillary in a normal debate, but with Bernie lending a hand and Trump’s Moriarty in the audience, he wouldn’t stand a chance.
Why, you may ask, would Bernie Sanders agree to help Hillary win a debate in California, his last shot to pick up a mess of delegates? Well, he wouldn’t even have to. Even if he wanted to take some shots at Hillary, Bernie’s very nature would lead him to spend most of his time attacking Trump. But Bernie is no fool, he knows he’s got no real shot to be the nominee, so this scenario would provide him with the perfect glide path to land his incredible campaign, and give him maximum leverage with Hillary and the DNC. Instead of being a spoiler, he could be the hero that helps slay Smaug J. Trump.
Any way you look at it, though, if the Sanders/Trump debate happens, it would be a terrible decision for Hillary to just sit this thing out. Bernie won’t win the nomination, but a two-hour attack ad against Hillary will hurt her just when she needs to be bloodying Trump’s nose.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.