Debate Commission Chief Says Biden Imposed His Own Terms On Trump

Debate Commission Chief Says Biden Imposed His Own Terms On Trump

Tavern patrons in San Diego, California watch Donald Trump and Joe Biden debate on October 20, 2020

Photo by Mike Blake/REUTERS

President Joe Biden's campaign pulled a fast one on former President Donald Trump's team, according to the co-founder and co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).

In a recent interview with Politico, Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr. — the former chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC) who has helmed the CPD for several decades — insisted the CPD was still alive and well despite the two campaigns going around his organization to hold their debates. The CPD chief did a combination of pushing back against the Biden team's assertions that its scheduled September and October general election debates were held too late in the election season, and praise for Biden's reelection campaign for managing to get Trump to agree to terms that were not the most favorable for the ex-president.

Fahrenkopf described the Trump team's acceptance of two general election debates hosted by CNN and ABC News "political malpractice," noting that the ex-president should have read the fine print before signing on the dotted line.

"Donald makes decisions like this and I’m not sure he listens to the staff," he said. "And I don’t think he ever saw all of the details that were in there. And that is a pretty spectacular job by the Biden people."

One of the major sticking points Biden's team wanted for both debates was not having a crowd present. An unnamed Biden aide speaking anonymously told Politico that because "Trump feeds off the crowd" and that cheering supporters "give him life," they demanded the debate room be empty save for the two candidates and the moderators.

"We wanted to take that away," the aide said.

Other demands Biden wanted that Trump agreed to included microphones that can be muted if a candidate speaks out of turn, and having moderators who didn't have a pro-Trump bias. That second demand sparked outrage from Fox News, with several of the networks prominent hosts worrying that CNN and ABC moderators would fact-check Trump while he was in mid-sentence.

Aside from the terms of the debate themselves, Trump may also not perform well due to his relative lack of experience. The former president hasn't debated since 2020, when he and Biden squared off in a shouting match that moderator Chris Wallace helplessly failed to control as Trump continuously interrupted his opponent. He notably did not participate in any of the Republican primary debates hosted by the RNC, and usually held competing events on nights his rivals debated.

In the two debates, which will take place in June and September, Biden will likely hammer the former president on his embrace of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that allowed for legal abortions. Republicans have yet to notch a win in any election when abortion is on the ballot — even in typically red states like Kansas, Kentucky and Montana. Biden is also aiming to highlight Trump's multiple threats to democracy in the upcoming debates.

Fahrenkopf told Politico that even though the CPD likely won't get to host a general election debate this cycle, that he hopes the Biden-Trump debates on CNN and ABC will be informative and educational for voters.

"We were created for one purpose and one purpose only... we want to make sure in every presidential election cycle that the man or woman who wants to be president or vice president of the United States debates their opponents. That’s our purpose," he said. "Now, if the Biden and Trump campaigns can reach some agreement and go forward with two debates, and that happens and they do a good job? That’s the only thing we exist for. I don’t get anything out of this in any other way. What happens to the debate commission thereafter, I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

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