Biden’s Proposed Terms Reveal His Fear of Debating Trump

Joe Biden’s debate challenge to Trump was a joke. Despite his projected confidence in his video statement directed at Trump, the terms proposed by the Biden campaign are extremely telling, as they indicate Joe Biden is pushing for debates that are incredibly controlled. 

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For starters, the Biden campaign is demanding no live audience, which strikes me as odd. Generally speaking, candidates prefer having an audience they can feel like they’re addressing directly. Another demand is that microphones be off when it’s not a candidate’s turn to speak and that they be cut when they go over their time limit.

Oh yeah, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. can’t participate.

The letter by the Biden campaign lays out for the first time the president’s terms for giving Mr. Trump what he has openly clamored for: a televised confrontation with a successor Mr. Trump has portrayed, and hopes to reveal, as too feeble to hold the job. In a Truth Social post on Wednesday morning, Mr. Trump quickly agreed to the two dates proposed by the Biden campaign, although it was unclear whether he would agree to Mr. Biden’s other terms.

Mr. Biden and his top aides want the debates to start much sooner than the dates proposed by the Commission on Presidential Debates, so voters can see the two candidates side by side well before early voting begins in September. They want the debate to occur inside a TV studio, with microphones that automatically cut off when a speaker’s time limit elapses. And they want it to be just the two candidates and the moderator — without the raucous in-person audiences that Mr. Trump feeds on and without the participation of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. or other independent or third-party candidates.

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The Biden campaign is also making demands about which networks can host the debates.

It should only be hosted, Ms. O’Malley Dillon writes, by broadcast organizations that hosted both a Republican primary debate in 2016 in which Mr. Trump participated and a Democratic primary debate in 2020 in which Mr. Biden participated — “so neither campaign can assert that the sponsoring organization is obviously unacceptable.”

Networks that meet that mark include CBS News, ABC News, CNN and Telemundo.

And the debate moderators “should be selected by the broadcast host from among their regular personnel, so as to avoid a ‘ringer’ or partisan,” Ms. O’Malley Dillon adds.

The terms proposed by the Biden campaign seek every possible safeguard to protect him, including only allowing pro-Biden outlets to moderate. While Trump has agreed to debate Biden on his schedule, there is no doubt in my mind that there will be some negotiations on these terms. Trump has already indicated he wants more than two debates, and he wants live audiences. I suspect the issue of which networks can host/moderate will also be a point of contention. Imagine if Donald Trump challenged Biden to debate, but only Fox News, Newsmax, OANN, or The First TV could host and moderate. Biden’s campaign wouldn’t consent to that, nor should the Trump campaign — which has demanded more bipartisanship and balance in the debates — agree to Biden’s terms. 

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For our VIPs: Here’s Why I Still Don’t Think Biden Will Debate Trump

With the first proposed debate not until the end of June, there is time for the campaigns to negotiate the terms. But when you look at what Biden is proposing, I’m wondering what conditions, if any, they will be flexible on. Biden’s campaign is terrified of putting Biden up on a debate stage, and their ridiculous terms are proof.

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