President Donald Trump is raising the possibility of passing on the coming general election debates. Trump told advisors last week, according to the New York Times, that his lack of trust for the Commission on Presidential Debates is why he may sit out.
Trump also tweeted about possibly skipping the debates on Monday. While attempting to make it clear that he’s unafraid of debating whoever the Democratic candidate might be, he said he is, however, concerned that the commission that has hosted general election debates since 1988 is “stacked” against him, writing in part, “The problem is that the so-called Commission on Presidential Debates is stacked with Trump Haters & Never Trumpers.”
Trump also accused the commission of purposely “modulating my microphone” during his first debate with Hillary Clinton in 2016. But according to the Washington Post, the commission released a statement after the debate explaining that the microphone issue was only a problem in the debate hall and not the television audience.
Trump also wrote that he’s leaving open the option of working around the “very biased Commission” for possible future debates.
Trump seems to be laying the groundwork and establishing excuses to avoid the general election debates. And it makes sense. Not only will he have to face questions from moderators and his opponent about a plethora of controversial policies his administration has enacted, from its inhumane stance on immigration, tax cuts for the rich while cutting food stamps, ignoring climate change, and many more, he will also have to face questions about his impeachment and, yes, his affinity for Russia.
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One of the viral moments from the 2016 debates was when Hillary Clinton confronted Trump on his relationship with Russia and called him a puppet of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump’s “No puppet. No puppet. You’re the puppet,” reaction was an instant meme. But at the time, the prescient seriousness of Clinton’s accusation did not hold the gravity it does now.
Additionally, Trump must remember that although he won an electoral college victory in the general election, he was beaten decisively in all three debates according to pundits and poll results alike. According to a Politico/Morning Consult polling of registered voters in 2016, Clinton won the first debate by a 21-point margin, the second by a 14-point margin and then clobbered Trump by a 17-point margin of victory in the final debate.
With so many established facts that can hurt the president in a debate, can he be blamed for looking for a possible out?