Election 2020 / Opinion / Politics

Presidential Debates – Losing Their Shine

debateWhere is the integrity we expect of those hosting presidential debates?  Missing.  Even presidential debates have fallen to media bias.  They have lost their shine.  One wonders if a third debate can recover.  Let us hope so.

Let’s get this straight.  We are in the fourth year of systematic media bias toward President Trump, including a reporter giving 2016 debate questions to Hillary Clinton – and NOW we hear a would-be debate host tweeted a Trump adversary for advice, then claimed to be “hacked.”  What’s not to believe?  See, e.g. https://www.foxnews.com/media/steve-scully-hacked-msnbc-joy-reid;  https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/donna-brazile-finally-admits-she-shared-debate-questions-with-clinton-campaign; https://www.foxnews.com/politics/new-email-shows-dnc-boss-giving-clinton-camp-debate-question-in-advance.

Unpack this little episode.  The Presidential Debate Commission, reputation in tatters from bias, format mismanagement, and poor planning, sides with a would-be moderator who interned for Joe Biden, worked for Ted Kennedy, wrote a scathing anti-Trump attack op-ed in 2016.

First question:  How on Earth could they view a diehard Democrat, former Biden and Kennedy staffer, anti-Trump writer as unbiased?  Quick to see Republican “conflicts of interest,” they missed this one.

Second question:  How on Earth could the Commission not suspect ties to Biden after that tweet?  How can they still think he was “hacked,” when Twitter – no bastion of fairness – refuses to confirm it?

Naturally, C-SPAN wants to put distance between the tweet, if not that host, and themselves.  They say the host’s biased tweet “did not originate” with him, whatever that means.  Twitter offers no comment.

Meantime, the second debate is toast, along with the host. The Commission decided, after Trump’s COVID diagnosis, the second debate must be “virtual.”  That seems like throwing bad after bad, but let’s re-imagine a second debate as a virtual ping-pong match, since we are now re-imagining everything.

Whether Biden requested the shift to “virtual” is unclear, but likely.  Trump objected to the format, noting it invites political mischief, including off-camera prompts (used all summer by Biden), campaign coaching, teleprompters, notes, signs, electronic aides, and a fundamental lack of accountability.

Biden implied he would not co-locate, but if Trump refused to participate in a “virtual town hall” (Commission’s idea), Biden would take his marbles home.  He would not participate either.  That is, Biden would not entertain questions by himself.

Now that is leadership: Spend your summer in a basement, lecture the nation on federal mask mandates and leadership, push a virtual debate, then duck questions – if you must take them alone.  Who, pray tell, will be on stage with this dear old man if he becomes president?

Note the concentric circles of cowardice here – responsibility ducked by Commission and Biden, who would have debated Trump two weeks after diagnosis, one after recovery.  Twitter will not confirm the hack.  The illustrious C-SPAN host all-but-vanishes – tweeting thanks, no response to “systemic bias.”

Step back another ring.  If all this is secondary, since the second debate is cancelled and most know 2020 debates are bias-heavy, where is the accountability?  Biden slips away, no need to answer questions – even from his pro-Biden moderator.  The Commission mumbles about format changes, never fires the moderator, conveniently rides Biden’s resistance to Trump’s insistence on in-person debates – to slip away.  The pro-Biden, anti-Trump moderator pretends all is well.

Everyone on the left hopes this thing – like Trump himself – goes away.  Like Hillary’s mess, Russia collusion and impeachment, the whole botched gotcha effort, this is another Democrat flop.  Cozy media friends in DC will work to bury the latest anti-Trump unfairness.

But here is the rub:  Americans are watching.  They are not stupid, indifferent, complicit, or willing to be stifled, yanked about, or rolled over. They see “systemic bias” against Trump – and more each day.

The American people are observant.  They know the media will blame Trump for no second debate.  But 2:1, they will not hold it against him.  Whatever Trump is, he is not reluctant to speak.  Meantime, where is the integrity we expect for presidential debates?  Missing.  Even the big debates have lost their luster, sullied by media bias.  One wonders if they can recover it.  Let us hope so.

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