Joe Battenfeld: Biden lands first blows in debate with Trump before it's even started

Joe Battenfeld, Boston Herald on

Published in Op Eds

Joe Biden has landed the first blows in his debate with Donald Trump before it’s even begun.

The CNN rules for the network’s Atlanta studio showdown on June 27 are so stringent and slanted in Biden’s favor that Trump may be hobbled in his attempts to engage the president in a real one-on-one debate and trip him up.

It’s not surprising that Democratic toady CNN has tried to engineer a debate win for Biden, but more surprising that Trump’s campaign was meek enough to agree to the rules.

The microphone of the candidate who isn’t speaking will be muted throughout the debate, meaning Trump will be muzzled for much of the time. Four years ago, Trump repeatedly interrupted Biden, prompting Biden to infamously say “Will you shut up, man!”

The moderators for the debate – Democratic operatives Dana Bash and Jake Tapper – “will use all the tools at their disposal to enforce timing and ensure a civilized discussion,” according to CNN.

Which is exactly what Biden wants. Trump wants chaos and unpredictability.

But if Bash and Tapper appear to be silencing Trump unfairly, that could fire up the Republican troops and boost the former Republican president heading into the fall election season.

There will be no debate audience for Trump to feed off – a provision that Biden’s campaign insisted on.

Biden’s campaign also asked for podiums for both candidates, which will protect the 81-year-old Democratic president from shuffling off or losing his place on stage.

The 90-minute debate on June 27 will include two commercial breaks, giving Biden a little time to take a respite if things get rough.

The candidates will also be provided with a pen and a pad of paper to take notes, which should help Biden if he loses focus.


And the timing of the debate – in the mid-summer doldrums months before election – will give Biden time to recover in case of a bad performance.

Another concession by Trump is that the debate will not include third party candidates like Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who polls show is hurting Biden’s campaign. Kennedy has filed an official complaint hoping to be put in the debate.

By agreeing to CNN’s debate, Trump and Biden are shunning the Commission on Presidential Debates, which has traditionally put on televised encounters for decades.

Trump ceded control of the debate by saying months ago that he would debate Biden at “any time, any place” – giving the Democrats the opening they needed to accept the invitation from CNN.

This is the first of only two debates between the candidates, and there is no VP debate scheduled.

Despite all the rules being slanted in his favor, Biden is taking a risk by agreeing to debate at all. A major gaffe or senior moment could send his campaign into a tailspin.

But it’s a risk the Biden campaign is willing to take, given the fact that his low approval ratings remain a major problem for his re-election.

Just a passing performance for Biden could re-energize his campaign and ease voters’ concerns about his age and mental acuity.

The second debate between Biden and Trump is scheduled for Sept. 10 on ABC. CBS is trying desperately to get into the picture by holding a VP debate.

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