New York Times Op-ed: ‘Let’s Scrap the Presidential Debates’

Democratic presidential hopeful former US Vice President Joe Biden gestures during the fourth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by The New York Times and CNN at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio on October 15, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP …
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The New York Times published an op-ed Monday morning titled “Let’s Scrap the Presidential Debates,” arguing that they play too great a role in helping voters choose the president.

Journalist Elizabeth Drew assures readers that she is not worried that Biden will lose the debates.

“This, by the way, isn’t written out of any concern that Donald Trump will prevail over Joe Biden in the debates; Mr. Biden has done just fine in a long string of such contests,” she writes.

The point, she says, is that the debates are meaningless — “that ‘winning’ a debate, however assessed, should be irrelevant, as are the debates themselves.”

She argues:

Nervous managers of the scheduled 2020 presidential debates are shuffling the logistics and locations to deal with the threat of the coronavirus. But here’s a better idea: Scrap them altogether. And not for health reasons.

The debates have never made sense as a test for presidential leadership. In fact, one could argue that they reward precisely the opposite of what we want in a president. When we were serious about the presidency, we wanted intelligence, thoughtfulness, knowledge, empathy and, to be sure, likability. It should also go without saying, dignity.

Yet the debates play an outsize role in campaigns and weigh more heavily on the verdict than their true value deserves.

Drew calls Trump “the most disastrous president in our history” and complains that the 2016 presidential debates “became simply another tool in his arsenal.”

Others on the left have also argued that former Vice President Biden should not debate Trump.

Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote last month that Biden should not debate Trump without real-time fact-checking — though Biden has a long history (in 2008, and 2012) of factual errors in debates.

Joe Lockhart, a former press aide to President Bill Clinton, advised Biden last week at CNN.com: “Whatever you do, don’t debate Trump.”

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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