University of Michigan: On second thought, we don't want to host a Trump-Biden debate

Three dates have been set for President Trump and Joe Biden to debate before the November presidential election. The dates are September. 29, October 15, and October 22. The debate on October 15 was scheduled to take place at the University of Michigan but that has changed now. It’s good-bye University of Michigan, hello Miami.

The University of Michigan decided to back out of the agreement with the Commission on Presidential Debates because of the coronavirus pandemic. On Tuesday it was announced that the location of the debate has moved to Miami. It will be held at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, the same venue of a Democrat primary debate last summer.

In a letter shared with the Commission on Presidential Debates, U-M President Mark Schlissel said, “It is with great disappointment that I must ask for the University of Michigan to be released from its agreement with the Commission on Presidential Debates to host the Presidential Debate on Oct. 15, 2020.”

Schlissel called hosting a presidential debate “a tremendous opportunity for our university community to contribute to one of the most important features of our democracy — the open exchange of ideas — while setting an example of civic engagement and shining a light on the outstanding academic strengths of our institution.”

But he said, “Given the scale and complexity of the work we are undertaking to help assure a safe and healthy fall for our students, faculty and staff and limited visitors — and in consideration of the public health guidelines in our state as well as advice from our own experts — we feel it is not feasible for us to safely host the presidential debate as planned.”

Maybe this isn’t such a surprise. Let’s face it, besides the usual health concerns that arise from the pandemic, and the fact that by October we may be facing a second go-around with the coronavirus plus the regular flu season, it may be that the university put practicality ahead of a desire for the prestige that a university receives for hosting a presidential debate. Universities are facing financial strain brought on by the pandemic. These events cost a lot of money. The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts is a county-owned facility.

Presidential general election debates cost their hosts millions of dollars, sums universities typically raise from their own large donors in order to bask in the prestige of hosting an event that draws international attention. But with the coronavirus pandemic stretching budgets and making large gatherings of students and donors on campus not viable, some of the value in hosting a major debate may be lost.

Florida is reaping the benefits of officials who are getting cold feet about hosting large gatherings while the coronavirus pandemic is with us. Who knows what the situation will be in October for this debate? The Governor of North Carolina also blinked and denied the RNC and the Trump campaign a full convention without social distancing restrictions. Now President Trump will accept the nomination in Jacksonville, Florida.

The Biden campaign has asked for information about what protocols the debate hosts will put into place for the safety of candidates, moderators, and attendees. On Monday the campaign sent a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates asking for details. Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, confirmed to the commission that Biden was committed to doing all three scheduled debates and whomever Biden chooses for his running mate will debate Vice President Pence on October 7. This confirmation most likely was stated because the Trump campaign is pushing for a fourth debate. Team Biden wants to keep the schedule and amount of debates as it stands. The Trump campaign thinks the debates should take place earlier so that voters who cast ballots early have a chance to hear from both candidates as they square off on a debate stage. Also, Team Trump wants a say in who the moderators will be.

Ms. O’Malley Dillon objects to input from the Trump campaign on moderators and said, “The Trump position seems to be saying that he will debate if he can pick the moderators.” The Commission on Presidential Debates makes the choice of moderators. The commission seems to be taking the request from the Biden campaign that the October debate in Miami is a town hall type of debate. “We know that voters have many, many questions for the president,” she wrote.

You can’t blame the Trump campaign for asking for input into the decisions made on moderators for the debates. Conservative voters know the bias shown in favor of the Democrat candidate in presidential debates. Unless the commission chooses someone like maybe Martha MacCallum or Bret Baier from FNC or an OANN White House correspondent, what network or cable reporter could be trusted to ask unbiased questions to President Trump? The media is pulling for Joe Biden. I’ve never understood why the RNC doesn’t demand that FNC host a debate, especially since CNN usually always does. As long as Republicans just go along with debates that continue to favor the Democrat nominee, nothing will ever change.

Meanwhile, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts is pleased to be able to host the second presidential debate.

“We are honored to have the opportunity to represent Miami on the global stage and to play a small role in the democratic process,” said Johann Zietsman, president of the nonprofit Arsht Center, which runs the complex.