The Commission on Presidential Debates, an entirely pointless and partisan body, on October 9 announced the cancellation of the second debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. So, what happens next? What are the implications for the election? More to the point, why has the much-anticipated showdown been scrapped? The anti-Trump media claims that there will be no debate because the Trump campaign backed out but, let’s be honest: The debate is not going to happen because the Biden campaign does not want to put their guy on the stage again.
Mr. Trump’s positive COVID-19 test gave Team Biden the perfect excuse to avoid having to put it’s pouting, head-shaking, name-calling candidate up against the president in another in-person face-off. While it could certainly be argued that neither presidential contender pulled off a great performance in the first debate, the Democrat challenger looked out of sorts. Just as Al Gore pouted his way through the debates with George W. Bush all those centuries ago – as it seems now – so Mr. Biden appeared equally out-matched and distinctly passive-aggressive during the first of this campaign’s head-to-head rumbles.
Courtesy of his almost five decades of splashing around in the Washington kiddie pool, Joe Biden has accumulated a wealth of debating experience. After all, he has run for president several times and, though his campaigns all failed miserably, the former veep was never too shabby when it came to holding his own on the debate stage.
Against the bombastic Trump, though, Scranton Joe was unable to summon that statesmanlike demeanor he has projected in previous verbal jousts with campaign opponents. The last thing his advisors wanted was to put him through that ordeal so soon again. He needs several more naps before he is ready for another in-person hootenanny with the man who can riff for two hours in front of a crowd of thousands.
The cancellation of the debate does play into the Democrat’s hands much more so than it does the president’s. Mr. Trump made it clear that he was willing to debate in person – even if the event was held outside – but he was not going to allow Biden to participate from his Delaware basement, where he could possibly have benefitted from some off-camera help. Anyone could have seen this coming. No sooner had the lights gone down on the first matchup, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) proclaimed that her party’s candidate need not participate in further debates. It seems the Democrats’ plan was to not have Biden risk another tangle with Trump.
The Pro-Joe Commission
The time, location and conditions for presidential debates could easily be negotiated by representatives of the opposing campaign teams but, instead, we have a commission – which is supposed to be bi-partisan. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the commission intended to acquiesce to the Biden campaign’s wishes but not to Trump’s. This is not a neutral body. As former Kansas Senator Bob Dole said on Twitter:
“The Commission on Presidential Debates is supposedly bipartisan w/ an equal number of Rs and Ds. I know all of the Republicans and most are friends of mine. I am concerned that none of them support @realDonaldTrump. A biased Debate Commission is unfair.”
Time Running Out to Make Biden Talk
The less Biden speaks before election day, the better. His supporters know it and so do the people running his White House bid. He and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) have both deftly avoided being put into a position of having to admit what a Biden-Harris (or Harris-Biden) administration would mean: tax hikes on most Americans, the destruction of the U.S. fracking industry and the wider energy sector, massive bailouts of economically crippled blue states, and the packing of the Supreme Court.
Creating the chance of Mr. Biden having to address those issues is too big a risk, and so the cancelation of the upcoming debate was a gift to his campaign. For that reason, it could be argued that Mr. Trump perhaps should have agreed to the virtual debate so that his opponent might still have been cornered into giving some straight answers.
As it stands, the October 22 showdown in Nashville – what would have been the third debate – is still on the books. By that time, President Trump would have had ample opportunity to prove to the commission that he will not be able to strike down his frail opponent with the dreaded COVID cooties. Will the Nashville debate happen, though? Anything is possible – it is 2020, after all. For the Trump campaign, however, making it happen will likely be a top priority. Mr. Biden has some questions to answer and, before November 3, someone needs to ensure he provides the American people with those answers.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.