What was the Times thinking, biting on nonsense like this?
The reason we’re destined to endure quadrennial will-he-or-won’t-he stories about Trump and the debates is because the subject fuses three of the president’s core instincts. One is to assume that any outfit that isn’t in his pocket is apt to treat him unfairly. Even outfits that are in his pocket, like Fox News, will be accused of unfairness periodically to keep them in line. Two is to treat everything as a negotiation and to seek leverage in that negotiation by all available means. By complaining early about the debates, he puts pressure on the outfit that hosts them to accommodate any future demands.
Three, of course, is his defining characteristic, his craving for drama. Why commit to debating when he can drum up some will-he-or-won’t-he suspense before committing? Better for ratings that way.
President Trump is discussing with his advisers the possibility of sitting out the general election debates in 2020 because of his misgivings about the commission that oversees them, according to two people familiar with the discussions.
Mr. Trump has told advisers that he does not trust the Commission on Presidential Debates, the nonprofit entity that sponsors the debates, the two people said.
Less of a concern for Mr. Trump than who will emerge as the Democratic nominee is which media personality will be chosen as the debate moderator, according to people in contact with him…
Former Clinton aides said they expected Mr. Trump to participate in at least one 2020 debate, despite the president’s hints that he would refuse. “Not doing any would not be strategically smart,” said Philippe Reines, a longtime Clinton adviser, who predicted that “he’ll bluff that he won’t do any with the goal of only having to do one.”
He had at least three distinct complaints about the 2016 debates, one of which was legit (problems with his mic at one debate), one of which was just envelope-pushing (where Bill Clinton’s accusers would be allowed to sit), and one of which had to do with, what else, ratings (scheduling debates opposite NFL games). No doubt there’ll be grumbling about the choice of moderators this time unless the Commission chooses Seb Gorka or whoever. A clever choice would be Chris Wallace since he’s clearly no fan of Trump’s but also works for the one news network in America that MAGA Nation can’t easily accuse of being in the tank for Democrats.
But Wallace has probably disqualified himself with what he said this week. Maybe Bret Baier instead, then? They could always bring Shep Smith and Megyn Kelly out of retirement.
I think Reines is right that Trump might be inclined to do fewer than the three he did in 2016, for sound strategic reasons. It’s not like he needs to do them: He lost all three debates against Hillary according to the polling but won the election anyway. If he can get a favorable-ish moderator for one, he might do that one and that’s it. What would be interesting is if the Commission put pressure on him to appear for the other two by promising to give the Democratic nominee a free televised forum to answer questions whether or not Trump shows up. That might force POTUS to do at least one more.
Or maybe he’d conclude, probably correctly, that no one would tune in to watch Joe Biden babble without interruption for an hour and dare the Commission to follow through on their threat. Which raises a question: If Biden’s the Dem nominee, *should* Trump want to do three debates? On a bad day, Grandpa Joe sounds less coherent than Trump does. You and I have both watched him lose steam in the final hour of Democratic primary debates. From Trump’s standpoint, why not put him on a stage under hot lights and see if he melts?
I mean, really. Imagine him blurting this out when asked if he’ll serve two terms:
Joe Biden told Senator Coons he would “serve two terms if necessary,” the Democrat from Delaware told reporters this morning in response to a @politico report that Biden signaled to aides he would only serve one term
— Ali Zaslav (@alizaslav) December 11, 2019
“If necessary”? Democrats are about to go all-in on a guy who won’t promise up front to avoid making himself a lame duck on the day he’s inaugurated?
If I were Trump, I’d challenge Grandpa Joe to six debates. You never know what might come out of his mouth.
— Zach Parkinson (@AZachParkinson) December 5, 2019