Donald Trump
Trump has backed out of moderating the upcoming GOP debate, but only to avoid a "conflict of interest" if he runs as an independent candidate, according to his statement. Reuters

Donald Trump may have to cancel his much-maligned GOP debate -- but he wants you to know it won't be his fault if he does.

Only two candidates, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, have agreed to participate in the Trump-moderated debate on Dec. 27. The other five invitees have turned The Donald down, and Trump is blaming the debate's imminent failure on their cowardice and disloyalty.

Some of them don't have the courage, he complained on Friday. A couple of them called me and told me, 'Donald, I'm just too nervous to do it.'

The Trump Factor: Negative

Of course, it's not so much a matter of courage as it is a matter of common-sense politics: voters say by a 2-to-1 margin that they would be less likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by Trump, and candidates concerned with their poll numbers don't want to be publicly associated with a man with a 65 percent disapproval rating.

There is also the small fact that Trump has repeatedly refused to rule out the possibility of running for president as an independent if the wrong candidate wins the Republican nomination -- a move that would almost certainly hand the election to Barack Obama.

But instead of acknowledging that he is alienating voters and candidates alike by threatening to split the Republican vote in an election that Republicans want to win more desperately than any other in recent memory, Trump is accusing the candidates of begrudging him his right to pull a Ross Perot -- for the good of the country, of course.

Trump: I Still May Run

They really want me to drop my status as a potential person to run as an independent, and honestly, I don't think I'm going to do that. I'm not going to drop it, he said on Friday. I must leave all of my options open, because above all else, we must make America great again!

Interestingly, of the five candidates who declined to participate, Trump let two of them -- Mitt Romney and Rick Perry -- mostly off the hook. He saved the tongue-lashing for Ron Paul (a clown-like candidate), Jon Huntsman (a joke with inconsequential poll numbers) and, now, Michele Bachmann.

She came up to see me four times. She would call me and ask me for advice, Trump said of Bachmann. She said if she wins, she would like to think about me for the vice presidency. Most importantly, I did a two-hour phone call for her with her people. ... And after all that, she announced she was not going to do the debate. It's called loyalty. How do you do that? It's amazing to me.

It's funny: one would think Trump, of all people, would understand self-interest. But he can't acknowledge that it's in Bachmann's or anyone else's self-interest to skip his debate, because that would mean admitting that he is the real joke of this campaign.