Former Clinton White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart told CNN on Saturday that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden should not debate President Donald Trump because Biden gives Trump a bigger stage, and it will help Trump in the election.
Trump “spins these conspiracy theories out there. And, up till now, most of those theories are broadcast by Fox News and, you know, on his Twitter feed,” Lockhart claimed. “And, you know, most Americans don’t see that. The debates are very different.”
“This is the one thing, now that we’re not really going to have conventions where the public will tune in, you know, 50, 60 million people,” Lockhart said. “And they will see all of this nonsense from him. He will take the truth and destroy it. And Biden will be in the position of correcting him over and over and over again. I don’t think he should give him that platform.”
It is worth noting that Trump has a combined 136 million followers between his Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts whereas Biden only has 12.85 million followers on those same platforms.
Lockhart said that the debates will be a “spectacle,” and that such an atmosphere, “more than anything, helps Trump.”
Trump “will take the truth and destroy it, and Biden will be in the position of correcting him over and over and over again. I don't think he should give him that platform.” pic.twitter.com/4EOR4Q9Um7
— CNN (@CNN) August 1, 2020
MICHAEL SMERCONISH: We’re just 59 days away from the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, but for weeks some political experts have been raising the question, would Biden be better off skipping the debates? Former Clinton White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart wrote an op-ed for CNN.com, titled, ‘Joe Biden could still lose this election.’ And as I read it, I was struck by this provocative paragraph:
“Whatever you do, don’t debate Trump. Trump has now made more than 20,000 misleading or false statements according to The Washington Post. It’s a fool’s errand to enter the ring with someone who can’t follow the rules or the truth. Biden will undoubtedly take heat from Republicans and the media for skipping the debates, but it’s worth the risk as trying to debate someone incapable of telling the truth is an impossible contest to win.”
Joining me now to discuss his piece is CNN political analyst Joe Lockhart. Joe, if the president is watching this right now, I could see him rubbing his hands together and saying, “Oh my God, that would be perfect, because then I, of course, get to say, ‘He’s afraid to get on the stage with me. It has to do with his cognitive abilities.’”
JOE LOCKHART: Yeah, well he will say that, and I think as I wrote in the article, it’s worth the risk. Um, you know, this is a president, who, as I said in the article, is incapable of telling the truth. He spins these conspiracy theories out there. And, up till now, most of those theories are broadcast by Fox News and, you know, on his Twitter feed. And, you know, most Americans don’t see that. The debates are very different. This is the one thing, now that we’re not really going to have conventions, where the public will tune in, you know, 50, 60 million people. And they will see all of this nonsense from him. He will take the truth and destroy it. And Biden will be in the position of correcting him over and over and over again. I don’t think he should give him that platform.
SMERCONISH: If you were contacted by the former vice president’s campaign staff – “Hey, Joe, we read your piece, and we’re really intrigued. How do we execute this?” What would you say?
LOCKHART: Well, I’d say, you know, look at what I wrote. It’s not really a debate if only one side is willing to tell the truth. We saw in the debates in 2016, Hillary Clinton showed a mastery of the issues. I think she, on every point, was more honest and bested Trump. But Trump came out of the debates, I think, doing better because he just kept repeating the same old lies: “We’re going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it. We’re going to keep all of those Mexican rapists out of the country. We’re going to make great trade deals.”
None of these things have come to pass. And giving him that sort of national forum to continue to spout, you know, get to 21,000 or 22,000 lies, I think just isn’t worth it for the Democrats or for Biden.
SMERCONISH: Here’s another strategy for Joe Biden. I’m just spit-balling here and trying to be political adviser to both campaigns. It is to say, let Donald Trump continue to say all of those things that he is saying about Joe having lost a step. The Joe that I saw last, I think it was Wednesday in Wilmington, when he faced the media, responded to questions, questions weren’t too hard … he was fine. And if Trump goes out and constantly bangs the drum about Biden, then Joe goes and he performs in that first debate, the bar has been set so low that he exceeds it, and people say, well, there was nothing to Trump’s charges. What about that?
LOCKHART: Well, you know, listen, my guess is they probably will debate. And that is a factor, I think, you know, Trump is setting the bar so low for Biden that it will be impossible for him to not reach it. But more than anything, the debate will be a spectacle, a circus. Trump is unable to do anything but that. And the circus atmosphere, we know more than anything, helps Trump. He’s better at being the circus clown than any other politician we’ve ever seen. And I just don’t think that Biden gets anything from entering the circus ring.