There's Not Going to Be a Debate, Get Over It!!!

Illustration for article titled Theres Not Going to Be a Debate, Get Over It!!!
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Have you heard the good news? There’s not going to be a presidential debate this week. Anecdotally speaking, everyone I know is happy to hear this. The last Trump-Biden debate was so bad, so unwatchable, it moved CNN’s Dana Bash to dub it a “shit show” and it moved me to wonder aloud to my roommate: “Can they say ‘shit’ on cable news?” (Dana Bash says yes.)

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But of course Trump is pissed about this and he can’t let it go. Though Biden agreed to a virtual debate on Thursday—given the president’s recent covid diagnosis—Trump refused, insisting that he’s well enough to debate in person. “[There’s] no medical reason why the Commission on Presidential Debates should shift the debate to a virtual setting, postpone it, or otherwise alter it in any way,” Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager (who also tested positive for covid), said at the time. “The commission must stop protecting Joe Biden from this in-person debate and allow the event to proceed as it was agreed to months ago.”

OK, fine, whatever. Biden quickly pivoted to plans to hold a town hall in place of the debate, and ABC News announced an event moderated by George Stephanopoulos.

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Except then Trump and his team reversed course again, and they’ve continued to push for a debate over the weekend, encouraged by White House physician Sean Conley’s word that the president is “no longer considered a transmission risk.” (And perhaps by Trump’s own claims that he’s currently basking in the “protective glow” of immunity.) 

“They’ve said he’s no longer a risk for transmission so it would be nice if the commission would get the debate back on the schedule,” White House deputy communications director Brian Morgenstern told press on Sunday. Eric Trump also got on ABC News on Sunday morning to emphasize that his father “wants to get on the stage with his opponent.”

It makes perfect sense that Trump would want a do-over with Biden after their last debate, as well as an opportunity to show off what a big strong boy he is. But there’s not going to be a debate! Get over it!!!

Night blogger at Jezebel with writing at Vice, The Nation, Gothamist, The Awl, and more.

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DISCUSSION

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GTCvDeimos

But of course Trump is pissed about this and he can’t let it go. Though Biden agreed to a virtual debate on Thursday—given the president’s recent covid diagnosis—Trump refused, insisting that he’s well enough to debate in person.

It makes perfect sense that Trump would want a do-over with Biden after their last debate, as well as an opportunity to show off what a big strong boy he is. But there’s not going to be a debate! Get over it!!!

Is he? Does it?

I have a hard time believing that Trump truly wants another debate. Sure, motor-mouthing his way through topics and getting cheap, childish jabs is classic Trump, but this wasn’t his preferred venue. I don’t think anyone in Trump’s camp walked away from that feeling good.

Trump is very effective at playing to a crowd, and that’s simply not an option at the moment (also proof that we need to have audience-free debates, going forward). On top of this, Biden and moderators would only become more effective at managing his tendencies.

At the end of the day, I suspect Trump’s calls for live debates are merely bluster. Risking another critical, unforced error, this time in one of the most widely watched political forums, is something I think he would want to avoid. Calling your opponent out for something you don’t want to do, and favoring public events where he is not in a position to be questioned is easy.

It’s called “being a coward.