Republicans have complained loudly, and correctly, about presidential debate format since I can remember. Chief among the complaints have been liberally biased moderators (an ongoing issue), the partisan commentary about the candidates from some of the people who are selected to be on the supposedly non-partisan “Commission on Presidential Debates” (also an ongoing issue), and the timing of the debates (in 2020, the first of what ended up being only two presidential debates did not take place until after early voting had started).
The CPD, for lack of better words, is the more governing body in presidential and vice-presidential elections. While nominees and campaigns may request changes and are sometimes successful in some cases, in general the CPD determines the schedule, players, and other matters.
Presidential nominees have the option of not agreeing to or backing out of a debate commitment if they deem the process unfair, but that doesn’t often happen because they’d rather have the air time instead. This has led to frustration on the part of Republican voters, who see participation in an event they know has been deliberately skewed in one direction as giving the process legitimacy it doesn’t deserve.
However, the Republican National Committee seems to finally have a partner on this topic after the 2020 debates. Ronna McDaniel, RNC chairwoman has played hardball over the past nine months with the commission in an effort to force them to change.
I can confirm this: Letter postmarked today @GOPChairwoman tells debate commission that unless “meaningful reforms” are enacted “the RNC will take every step to ensure that future Republican presidential nominees are given that opportunity elsewhere.” https://t.co/wr9OpwRbNh
— Philip Melanchthon Wegmann (@PhilipWegmann) January 13, 2022
According to an email sent to the RNC, McDaniel’s and the RNC want to address the following failures:
Waiting to host the inaugural presidential debate after early voting;
Unilateral changes to debate formats and conditions previously agreed upon, some times without informing the candidates.
-Selecting a moderator, who was once a candidate for the Democrat nomination; this is a glaring conflicts of interest.
-Failing to maintain the organization’s strict nonpartisanship, with a majority of its Board Members publicly disparaging the Republican nominee.
The following are reforms that the RNC suggested:
Adopt term limits to its Board of Directors. Many of them have been serving for over a decade.
-Agree to hold at least one discussion before early voting begins, but in no event after the deadline when states must mail absentee ballots overseas to eligible voters.
Adopt a code to prohibit CPD staff, directors and officers from supporting any candidate or participating in partisan politics in relation to the election.
Establish transparent criteria to select debate moderators. This would exclude individuals with conflicts of interest due personal, professional or partisan reasons.
Establish a transparent code for conduct by moderators for conducting debates. It includes guidelines and appropriate interactions for the nominees.
McDaniel says that after numerous communications including in-person meetings over the last several months, the commission still won’t firmly commit to anything, and likely will continue delay tactics until it’s too late to implement meaningful reforms in time for the 2024 presidential debates. According to McDaniel, the RNC will decide soon at its winter meeting if their presidential nominees will be participating in future CPD-sponsored presidential discussions.
The Usual Suspects are likely to view this as a “sour grapes” effort on the RNC’s part, but again, the displeasure with the debate format pre-dates Trump’s time in office and goes back to at least a decade prior to the start of his presidency. But things that happened during the 2020 general election campaign made it imperative that Republicans insist on changes to how the commission organizes and plans debates, with one of the more noteworthy incidents being C-SPAN’s Steve Scully, who was supposed to be the moderator for the second debate, openly displaying anti-Trump bias on Twitter in a conversation he obviously meant to be private between himself and Trump basher Anthony Scaramucci.
Scully was an intern at Senator Joe Biden’s office and also worked for Ted Kennedy as a staff assistant. Scully also promoted Never Trump editorials. He has shared a number of photos on social media showing him at Biden’s family retreats. In no way was he qualified to be a “neutral” debate moderator but yet he was selected anyway.
The RNC is now saying “no more” to such things, and rightly so.
As to what the RNC’s alternative to presidential debates will be in 2024 if they can’t get the changes they want, the New York Times reports that “it remains to be seen.” But I must admit that it wouldn’t hurt my feelings at all if presidential debates went back to either being negotiated the way they used to be – directly between the two nominees and their respective campaigns or not held at all.
Why? Because in addition to presidential debates being skewed to favor Democrats, they’re also highly scripted affairs right down to the audience members and the questions. Plus, people put way too much importance on the way a candidate “looks” – if he or she is sweating, looks nervous, huffs and puffs, etc. While that can be entertaining and good for some laughter or tears, we’re not electing a reality show contestant to the White House, we’re electing the next president and they should be judged on the issues and not superficial things and certainly not based on a fly on their head or how much help the moderators give them.
You can read the complete McDaniel letter to the Commission below if you are curious.
Since its inception, the Commission on Presidential Debates is biased against Republicans.
They continue to oppose commonsense reforms. The RNC has levelled the playing field in order to ensure that the debates are fair for all future nominees.
You can see our complete letter here. pic.twitter.com/GwrCfz29dV
— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) January 13, 2022
Flashback:Ronna McDaniel (GOP Chair) Absolutely Burns Joe Biden for His Hyde Amendment Flip Flop