While I have great confidence in President Trump’s skill as a debater and recognize him as perhaps the greatest counter-puncher in American political history, I strongly urge him not to attend the second Presidential Commission debate scheduled for October 15 in Miami.
It is important to note that the so-called ‘Presidential Commission on Debates’ is not appointed by the President, is not a commission, and its real purpose is to limit debate. The Presidential Commission on debates is a privately run nonprofit. The President and the Democratic candidate for President have no obligation to agree to the Commission’s format, moderators or length.
Further proof that the Presidential Commission on Debates is a fraud is the fact they have always excluded the candidates of the Libertarian and Green parties, even though the candidates of both of these minor parties have managed the extraordinarily difficult task of getting on the ballot on enough states to theoretically win 270 electoral votes.
The criteria the Commission uses on inclusion in the debates for the minor party candidates is that the candidate must score a certain arbitrary percentage of the vote in three consecutive polls chosen by the Presidential Commission. In other words, it’s rigged — you can’t be in the debates if you don’t score in the polls and you can’t score in the polls if you are not in the debate! In 2012 that number was 15 percent. When former New Mexico governor and Libertarian party presidential candidate Gary Johnson exceeded the 15 percent, the Commission quickly changed their criteria to 20 percent.
The first Presidential Commission debate this year was a travesty. Moderator Chris Wallace interrupted President Trump 37 times, cut the President off before his allotted two minutes, allowed Biden to speak for five minutes and consistently permitted Biden to run over his time limitation. Every question that Wallace posed to the President was hostile and framed to portray the President in the worst light. Wallace also cut the President whenever he was about to make a salient point.
The format denied the President an opportunity to rebut some of the most outrageous falsehoods and when Joe Biden claimed that all the charges against his son regarding corruption in Ukraine and China had been ‘debunked’ Wallace offered no challenge even though this is categorically false.
After the debate, Politico criticized President Trump for ‘laying waste to the debate’s longstanding norms and traditions’. Strangely they didn’t mention Joe Biden calling the President of the United States a clown or telling him to shut up. Who is it that violated the civility of past presidential debates? The President got in his licks with a biased moderator and a disadvantageous format. I think he more than held his own and landed some serious punches. In fact, I think the President beat Chris Wallace in the debate and Joe Biden limped in third.
Incredibly, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and President Jay Wallace commended Wallace for his double-teaming of Trump and his thoroughly unprofessional and biased conduct throughout the debate. Their arrogance is sometimes hard to take.
The second debate will feature Steve Scully as a moderator. Scully worked for Biden, Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign, and served as staff assistant to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. How much more partisan can you get? Additionally, the Presidential Commission on debates has announced ‘changes’ in their format which could include giving the moderator the capability to turn off the microphone of either candidate. This is a set-up with a biased moderator and a disadvantageous format. The President should wisely sidestep.
Now add to that the fact that the President is recovering from COVID-19. It is only reasonable to want the President to be on top form for any future debates. In 1960 Vice President Richard Nixon had banged his knee on a car door and developed a staph infection for which he had to be hospitalized just prior to the first debate with John F. Kennedy. Nixon arrived in Chicago looking exhausted, still running a fever and swimming in his shirt collars because he had dropped 10 pounds during his hospital stay. The debate was a visual disaster. Nixon looked as gray as his suit. JFK, who had been tanning himself on the rooftop of his Chicago hotel with two hookers, looked like a ‘bronzed god’ according to Theodore H. White.
Interestingly while those who watched the Nixon-Kennedy debate on television said that Kennedy had won, those who listened to it on the radio said that it was a clear-cut victory for Nixon. It is worth noting that polls show that those who listened rather than watched the Trump-Biden debate last week said the President triumphed.
That is not to say that the President should not seek and promote additional debates between now and election day. For example, the podcaster Joe Rogan has issued an invitation to both Trump and to Biden to debate on his show. The President eagerly accepted, while there has been nothing but stony silence from Biden. Given Joe Biden’s thin skin, the President should throw down the gauntlet to Biden claiming that he is a yellow-bellied coward who doesn’t have the balls to show up and defend his record.
Additionally, the President could go so far as to announce that he will debate an empty chair in Biden doesn’t show, or that he may bring in someone to play the role of Biden if he can find anyone that is that out of it.
I believe that it is vitally important for the President’s reelection strategy to have more face-to-face debates with Joe Biden, but the second Presidential Commission Debate is a set-up which the President should side-step after which he should lay down a series of challenges for additional debates. The President is at his very best when he is freewheeling, direct and given the unfettered opportunity to speak. That is the Trump who won in 2016 and is the Trump the voters must see in debates before election day.