Scrap the Debates? NY Times and CNN Say Yes

By Al Perrotta Published on August 3, 2020

Like dinner at a convalescent home, the Democrats are trying to hand Joe Biden the presidency on a plate without him having to move an inch. 

First, they cleared away his primary competition like drybrush before Super Tuesday to gift wrap the nomination. But what do they do, having nominated such a weak and weakening candidate? Obama strategists David Axelrod and David Plouffe laid out the answer in early May: Let social media and substitutes do the public work. In other words, keep Biden in his basement during the campaign, with only the briefest and most controlled of appearances. Joe now pops out of the ground about as much as Punxsutawney Phil.

Don’t go thinking COVID has anything to do with it. Before the virus hit our shores, Biden’s campaign appearances were already shrinking in number and length, with evening events severely limited because by day’s end a worn out Joe was making all sorts of blunders and flubs that would sink a normal candidacy.

So what’s the Democrats’ latest move? Arguing that the presidential debates be cancelled. 

CNN Analyst Joe Lockhart: “Don’t Debate Trump!”

Former Clinton Press Secretary Joe Lockhart suggested on CNN that Biden should not debate Trump. “Whatever you do, don’t debate Trump!” he wrote.

Lockhart believes the debates will only help Trump. That’s almost certainly true. Then he employs a bit of twisted reasoning that could only come from someone who served the Clintons.

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President Trump, Lockhart said on CNN this weekend, “spins these conspiracy theories out there. And, up till now, most of those theories are broadcast by Fox News and, you know, on his Twitter feed. And, you know, most Americans don’t see that. The debates are very different. … And they will see all of this nonsense from him. He will take the truth and destroy it. And Biden will be in the position of correcting him over and over and over again. I don’t think he should give him that platform.”

Of course, by “nonsense,” Lockhart means Trump will quote Biden’s own words and actions. And question his fitness. And by “conspiracy theories,” Lockhart means making Biden answer for his now-proven role in the Trump Russia Hoax. And his boasting of blackmailing Ukraine to get the prosecutor investigating his son fired.  The billion bucks Hunter got from China. Tara Reade. How soon we have forgotten Tara Reade.

Going Head to Head

But even putting that aside, presidential debates are about two candidates going head-to-head, and voters assessing their responses and worthiness. 

Remember the second debate in 2016?  It was just days after NBC leaked the Access Hollywood tape. Trump was supposedly done. The GOP establishment was abandoning him like he was a building on fire. The conservative Christian world was pulling its hair out.

Voters tuned in expecting Hillary to finish him off. But Trump showed up with three of Bill Clinton’s accusers, beat back Hillary and the moderators’ initial volleys, and scored some devastating blows, including an impassioned attack on partial-birth abortion. Trump was not only standing at debate’s end, he had turned the tide. 

Contrast that with Mitt Romney. In 2012’s second debate, he let CNN moderator Candy Crowley run interference for President Barack Obama on Benghazi, with only a whiny pushback. And in the third debate, he played Mr. Nice while Obama threw the kitchen sink at him. (Which is why Romney is now a bitter Senator rather than enjoying the good life of an ex-president.)

New York Times: Scrap All the Debates

The New York Times is a little more clever. They don’t want to admit Biden can’t handle a debate with Trump. So they say they want to trash presidential debates all together. Writer Elizabeth Drew argues the debates play too large a role in deciding elections. “The debates have never made sense as a test for presidential leadership,” she says.

In fact, one could argue that they reward precisely the opposite of what we want in a president. When we were serious about the presidency, we wanted intelligence, thoughtfulness, knowledge, empathy and, to be sure, likability. It should also go without saying, dignity. Yet the debates play an outsize role in campaigns and weigh more heavily on the verdict than their true value deserves.

Is the New York Times admitting America was not serious when it chose the charming, silky smooth Obama over the far more experienced, knowledgeable and substantive John McCain and Romney? Of course not. In the TDS-infected mind of the Times, American political history began when Donald Trump came down the escalator at Trump Tower. Any editorial position is about defeating Trump. And only that. 

Just look at the qualities they include in being “serious about the presidency.” Dignity. Likability. Empathy. Knowledge.  All the things that would describe Biden. (Or a good shrink. Or your grandmother.) All things they think Trump lacks. How convenient. 

So, read closely, the Times is making the same argument as CNN: Debates play to Trump’s strengths and expose Biden’s weaknesses. The debates will affect voters to a great degree, and in Trump’s favor. And we can’t have that. 

Biden’s Never Been a Great Debater

Of course, writer Drew denies her argument has anything to do with Biden. She says her article, “isn’t written out of any concern that Donald Trump will prevail over Joe Biden in the debates; Mr. Biden has done just fine in a long string of such contests.”

On what planet? In his previous two presidential runs, he got nowhere in the primary debates. In his first debate as a VP nominee, the veteran senator faced off against rookie Sarah Palin. He was supposed to humiliate her. The hockey mom matched him stride-for-stride without a sweat. And that was when Joe Biden was in his prime.

And now? 

Did the Times already forget this primary season? When Kamala Harris smacked him down so hard it should be considered elder abuse? When he bungled information about his own campaign? When his teeth seemed to fall out? When he’d stand there blankly, ignored by candidates focused on Sanders and Warren? Even Saturday Night Live noticed (start at 2:52).

The bumbled, jumbled rant about parents having their kids play the record player? When just getting through a debate against such lightweights as Beto O’Rourke, Kristen Gillibrand, Juan Castro and Eric Swalwell without catastrophic blunder was deemed a victory? 

Have they forgotten the campaign trail gaffes? Mental lapses? Glimpses into his world view: “Poor kids are just as smart as white kids”? His outright fabrications of his biography? Forgetting what state he’s in? Confusing his wife and sister? His biting the head off voters who challenge him? “Super Thursday”?

They Remember

No. They have not forgotten. They are pretending that there is little value in the two candidates for commander-in-chief standing shoulder-to-shoulder. No value in letting the American voters assess the candidates side-by-side. How do they stack up? How do they handle the heat? What do they really think when they’re not speaking from a teleprompter?

CNN and the Times suggesting Biden dodge the heat is a concession he’s unfit to be president. The job is all about the heat. Harry Truman famously said of the presidency, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” The Democrats and liberal elite want to make Biden head chef without even stepping into the kitchen. 

If they get away with it, the American political process — and America itself — is cooked.


Al Perrotta is the Managing Editor of The Stream and co-author, with @JZmirak, of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration. You can follow him at @StreamingAl. And if you aren’t already, please follow The Stream at @Streamdotorg

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