TV Networks Mount Pressure for Presidential Debates: Will Democrats Evade or Engage?

There have been presidential debates ever since there has been a TV in every American house. The American public is almost adamant that the two major parties debate the issues that are important to them and that affect their nation. The optics are important. This is evident in the debate between an energetic, young John Kennedy and Richard Nixon. However, everyone knows this year will be different. There is a lot of uncertainty about whether or not there will be a presidential debate between former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden.

Pressure is increasing for at least one presidential debate in 2024. On Tuesday, several major television networks drafted a letter to Joe Biden urging him to accept if Donald Trump would debate. Trump, in March, offered to debate Biden anywhere and anytime. ABC, CBS CNN, NBC, and Fox News, in a rare display of unity, all encouraged Biden, to debate Trump. The extreme polarization among American voters was cited as one of the main reasons for the importance of such a debate in the lead-up to the election this year. The letter begins:

In this time of polarization, Americans can all agree that this election is extremely important. The candidates must debate each other and present their visions of the future to the American public.

As you would expect, Democrats have some reservations about having Joe Biden share a stage for 90 minutes with Donald Trump. Democrats’ response to a question about a possible debate is that they are concerned about Trump’s behavior and his “extremist remarks”. The standard Democrat answer dates back to January this year, when Senate Democrat whip Dick Durbin (IL), said:

I’d think twice before doing it. I was physically present when [Trump] debated Hillary Clinton and I saw him say and do outrageous things. This is just an opportunity for Trump to show his extreme views.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-DE, warned Biden against allowing Trump to make “hateful and racist remarks.” Coons spoke about Trump’s ability to overcome the “media bias.” What universe, Senator Coons, is it that the media treats Trump fairly?

As former senior Trump adviser Jason Miller said bluntly: “Biden will not get away with his basement routine this year.” What are the Democrats afraid of? They see what the American public sees: a frail, weak president, about whom 60 percent of respondents to a recent Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll have concerns regarding his mental acuity.

Biden rarely appears in public without a “cheat sheet”. This helps him get through the event. My colleague reported that Biden gave an interview to Univision where he repeated lies that have been proven false many times and spoke about the war in Vietnam. There are also many instances where he does not know how to leave a stage. Sometimes, even with Dr. Jill right behind him. And the incoherent, slurred sentences. Biden needed a note to remind him to greet Japanese PM Fumio Kishhida. He needed to be instructed on where to stand, and he looked confused when he received a salute during a White House ceremony.

They know that the American public is fully aware of the mental state of Joe Biden. The Democrats may believe that the excuse that Joe Biden refused to debate Trump due to his “behavior”, will work with both the media and voters. The pressure from the TV networks will not just go away; it will increase. Will they take the risk? What is needed to “prepare Biden” for a debate Will we see “State of the Union Joe”? Ted Cruz compared Joe Biden to an “old, angry man” standing on his front lawn screaming ‘Get off!’

I’m not sure Joe Biden would ever debate Donald Trump. The reasons for this are quite clear.