Debate or not debate


What a crazy month these last six days have been.

On Thursday, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced that the next face-to-face debate between former Vice President Joe Biden and current COVID-19 patient Donald Trump would be faces only, via a virtual event.

“To protect the health and safety of all involved,” the statement read. Everybody’s a comedian these days.

This was six days after President Donald Trump was flown to Walter Reed Medical Center for treatment for the coronavirus. Yes, he has the virus, which was a shock to nobody who had been watching him strut at one superspreader event after another.

So, it finally occurred to somebody that maybe contagious Trump shouldn’t be in the same room with America’s biggest hope. Debate organizers may call him Mr. Biden, but c’mon. We’re all trapped in the same horror show, and there’s only one exit.

When the commission made its announcement, the interrupter-in-chief immediately balked.

“I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate,” Trump told Fox Thursday morning. “That’s not what debating is all about. You sit behind a computer and do a debate. It’s ridiculous, and then they cut you off whenever they want.”

There it is, Trump’s biggest fear: The mute button.

You see his burden. Imagine having to sit there and just listen to Joe Biden. No yelling over his answers. No mocking or goading while he’s talking. He’ll have to sit there on that split screen and hold his phone under the table so that he can start another tweetstorm that reads like a kid frantically typing as his mother pounds on the bathroom door and yells, “What are you doing in there?”

“OK, fine,” Biden’s campaign said. “We’ll debate in person, but only after you’re no longer a walking death machine.” I may be paraphrasing.

Trump’s campaign manager, current COVID-19 patient Bill Stepien, responded by calling members of the commission “swamp creatures” and threatening that Trump will “do a rally instead.” Because nothing says, “Make America Great Again” like another superspreader event in a country that has already lost more than 210,000 people to COVID-19.

Hold on. Soon after, the Biden and Trump camps agreed to move the next debate to Oct. 22.

Whew. What a relief, right?

You should know better by now.

It wasn’t long before Trump’s campaign had second thoughts — or fourth thoughts, I guess. Trump would agree to the second date only if Biden agreed to a third debate on Oct. 29, which is only five days before the election.

Biden campaign manager Kate Bedingfield let them down gently: “Trump chose today to pull out of the October 15th debate. Trump’s erratic behavior does not allow him to rewrite the calendar, and pick new dates of his choosing.”

Erratic behavior. Such a nice way of saying the president of the United States appears to be as stable as a pinwheel in a hurricane.

So, where are we with the debates? I dare not say, because wherever we are is probably not where we’ll be in the next hour, and it’s my job never to mislead you, regardless of how many times the president does.

One more thing before I let you go: The New York Times broke this news on Thursday:

“The antibody cocktail for Covid-19 that President Trump touted on Wednesday afternoon was developed with cells originally derived from fetal tissue, a practice that his administration has moved to restrict.

“In June 2019, the Trump administration suspended federal funding for most new scientific research involving fetal tissue derived from abortions.”

Oh, boy. How ‘bout that?

Surely this means that so-called “pro-life” Christian voters will now abandon Trump by the hundreds of thousands.

Just as surely, I’m Queen Constancia. You may know me as the Empress Ruler of Freedonia.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. She is also the author of The New York Times bestselling novel, “The Daughters of Erietown.”

By Paul Wager