On Tuesday, The New York Times published an opinion piece by veteran Times writer Thomas L. Friedman titled, “Biden Should Not Debate Trump Unless.” In the piece, Friedman stated that two conditions should be the prerequisite for any debate between President Trump and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden: Trump releasing his tax returns for 2016 through 2018 and that a “real-time fact-checking team approved by both candidates be hired by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates” should deliver a report 10 minutes before the debates end noting any “misleading statements, phony numbers or outright lies” either candidate had offered.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), appraising the situation, the fact that Biden has hardly ventured out in public for months, and the fact that sometimes Biden hasn’t looked particularly sharp when he has spoken impromptu, offered two alternative conditions: “Biden’s two conditions: (1) the debate must occur in his basement, and (2) it cannot be televised or broadcast to anyone in America.”
Biden’s two conditions: (1) the debate must occur in his basement, and (2) it cannot be televised or broadcast to anyone in America. https://t.co/3lMA5zyv9R
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 9, 2020
Friedman surmised the reason Biden has rarely been seen outside his home in recent months was the coronavirus, calling him a “responsible individual and role model” as he wrote, “Because of Covid-19, Biden has been sticking close to home, wearing a mask and social distancing. And with the coronavirus now spreading further, and Biden being a responsible individual and role model, it’s likely that he won’t be able to engage with any large groups of voters before Election Day. Therefore, the three scheduled televised debates, which will garner huge audiences, will carry more weight for him than ever.”
Friedman stated that Trump needed the debates far more than Biden: “Trump is badly trailing in the polls, and he needs these debates much more than Biden does to win over undecided voters. So Biden needs to make Trump pay for them in the currency of transparency and fact-checking — universal principles that will level the playing field for him and illuminate and enrich the debates for all citizens.”
He predicted the future: “Of course, Trump will stomp and protest and say, ‘No way.’ Fine. Let Trump cancel. Let Trump look American voters in the eye and say: ‘There will be no debate, because I should be able to continue hiding my tax returns from you all, even though I promised that I wouldn’t and even though Biden has shown you his. And there will be no debate, because I should be able to make any statement I want without any independent fact-checking.’”
Friedman conjectured that one of the reasons Trump hasn’t released his tax returns may be “Trump’s incomprehensible willingness to give Russian President Vladimir Putin the benefit of every doubt for the last three-plus years,” followed by, “The American people need to know if Trump is in debt in any way to Russian banks and financiers who might be close to Putin. Because if Trump is re-elected, and unconstrained from needing to run again, he will most likely act even more slavishly toward Putin, and that is a national security threat.”
He continued, “Trump literally lies as he breathes, and because he has absolutely no shame, there are no guardrails … Biden has been dogged by bone-headed issues of plagiarism in his career, but nothing compared to Trump’s daily fire hose of dishonesty, which has no rival in U.S. presidential history. That’s why it’s so important to insist that the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates hire independent fact-checkers who, after the two candidates give their closing arguments — but before the debate goes off the air — would present a rundown of any statements that were false or only partly true.”
Friedman concluded, “That kind of debate and only that kind of debate would be worthy of voters’ consideration and Biden’s participation. Otherwise, Joe, stay in your basement.”
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