DANIEL VAUGHAN: No one should get to change a single rule on the debates

The two people at the top of the November election ticket are Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

You can go down every ballot in all states, counties, and municipalities in the country. You won’t find journalists, debate moderators, or people who run commissions on presidential debates on the ballot. And when any of those groups try to elevate themselves to decide how the American people should know candidates, they attempt to influence election results.

Let’s get one thing out of the way early: Donald Trump won the first round of presidential debates. He controlled the match, the tone, and Joe Biden was scrambling to keep up all night.

You can hate Trump’s tactics in controlling the debate and hitting Biden — often barraging him at every point — but it was a tactic aimed at voters. And, more directly, it’s an entirely legal tactic used by Biden in 2012.

During the 2012 vice presidential debate between Biden and then-Rep. Paul Ryan, Biden charged into the debate interrupting and scolding Ryan 82 times — not counting the times he theatrically rolled his eyes, laughed out loud, scoffing any substantive point made by Ryan.

Most observers thought Biden showed strength and thoroughly beat Ryan in that debate. The Guardian went a step further, alleging, “Joe Biden’s alpha-male display leaves Paul Ryan overwhelmed.”

On Sept. 29, 2020, Joe Biden got a taste of his own medicine. Trump loomed over Biden at every step, every turn, and mocking any point Biden tried to make. The late Beau Biden, the son that Joe Biden uses as an example of excellent character, defended this tactic saying, “This isn’t, [Jake Tapper], about how much my father smiled or how many gallons of water that the congressman drank nervously on that stage… It’s about talking directly to the American people about very important facts.”

After the 2020 debate, Tapper told his audience the Trump–Biden debate was “a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck.”

“That was the worst debate I have ever seen; in fact, it wasn’t even a debate. It was a disgrace,” he said, as The Hill reported.

Or maybe, Mr. Tapper, it’s Trump talking directly to the American people, as the Bidens assert. 

The Trump–Biden debate is one of those things where when Democrats do it, it’s fine. But when Trump or a Republican uses those same tactics, suddenly it’s a national disgrace; we’re told we need new rules to keep that kind of spectacle from ever happening again.

These aren’t moral objections. It’s the outrage of a group watching their preferred candidate get smoked off the stage while babbling incoherency.

This argument is in a long line of objections from the left. They were OK with filibustering and preventing George W. Bush’s judicial nominations from going through. But when Mitch McConnell blocked the Merrick Garland nomination using the same tactics, suddenly we have a political crisis. It’s only now that the legitimacy of the court system is at stake.

Or take campaigning as an example. Ben Shapiro caught this in a column:

The former Obama director of integration and media analytics stated that, during the 2012 campaign, Facebook allowed the Obama team to “suck out the whole social graph”; Facebook “was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing.” She added, “They came to [the] office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.”

But as Shapiro notes, “As soon as Facebook realized that Cambridge Analytica had pursued a similar strategy, they suspended the firm.”

Joe Biden interrupting and mocking Paul Ryan? That’s alpha male assertiveness, and Ryan was a weakling who couldn’t put up with it.

Donald Trump interrupting Joe Biden? Then it’s time to clutch your liberal pearls and pass out on the nearest fainting couch because the end of the republic is nigh. 

If Democrats truly believed a single talking point or poll about Biden winning that debate, they wouldn’t be in a full freakout mode trying to get the Commission on Presidential Debates to change the rules or talking about ending the debates entirely. Those aren’t the actions and beliefs of a confident party. It’s an utter panic.

And that’s the last point: the Commission on Presidential Debates appears to be caving to Democratic demands. They said in a statement that “additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues.” Further, they want to have “additional tools to maintain order are in place for the remaining debates.”

The commission isn’t on the ballot. And Trump’s line of attack in the debates is a tactic meant to convince or impact voters. When journalists or made-up commissions try to change that, they’re directly interfering with the presidential race.

If what Trump did is wrong, you know who can decide that? Voters. There’s an obvious way to settle this, and it’s at the ballot box.

The ballot box was good enough for Joe Biden’s actions in 2012, and it’s good enough for 2020 — unless you’re a national journalist. If you honestly think Trump is a “bully,” then Biden can stand up to Trump. America needs a strong leader on the international stage.

But if you can’t stand up to Trump, you can’t stand up to China, Russia, or anyone else. That’s not a failing of Trump — it’s a failure of a weak candidate. That’s what they told us with Paul Ryan, anyway.