Democrats debate ducking the debates
The move to give former Vice President Joe Biden a rationale for backing out of the debates is in full force. There have been a number of Democrat operatives – such as former President Clinton’s Press Secretary Joe Lockhart — proffering their opinions that Biden should refuse to debate President Trump. But now the newsletter of the left-wing faction of the Democratic Party – the New York Times – is proposing that presidential debates should be entirely abolished.
How a news platform that claims to be reputable can possibly oppose presidential candidates showing their mettle to the American people is a mystery to me. But then again, maybe the Times is no longer a “reputable news platform.” Ya think?
It can certainly be argued that the opinion piece calling for the end of presidential debates penned by Elizabeth Drew – a well-established 84-year-old liberal Washington establishmentarian – completely misses the value of presidential debates. Her article would have a reader believe that nothing of value was ever presented on that platform. They were just a lot of quips and jokes – more of a stand-up comedy routine than political pugilism. Of course, that is far from the truth. On the other hand, if Drew had provided an accurate description of the past debates, she would have demolished her entire thesis.
But Drew was not the first to put the Times behind non-debate thinking. A month earlier, Times opinion columnist Thomas Friedman was more specific to the current situation. He advised Biden to refuse to debate President Trump unless two poison-pill conditions were met.
The first condition was … well … simply ridiculous – and had nothing to do with debates. Friedman argued that Biden should not debate unless Trump released his tax returns. In the spirit of fairness, would Friedman also demand that Biden release his archives at the University of Delaware?
Friedman’s second – and equally preposterous proposal – is that the debate should be scrubbed by Biden unless there is a fact-checking segment immediately following the debate. I am sure the Times columnist well understands that so-called fact-checking has become a highly politicized and weaponized function. Most fact checkers are there to reinforce the narratives – not produce object analysis.
Friedman would entrust that function to the Commission on Presidential Debates – which would make it only a few steps away from having the Democratic National Committee in charge. If you doubt that, you need to recall how then-DNC Acting Chair Donna Brazile was provided with the questions ahead of one of the Trump-Clinton debates – questions Brazile then passed on to the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Eliminating the presidential debates is an idea that could only emanate from elitist authoritarian thinking – as in Drew’s case. The left-wing media has long preferred to interpret (spin) than allow candidates they oppose to be heard directly. MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski blurted out the truth one day when she complained about what an elected official said. She declared that “It is our (the media’s) job to tell the public what to think.”
Ponder that. An elected public official’s statement is less important than the less precise – and less accurate – interpretation of people like Brzezinski. That is what is called propaganda.
We see this form of so-called “news coverage” when such outlets as CNN and MSNBC refuse to air many of President Trump’s briefings, press conferences and speeches – preferring to spin their biased narratives by cobbling together out-of-context snippets. In many ways, it is wholesale censorship — propaganda.
And now they want to end one of the most widely viewed and informative political events – the presidential debates – in favor of their mendacious narratives. The presidential debates could be reformed. But eliminating? That is an awfully bad idea.
Speaking of reform … there is one that would greatly enhance the quality and utility of the debates. We should not have them hosted by news media – especially news media with a certifiable political bias. The problem was evident in conjunction with the Democrat primary debates. You will recall that the Democratic National Committee would allow the debates to be hosted and empaneled ONLY by media outlets with a demonstrable liberal bias.
They specifically excluded FOX News. Since FOX has by far the largest audience of the cable news networks, the ONLY reason to ban them was political. The folks at the DNC want political allies to be structuring the debates and handling the questions. In an unintended and backhanded way, the DNC offered proof of the biases of the left-wing networks.
I know a little about this. In my days as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, I hosted many major political debates –mayoral, gubernatorial and senatorial. Rather than have panels of political reporters – who show little interest in issues over political posturing – I chose civil leaders representing various interest groups as panelists and also allowed OPEN questioning from the audience, as opposed to pre-selected and rehearsed audience questions that you see with CNN’s townhall meetings, for example. As a result, the questions at my debates were much more inquisitive. More issue oriented. More informative to the electorate. They did not seem to come from bias.
Having the media host presidential debates is not a historic tradition. In years past, many presidential debates were hosted by civic groups. In fact, the League of Women Voters had a lock on presidential debates for a time. I attended Knox College, which hosted the Fifth Lincoln-Douglas debate in 1858 before a live audience of more than 15,000 Illinoisans.
But then in 1988, along came the Commission on Presidential Debates – an NGO established by the Republican and Democratic Parties. In other words, the Washington political establishment took over what had been a more civic and diversified process – and the presidential debates have been politicized ever since.
The call to close out the presidential debates reflects only one – maybe two – things. They are afraid that Trump will pound Biden into the ground like a tent peg – and maybe he will. But they seem to be more afraid that removed from his hermetically sealed basement bunker – Biden may do what Biden does a lot. He will commit one or more of his iconic gaffes. And even worse, he may have one or more of his “senior moments.”
That is why Biden is staying hunkered down for a lot longer than he needs to be. Trump is out and about. Members of Congress are out and about – facing the public and the press. But only Biden is hidin’.
More than ever, Biden needs the debates to end the rumors that he is not physically or mentally well enough to carry on the responsibilities of the presidency. If he cannot come out to debate – and campaign – the people of America should leave him in his basement.
So, there ‘tis.