Something new, but in no way shocking, may be about to crest over the horizon of presidential politics: A general election debate created, sanctioned and hosted by President Donald J. Trump.
The president recently made it clear that he is giving serious consideration to skipping or recalibrating the 2020 general election presidential debates. He would be wise to follow his instincts.
Trump pointed out that debates involving Democratic candidates were “little-watched,” and said the “so-called Commission on Presidential Debates is stacked with Trump haters and Never-Trumpers.” He’ll weigh his options and “make a decision at an appropriate time.”
The appropriate time is now. Trump is correct about that bias and should tell the Commission on Presidential Debates to close up shop for this cycle.
Realizing that they have never dealt with a president such as this one in their 30-year history, the commission hastily released a statement to defend its reputation while seeking to protect its prestigious yet now shaky territory, saying in part: “The televised general election debates are an important part of our democratic process. Since 1988, the Commission on Presidential Debates has conducted 30 general election presidential and vice presidential debates. Our record is one of fairness, balance and nonpartisanship.”
Many Republicans, conservatives and independents — even those who are now solidly Never-Trumpers — most likely laughed out loud when they read that last line about “fairness, balance and nonpartisanship.”
For Republicans and conservatives, every debate hosted by the commission showcased clear-cut examples of bias against the Republican presidential or vice presidential candidates. The vast majority of the “nonpartisan” moderators and panelists for each debate were liberal journalists. Some were willing and eager to be more partisan and activist than others.
Take, for example, former CNN anchor Candy Crowley. Back on Oct. 16, 2012, during the debate between President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaFlake pens op-ed telling Senate Republicans to ‘put country over party’ in Senate trial Kevin Costner to introduce, endorse Pete Buttigieg in Iowa town hall Buttigieg, Warren square off on donors at Democratic debate MORE and GOP nominee Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDemocrats hope to focus public’s attention on McConnell in impeachment battle Senate passes bill banning tobacco sales to anyone under 21 Is Joe Biden the Democrats’ Mitt Romney of 2020? MORE, many Republicans believed she morphed from a pretend “nonpartisan” journalist into President Obama’s personal, and very biased, protector right before their very eyes.
Not only did Crowley repeatedly interrupt Romney, but she stepped in to save Obama during his most vulnerable moment during the debate. That moment came when Romney had the president cornered for claiming he had called the Benghazi attacks in Libya — which killed four Americans — an act of terror the day after it happened.
Obama had done no such thing. Romney knew it and was scoring valuable points reminding millions of voters of that fact when Crowley jumped in to stop him in his tracks: “He did in fact, sir. So let me … let me call it an act of terror.”
Romney was dumbfounded by the interruption and lost his momentum. Obama, on the other hand, instantly recognized that Crowley had just thrown him a desperately needed lifeline. “Can you say that a little louder, Candy?” he asked with a smile.
The “nonpartisan” journalist, approved by the Commission on Presidential Debates, was only too happy to oblige Obama and put Romney out of his misery. “He did call it an act of terror,” she obeyed.
The next day, the editorial board at Investor’s Business Daily asked the question that millions of viewers were thinking: “Why Does Candy Crowley Still Have a Job at CNN?”
It was, of course, a rhetorical question aimed at a mainstream media that continually — and often unethically — sides with Democrats and a liberal narrative.
Precisely because of such endemic bias, Trump should stay as far away as possible from any debate organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates. More than that, he is well within his rights to not debate at all. Both sitting Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon skipped debates and still won landslide victories.
That said, it’s safe to assume that Trump will debate the Democratic nominee in 2020. He’s been a tough business negotiator his entire adult life and has made it clear many times that he relishes the competition.
But, he must remember that he alone is in charge of that competition. He can name the time, the place, the format and the number of debates to hold. If the Democratic nominee does not approve, don’t debate. Trump is in the driver’s seat this time.
As such, an interesting format to consider would be no moderator, no panelists, no studio audience and no prepared questions. Make the debate simply President TrumpDonald John TrumpMaxine Waters warns if Senate doesn’t remove Trump, he’ll ‘invite Putin to the White House’ Trump signs .4 T spending package, averting shutdown Twenty-five Jewish lawmakers ask Trump to fire Stephen Miller over ‘white nationalist’ comments MORE and the Democratic nominee, seated at a table across from one another, debating issues that actually are the most critical to the welfare of our nation.
For once, the real winner in such a debate might be the American people.
Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.