House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has taken pains to sow seeds of doubt about whether or not former Vice President Joe Biden should be participating in three scheduled debates with President Donald J. Trump this election season.
Well, guess what? Millions of Americans are said to be tuning into the first debate tonight, no matter what doubts Pelosi may have floated.
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The speaker could have been trying to lower expectations for Biden, who hasn’t been tested much at all (to put it mildly) on the campaign trail. It could also be bald-faced verbal bullying against the president by the very same Democrat who ripped up his State of the Union address on live TV in front of millions of people—and who regularly rips into him in interviews because she seems to feel it’s her obligation, in this highly polarized time, to do so.
Last Friday, Pelosi insisted Trump has “no fidelity to fact or truth.” The president “and his henchmen are a danger to our democracy,” she also said in an interview. “So I don’t want to give him—I mean, why bother? He doesn’t tell the truth.”
Imagine if the tables were turned. Imagine if a GOP congressional leader had said that about a Democrat presidential candidate. The firestorm would be immense.
Three debates are scheduled for the two candidates—on September 29, October 15, and October 22—and all three are necessary, as is the vice-presidential debate also scheduled. The first debate will be moderated by Fox News host Chris Wallace, and the in-studio audience of about 70 people at Case Western Reserve University will be socially distanced. Attendees will have to undergo testing for the coronavirus beforehand. The debate starts at 9 p.m. Eastern and will go for 90 minutes without commercials.
The American people need to see the candidates face off on the same stage, especially in this time of COVID-19, when the campaigns have been dramatically disrupted. We need to see the two candidates together not just for what they say, but for how they say it and how they handle each other under pressure.
Six topics are part of the proceedings this evening, including the coronavirus, the economy, and the Supreme Court. We need to see the candidates address the topics forthrightly, on the same stage. We need to see them grilled. We need to see them engaged. This is all part of our messy, meaningful, mix-it-up election process.
Is the speaker suggesting the opinions and interests of millions of her fellow citizens don’t matter? The truth is, Pelosi has indicated before that she doesn’t care much about what other Americans think.
Witness her secret hair salon appointment in San Francisco not long ago—which was against the regulations in her California district. Yet she had her hair done inside a salon, and she didn’t wear a mask for at least part of her visit. After she got caught, she blamed the salon owner and said she was “set up.”
Witness her advice to Americans, in late February 2020, about visiting San Francisco’s Chinatown even though we knew then about the early spread of the coronavirus. “It’s exciting to be here,” Pelosi told the media as she strolled through that district, surrounded by crowds. “We want to be vigilant about what might be on the horizon … but we do want to say to people, come to Chinatown. Here we are, again, careful, safe, and come join us.”
So to Pelosi’s “Why bother?” question about the debates, the answer is this: These candidates are competing for the highest office in the land. The speaker is toying with people. She’s somehow suggesting she knows best for the rest of the country. But this isn’t her call.
If Biden can’t stand up the rigors of a few live debates against Trump, he doesn’t deserve to be in the White House, no matter what his policies or positions are and no matter who his opponent is.
Every other presidential candidate in recent memory has had to debate in a live setting. If Pelosi’s chosen candidate can’t do it—well, maybe the question instead should be: Why is he even “bothering” with the election?
By the way: After the first debate, let’s see whether Biden actually takes part in the final two debates. A lot of people think he won’t. But if that happens, it won’t have anything to do with the speaker’s notions. It’ll be because the Biden camp will have “invented” some sort of hindrance to his participation.