AMAC Exclusive – By Aaron Flangan
Joe Biden has drawn criticism from voters on both sides of the aisle for refusing to engage in Democrat primary debates despite an increasingly significant primary challenge. But that refusal, which was no surprise, could be a prelude to something truly unprecedented in modern times: Biden could refuse to take the debate stage at all, even in the general election.
This possibility looks increasingly likely after the GOP officially withdrew from Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) last year, citing the Commission’s blatant partisan biases.
The RNC presumably intended merely to cut the slanted Commission out of the process and negotiate the terms of the debates directly with the Democrat opponent. But given Biden’s challenges, the Biden team could be angling to use the RNC’s move as an excuse for shielding the president from the public spotlight, while casting the blame on Republicans.
Joe Biden’s declining mental and physical health is by now no secret. In the last several weeks alone, Biden has fallen at the U.S. Air Force Academy commencement, told Irish leaders to “lick the world,” and joked about ice cream at a White House event immediately following a deadly mass shooting in Nashville.
Even Democrats have concerns about Biden’s ability to do the job. As NBC News put it in late May, “Again and again, Democratic voters who backed Joe Biden in the party’s 2020 primary and now want him to step aside cite the same overriding reason: age.”
Only 47 percent of self-identified Democrats think Biden should run for a second term. The DNC’s decision to cancel primary debates likely hasn’t done Biden any favors with his base, either, with a Newsweek poll finding that 79 percent of Americans who voted for Joe Biden in 2020 want the DNC to hold debates.
Given how gaffe-prone and discombobulated Biden seems on an almost daily basis, it seems unlikely that the president, who will turn 81 this November, can make it through three nationally televised general election debates without a major meltdown of some kind.
But Democrats may view the GOP’s decision to leave the CPD as a convenient cop-out to avoid putting Biden through a debate gauntlet that is sure to end in disaster.
Upon withdrawing from the CPD, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel stated, “The Commission on Presidential Debates is biased and has refused to enact simple and commonsense reforms to help ensure fair debates including hosting debates before voting begins and selecting moderators who have never worked for candidates on the debate stage.” She was specifically referencing the fact that Steve Scully, who was originally slated to be a 2020 debate moderator, previously worked in Joe Biden’s Senate office.
Predictably, the left has pounced on the RNC’s decision to leave the CPD, dismissing the move as “baseless” and “specious.”
But in reality, Republicans are entirely justified in their withdrawal from the Committee. From the litany of glaring abuses by CPD leadership to openly biased debate moderators, conservatives are right to see the CPD as an arm of the Washington establishment that is more interested in disenfranchising Republican candidates than it is in offering a space for fair, balanced, and informative presidential debates.
During the 2020 election cycle—in addition to selecting a former Biden employee as a moderator—the CPD waited until 26 states had already begun early voting before hosting the first presidential debate, made last-minute changes to debate formats without notifying the candidates, and allowed its board members to openly criticize President Donald Trump with impunity.
During the first debate, moderator Chris Wallace routinely cut off Trump while allowing Biden to interrupt the former president repeatedly. At the same time, Wallace hurled malicious “gotcha” questions at Trump while lobbing softballs for Biden to respond to. Instead of focusing on major issues like Biden’s support for court-packing, the Green New Deal, or defunding the police, Wallace insisted on pivoting to “more substantial subjects” like “climate change”—which consistently ranks near the bottom of issues that voters care about.
If Biden indeed refuses to engage in general election debates, Americans should expect a full-court-press media spin campaign. Rather than focusing on Biden’s inability to appear in public without making a humiliating gaffe, the corporate newsrooms at CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, and the like will undoubtedly obsess over the GOP’s “unprecedented” decision to withdraw from the CPD, as if the CPD is the only organization capable of hosting a debate.
It’s worth remarking on just how much of a disaster this would be for voters and American democracy. The prospect of the eventual Republican nominee not having a chance to press Biden on his extremism, corruption, and litany of failures in a primetime setting is deeply unsettling.
The RNC and the few honest media outlets left must do everything they can to highlight Biden’s disastrous record and pressure him into engaging in general election debates. Voters deserve to see a real debate between the two nominees for president. The stakes for America’s future have never been higher.
Aaron Flanigan is the pen name of a writer in Washington, D.C.