Chris Wallace versus Trump: Where did Biden say he wants to defund the police?

Man oh man. This is going to be some interview. Watch, then read on.

Before we get to the question of who’s right and who’s wrong, two preliminary questions. First, why did the president agree to this? I thought he hates Wallace.

He can have as much time as he wants on Hannity’s show, draw bigger ratings, and never need worry about being challenged on an assertion the way Wallace challenged him here. All I can think is that maybe his aides have convinced him that he desperately needs to start pulling back some swing voters from Biden and he’s more likely to get face time with those voters on Wallace’s show than on Hannity’s.

Second, why was the president so confident that he knew what was in the “charter” published by the Biden/Bernie Unity Task Force? He famously doesn’t even read his intelligence briefs. There’s no way he pored over a dense 110-page policy document to find out where Democrats stand in minute detail on a universe of issues.

Anyway, Wallace is right. The document doesn’t call for defunding the police. You can check by following the last link and skimming through pages 7-10 and 56-62, where the relevant policy recommendations are laid out. The closest they come to endorsing defunding the police is the passage below. This is what the Democratic establishment countered with after the George Floyd protests broke out and progressives started running around screaming about defunding or abolishing(!) the police. That was pure electoral poison, obviously, and the centrists needed an alternative pronto. “Instead of defunding police departments,” they said, “how about we just un-bundle them a bit?”

That’s “defunding” of a sort, but not the hair-raising progressive scenario in which the cops all get fired and no one’s patrolling for bad guys anymore. Police still get money to walk the beat and fight crime, but non-crime stuff like handing out parking tickets and getting the homeless off the streets gets farmed out to other agencies. That’s the Democratic compromise position — and it’s also the entire point of the Biden/Bernie Task Force document. Biden doesn’t want to endorse radical leftist ideas like abolishing the police or funding the Green New Deal for fear of alienating swing voters; the goal of the task force was to find ways for him to pander to progressives short of supporting the most radioactive stuff on their wishlist, the things that might spook the suburbanites whom Democrats covet. Putting “defund the police” in the “charter” would have defeated the whole purpose by sticking Biden with a widely unpopular position and playing into Trump’s hands by making it easier for him to frame Sleepy Joe as a tool of the left. If POTUS understood that, he wouldn’t have called for the document in the clip with Wallace, as it was destined to prove him wrong.

Which leaves us to wonder how he got the idea that it endorsed defunding the cops. Was it from … the primetime hosts on Wallace’s own network?

His intuition that the “defund” calls on the left are a potentially potent weapon against Democrats is certainly correct, though. Downballot Dems have found themselves having to dodge uncomfortable questions about it on the trail:

“Instead of defunding the police, Theresa [Greenfield] believes we need real reform with more transparency and body cameras, more civilian oversight and Department of Justice reviews, and better racial bias and de-escalation training and standards, along with other long-term investments to address racial disparities in policing, housing, health care and education,” Sam Newton, her spokesman, told RCP in a statement…

“I do not support defunding the police,” said Sen. Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat facing off against GOP combat veteran John James, when first asked about his position on the issue in early June. “The police departments are out there protecting citizens, and the overwhelming majority of law enforcement and police are protecting citizens.”

Sen. Doug Jones, an Alabama Democrat considered the most vulnerable Democrat this cycle, said, “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Defunding and disbanding is not something I would ever, ever support.”…

Cal Cunningham, the Democratic challenger leading North Carolina GOP Sen. Thom Tillis by 10 points in a recent CNBC poll, in mid-June said, “Twenty-first century policing reform will require increased investment in law enforcement, not defunding it.”

Trump is a persistent enough messenger that by Election Day I’d guess nearly all of his voters will believe Biden wants to outright abolish the cops. The fateful question is whether he can convince a meaningful number of swing voters to believe it too. Hopefully so for the GOP, as the latest trends in House races aren’t great and the fundraising trends in Senate races aren’t so hot either. Exit quotation from a GOP strategist who works with Mitch McConnell’s campaign: “Republican senators need to wake up and develop a small-dollar program or they’ll be out of a job.”