Time to Mute the Debate Commission - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Time to Mute the Debate Commission
NBC’s Kristen Welker (YouTube screenshot)

Here’s the headline on the latest from the Commission on Presidential Debates:

Debate commission adopts new rules to mute mic

The story, reported here by PBS, said this:

President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden will have their microphones cut off in Thursday’s debate while their rival delivers their opening two-minute answer to each of the debate topics.

Before this rule change was announced, there was this headline from the Wall Street Journal editorial board that said it all:

Retire the Debate Commission

The Steve Scully fiasco is the latest blow to its credibility.

The editorial hit the nail on the head in saying this, bold print supplied:

C-SPAN has suspended correspondent Steve Scully for lying about a Twitter message to a critic of President Trump. The network is trying to protect its reputation for nonpartisan fairness, and we wish we could say the same about the Commission on Presidential Debates.…

This new hit to the commission’s credibility comes shortly after its high-handedness led to the cancellation of the second debate. It announced the debate would be virtual before the candidates had agreed to it. Mr. Trump wouldn’t attend, and the debate was killed. As for the commission being made up of Democrats and Republicans, former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole says he knows every Republican on the commission and it concerns him that not one supports Mr. Trump.

The Commission on Presidential Debates is an example of another institution that seemed like a good idea but over time has become a creature of Washington’s political class. Its moderators typically tilt left and it acts as if it’s bigger than the candidates. This year should be its last as the arbiter of debates. If it won’t go away on its own, the next GOP nominee should refuse to cooperate and negotiate the rules and timing of the debates in 2024 with the Democratic nominee.


Four years from now the two parties should take back control of the debates. And the business of having a “moderator” who in fact is a thinly — very thinly — disguised liberal or creature of the Washington Establishment should end.

It would be far better to have two moderators — one a conservative and one a liberal, selected by each of the campaigns — to ask the questions. If the latest debate were to be really fair, the liberal NBC White House correspondent Kristen Welker would be paired with someone like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or Mark Levin. There are a lot of Americans who would load up on the popcorn debate night to see Joe Biden being grilled by any of these three.

The most famous of presidential debates — the 1960 series between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon — managed to thrive with no one other than the two campaigns and the television network involved doing the negotiating of the rules.

It’s too late now.

Welker has released her list of debate topics through the Commission. They are:

Fighting COVID-19
American Families
Race in America
Climate Change
National Security

Notice anything missing?

Where’s Hunter? Where’s the topic of the Biden family influence-peddling in there? Answer: It isn’t there. Which means President Trump will have to bring it up on his own — and should. And then … will Welker try to shut him down? We shall see.

But enough of this is more than enough. The ultimate power grab of a moderator being told by a debate commission that she must mute the president of the United States and/or his opponent is beyond belief.

If this says anything, it is that, yes, it is finally time for the Commission on Presidential Debates to be gone with the political winds.

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com. His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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