There was a time in American life when it would have been hard to imagine a cable show host exhibiting more professionalism, poise and class than a front-running candidate for president of the United States.
But that's the story of Megyn Kelly and Donald Trump, which took another turn this weekend with the GOP candidate taking to Twitter to try and pick a fight with the only debate moderator to legitimately lay a glove on him. Trump is lowering all kinds of bars in American political and civic life these days.
With another Fox News debate arriving Thursday, Trump took to Twitter Saturday to say Kelly should not be allowed to co-moderate the event with Bret Baier and Chris Wallace.
"Based on @MegynKelly's conflict of interest and bias she should not be allowed to be a moderator of the next debate," Trump tweeted yesterday.
Fox News, which has developed a rapid response strategy in countering Trump's attacks on one of its two biggest stars, responded with a statement: "Megyn Kelly has no conflict of interest. Donald Trump is just trying to build up the audience for Thursday's debate, for which we thank him."
You might remember how nasty it got in August after the first debate in which Kelly righteously and forcefully questioned Trump on his ugly comments over the years about women.
A wounded Trump went to Twitter that night as the truth of his performance sunk in and he started blasting away at Kelly.
Fox News responded with a statement backing her, but I thought her colleagues like Bill O'Reilly should have gone harder at Trump. But almost all the shows hosts on all the channels seemed to think they needed him on their shows for ratings, so they did not go after him at all. (Not that it hurt Kelly to not have Trump on her show. Her ratings are the second best in cable news behind O'Reilly's.)
And now Trump returns in his schoolyard, social-media, bully-boy ways.
Is it really about hyping the gate for Thursday's debate?
Could be. Trump loves to talk ratings. But the ratings have been so huge, they are practically a given.
I think it's about Trump fearing Kelly and trying to preempt tough questions from her -- or, at least, give himself a potential out in trying to make it look as if it's somehow personal or partisan if she drills him again with a tough query.
I have to admit that the thought of Trump being worried about Kelly brings me some pleasure, because the press strikes so little fear into anyone these days.
Kelly has absolutely no conflict of interest in moderating that debate. I wonder if the self-anointed Great Dealmaker even knows what conflict of interest means in journalistic terms.
But I am glad to see Kelly herself refusing once again to engage Trump in social media.