News and Commentary

Biden Campaign: Hold The Debates. Media: Cancel Them
ARMONK, NY - OCTOBER 14: Co-host Joe Scarborough attends the 2017 Americares Airlift Benefit at Westchester County Airport on October 14, 2017 in Armonk, New York. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Americares)
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Americares

Numerous media figures and pundits are calling to cancel future presidential debates after the first showdown between President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden on Tuesday night.

Biden has so far rejected calls by the media and elected officials such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to skip debating Trump. Pelosi said in August that the former vice president should not “dignify” Trump with a debate, calling it an “exercise in skullduggery.”

“I don’t know how many different ways we can say it. Yes, we are going to do the debates,” Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said after Tuesday’s debate. “I would imagine there will be some additional conversations [with the Commission on Presidential Debates]. But yeah, we are committing to attending the debates.”

Media analysts and writers wrote articles late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning echoing calls by network pundits calling on Biden to skip the next two presidential debates, or for the Commission on Presidential Debates to cancel them altogether.

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough called the debate a “disgrace” and said Biden “should participate in another debate.” CNN political analyst Joe Lockhart tweeted, “Debate Commission has to figure out how to get Trump to cooperate with the rules or just cancel the remaining debate.”

In a piece titled “Cancel The Debates,” The Atlantic writer David Graham wrote:

Tonight was the first presidential debate of the 2020 election, and if there is any sense or mercy left in this nation, it will be the last too. The event was a shambolic shout fest, with scarcely a single morsel of substance to be found. President Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, lied repeatedly, refused to condemn racist groups even after explicitly offering to do so, and sought to undermine trust in the election. Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democrat, meandered through his positions, only occasionally finishing a sentence. Moderator Chris Wallace lost control within minutes and never regained it.

Margaret Sullivan, a media columnist at The Washington Post, said that future debates should be canceled on account of the president’s behavior, accusing Trump of refusing “to abide by the rules or observe even a modicum of decorum.”

“Failing some radical reform in the debate format, there’s no reason for the next two debates to take place as scheduled on Oct. 15 and 22,” Sullivan added. “The debate commission should seriously consider allowing the vice-presidential debate to take place next Wednesday and calling off the other two presidential debates.”

Time Magazine television critic Judy Berman said that the debate was a waste for voters looking for substantial responses on pressing topics. After listing a number of issues such as wildfires, civil unrest, and the pandemic, Berman wrote:

The first 2020 presidential debate didn’t offer much novel information on any of those urgent topics. It did, however, leave many of us with a new question to ask ourselves: Why did we just put ourselves through that? Whatever the reason, we shouldn’t make the same mistake again.

Christina Cauterucci, a podcast host and writer at Slate, described the two-hour debate between the sitting president and former vice president as “unintelligible, crazy-making, and mind-numbingly dull.” Voters that watched were no more informed about issues after the “spectacle” than they were before, she said.

The American public gained nothing from this degrading spectacle, which resembled a trashy shock-jock program more than a debate about policy and public service. There is no way to deliver anything remotely approaching an edifying debate with an incumbent like this. The remaining debates should be canceled.