Presidential Debate Commission Refuses to Back Down From Virtual Rules

After the Commission on Presidential Debates decided that, in light of President Trump’s coronavirus infection, that the second debate between the president and Joe Biden would be done in a virtual manner, Trump said he would not participate in the event. But on Thursday, the commission said that they would not go back on their mandate, leaving the fate of the October 15th debate up in the air. Trump says he’s not coming. Will that wild and wooly debate in Cleveland wind up being our last glimpse at the two candidates on stage together?

“Frank Fahrenkopf told The Associated Press late Thursday that the nonpartisan group’s decision was not going to be reversed. That means the second debate is probably not going to happen at all,” reported the AP. “The commission decided to make the Oct. 15 debate virtual after Trump tested positive for the coronavirus. Fahrenkopf says the group wanted to ‘protect the health and safety of all involved’ and that the decision was guided by the advice of the Cleveland Clinic, its heath partner for the 2020 debates.”

This inspired a pointed statement from Trump Campaign Manager Bill Stepien, who said there was no good reason for the debate not to go ahead as originally staged.

“President Trump’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, says the President will be medically cleared for ‘safe return to public engagements’ by Saturday, five full days before the originally scheduled debate in Miami on October 15,” Stepien said. “There is therefore no medical reason why the Commission on Presidential Debates should shift the debate to a virtual setting, postpone it, or otherwise alter it in any way.

“CPD Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf admits that they consulted with no one before unilaterally changing the format of a debate, well in advance of any knowledge of what the President’s condition would be on debate night,” Stepien continued. “The commission must stop protecting Joe Biden from this in-person debate and allow the event to proceed as it was agreed to months ago. The American people can see through this obvious attempt to shield Biden from another shellacking like he got two weeks ago in Cleveland and the CPD must reverse course and let the debate proceed.”

That’s all this is about. This is about giving Biden every advantage he can get, up to and including a teleprompter, an ear piece, and a legion of staffers off-camera who can feed him answers and responses as he needs them.

Trump said Friday morning that he is adamantly opposed to a virtual format.

“I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” Trump said. “I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate. That’s not what debating is all about. You sit behind a computer and do a debate. It’s ridiculous.”

No one wants to see such a spectacle, and there’s no reason for the president to subject himself to such an obvious attempt to sandbag him. Hold a rally instead. Let Biden go debate himself.

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