Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Trump’s outright refusal to participate in a virtual debate with Joe Biden, a mere half hour after that format change had been announced, would have spoken to his fears of appearing weak or afflicted even before he came right out and admitted that he didn’t want anybody to have the power to arrest his fountains of verbal bullshit at the press of a button.
But take a look also at the official statement from the campaign, signed by campaign manager Bill Stepien, himself a seeming victim of the Rose Garden event.
“President Trump won the first debate despite a terrible and biased moderator…and everybody knows it.”
Chris Wallace remains a Fox News correspondent and the debate was being hosted by said network, who afterwards spun as hard as they could to claim that Trump handily won the exchange and that Biden behaved badly throughout. Most other polling taken afterwards indicated that Biden was either slightly or significantly better received than his opponent, and that many respondents walked away from the spectacle actively repulsed by the way the president conducted himself.
“…by unilaterally canceling an in-person debate…”
The Presidential Debate Commission sets the rules, the format, and the forum; the candidates can negotiate but it’s ultimately the Commission’s call. All of their decisions on this front are unilateral by right of authority.
“…that’s not what debates are about or how they’re done.”
The October 13, 1960 debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon took place with Kennedy in New York City and Nixon in Los Angeles, and was done this way primarily to handle scheduling issues between the two campaigns. Even if there were no precedents to point to, this sudden stubborn adherence to custom is laughable from a candidate who has otherwise reveled in breaking as many norms as possible. This statement does little except continue selling the narrative that there is no reason to fear a disease that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and continues to steadily kill thousands a day.
“…will have posted multiple negative tests prior to the debate…”
The CDC has indicated that for as much as we know about the virus at this time, even somebody who has recovered from the infection may have trace amounts in their system for up to three months, leading to additional positive tests despite the person no longer being symptomatic or a danger to others. Declaring that Trump will have shown multiple negative tests is magical thinking of the highest order, and means about as much as Stepien claiming that Trump will be able to fly to the debate on his own power. Furthermore, we have no reason to expect actual transparency in terms of the president’s health. When he was rushed to Walter Reed in 2019 — for what was likely a series of small strokes — he forced the staff to sign NDAs as a condition of treating him. Two doctors who refused were subsequently shut out of the healthcare team.
“…the safety for all involved can be easily achieved…”
At the first debate in Cleveland the Trump campaign’s entire entourage defied all mandated safety protocols, which endangered every other person in that room. The White House itself continues to be a hotbed of coronavirus. Nobody in Trump’s circle can be trusted, regardless of how “easy” the actions might be.
“We’ll pass…and do a rally instead.”
“We are upset to miss this opportunity to once again place Joe Biden in the room with a reckless stack of deadly viruses pretending to be a statesman, and to soothe our feelings we will hold another potential super-spreader event.”
(With thanks to Dawn Gilpin for the image and for discussion that helped me clarify my thoughts on this topic.)