Donald Trump, as a candidate, and as a president has often been called “unpredictable” by many reporters and analysts. However, if you observe the President for long enough, such as for several years now, you can actually spot some predictable patterns. If there is one thing the President thrives on its controversy and chaos. During the 2016 cycle, Trump threatened similarly to skip the debates but ended up joining the events with Hillary Clinton because the other thing that Trump particularly enjoys is TV ratings. Presidential debates have some of the highest viewership outside of the Super Bowl, why wouldn’t Donald Trump partake in that?

We’re now at the point of the cycle where the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) has already announced the dates and venues of the 2020 general election debates between President Trump and the eventual Democratic nominee. There’s just one problem. The President is now calling the CPD “biased” and threatening to skip the events or demand more input on the debate details by essentially organizing his own:

President Donald Trump suggested on Monday that he could skip debates hosted by a commission he called biased, but said other options exist for facing off against the eventual Democratic nominee.

Trump said on Twitter that the Commission on Presidential Debates — which describes itself as nonpartisan — is “stacked with Trump Haters and Never Trumpers.” He referenced an incident during a 2016 debate in which there was a problem with his microphone.

The organization has scheduled three presidential debates for 2020, with the first one set for Sept. 29. In a statement Monday, the commission said, “Our record is one of fairness, balance and non-partisanship.”

Trump said he would “make a decision at the appropriate time but in the meantime, the Commission on Presidential Debates is NOT authorized to speak for me (or R’s!)”

Trump said he looked forward to debating the Democratic candidate and that there was the option of doing debates “directly.” But he gave no details on how that would work.

This is an issue we also touched in back in August noting that Donald Trump doesn’t actually like to debate and has no intention of debating any of his potential 2020 Republican rivals. He enjoys sniping at opponents on Twitter or having a rally where he and he alone is the center of attention. Sharing a stage with another politician and being forced to respond and debate minutia and facts isn’t his forte.

Back to the opening premise, that Trump can sometimes be predictable while appearing to be unpredictable. With his criticism of the CPD, it’s unlikely the President would try to organize his own debates or that his Democratic opponent would agree to it. That scenario, however, doesn’t stop him from making statements like this accusing the CPD of messing with his microphone audio:

“3 years ago they were forced to publicly apologize for modulating my microphone in the first debate against Crooked Hillary. As President, the debates are up … to me, and there are many options, including doing them directly & avoiding the nasty politics of this very biased Commission,” Trump tweeted Monday.

So, why attack the bi-partisan commission set up to organize these debates? It’s pretty simple, really, if you look at Trump’s record on these types of things. It’s all about managing expectations and trying to gain leverage. If he goes into the event alleging past bias, then it becomes incumbent upon the event organizers to go above and beyond in trying to avoid validating Trump’s claim. In essence, Trump’s criticism is like an insurance policy for either direction. It’s either, “See, I told you they were biased,” if things don’t go his way. Or the opposite is also possible with the event organizers making sure they give Trump whatever he wants and ensuring his approval to avoid further criticism or avoid giving him the validity of being right.

There’s no conceivable way that President Trump would skip debating his Democratic opponent in 2020. There is too much at stake, and he thrives in the limelight and worldwide attention these debates receive. By attacking the process now, though, he’s already on the record if he comes off badly in them.

It’s unlikely that Trump would skip or boycott the 2020 debates, but that doesn’t mean you won’t hear about that possibility a dozen more times between now and then.

26 COMMENTS

  1. Trump did skip the last Republican debate in 2016. It was after the famous “tiny hands” debate that showed him befuddled. He would rather snipe via Twitter behind closed doors.

    It would look better to skip all the debates than to back out again after a poor showing.

    • (Skip the debates?) “No! He had no problem beating a champion debater like Cruz. Any of the Dems will be easy pickings.”

      (Befuddled??) “I don’t think he looked befuddled at all.”

  2. As noted in the article I think President Trump is merely setting up a smoke screen. After all why wouldn’t he want to debate any of the Democratic candidates? They have to be the weakest group of candidates of any party that I have ever seen.?

    Not only will President Trump debate his eventual Democratic opponent but he will destroy them. I guess we can look forward to another 4 years of Donald J Trump as president.?

        • African Americans didn’t come out and vote in 2016 but they sure are going to vote this time to get Trump out as racist he and the Republicans are.

      • Are you saying that the current crop of Democratic candidates are less than a dead cat? Not one of the group has a chance and you know it. Some Democrats have admitted that unless they impeach President Trump they will be annihilated in the presidential general election.?

          • The polls show an even divide, about 46% for and against impeachment, with 8% undecided or apathetic. I think that suggests that independents are tilting slightly against impeachment.

            It has been a foregone conclusion that the House would impeach and the Senate will acquit.

            But it will be a good thing if it’s the beginning of Congress reasserting itself. If you look at the Constitution, Article 2 has only four sections regarding a president–one to limit who can run, one that says a president must get permission from Congress, one that says a president must report and answer to Congress, and the fourth section tells Congress how to get rid of a president.

            Constitutionally, a president has very little power–EXCEPT that presidents have assumed nearly unlimited power, especially since LBJ, and Congress has abrogated it.

            • Little power?? That time has passed and can’t be considered any longer. Too many presidents have exerted tremendous authority. Impeachment authority.

              The polls I’ve seen don’t show an even split. Plus the people should have been swayed even more towards impeachment as the major newspapers/media are extremely Anti-Trump.

              The Dems haven’t made their case for impeachment at all. And it is just the Dems that want impeachment.

              The AOC party got their 10 seconds of fame. Now the Senate will squash this circus.

            • I’ve complained about excessive presidential power since LBJ. This isn’t a partisan issue. It’s Constitutional, and Congress needs to grow. . .a backbone.

              You must be cherry-picking polls if you’ve seen polls showing that the public is not evenly split on impeachment. FiveThirtyEight, the premier poll aggregator, shows 47.5% support for removal and 46.3% against. See the chart here:

              https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/impeachment-polls/

              But, yeah, it’s just Democrats who want removal and just Republcans who don’t. The polls show that distinctly. I thought impeachment would be counterproductive, but so far, it has not been.

            • I’m not cherry picking polls. I’m going by what I hear. I’m not saying you are wrong at all. You know your facts.

              Trump will go down in “history” as a president who was impeached because he beat Clinton. The articles are ridiculous.

              In an interview Jared Golden said “Trump abused his power when he asked the Ukraine to help him/Trump to get elected.” Trump never said that. So why did Golden say he did?

            • Why? Because he felt that he had to justify voting against the second article. He used hyperbole to say that the first article was justified.

            • I’m not sure how you feel but the constitutional scholar I listened to said the impeachment articles listed didn’t meet the standards as set down.

              Can you be objective and tell me whether you think they do?

            • It depends on who is speaking. Some say there’s nothing there, others say it’s a worse infraction than the other impeachment cases. I think they should have censured Trump in each instance of overstep of power–and save those issues as individual articles of an eventual impeachment effort, if they wanted it.

              The idea of coercing a foreign leader to do a political favor–withholding Congressionally commanded military aid to a small country trying to defend itself against a huge aggressor–is “yuge.” The question is whether that is clearly proven. That’s pretty mushy.

              Personally, I have complained about presidential over-reach since LBJ. I believe the Founders wanted Congress to be the primary seat of power. They purposely picked an insulting title, “president,” that is, one who only “presides.” They didn’t even see the president as being above the cabinet. Presidents have usurped power, unconstitutionally, and have held it ONLY because no one had the courage or insight to object. Slippery slope. Therefore, I am more inclined to think the second article–obstruction of Congress–is the more meaty charge. But most people think Congress has no power.

              Remember that Article II of the Constitution has only four sections: (1) how to become president, (2) that a president must have approval of Congress, (3) that a president must answer to Congress, and (4) how Congress can get rid of a president.

              Regardless, there is zero chance that Trump will be removed. People only turned against Nixon because of his language on the White House tapes, and against Clinton because of the sex story. Trump brags about his language and lasciviousness, and what is left to scandalize people?

              Trump’s supporters say this will lead to impeachments of future presidents, and I say hurrah, and I hope so. Whatever it takes to rein in our currently almost unlimited presidential power.

            • I agree. I mildly disagree about these charges for impeachment. Why? Not because of anything that you said. But because they weren’t the items in the Constitution. I wished the founders had outlined them exactly. Did they think high crimes (bribery) would be understood? Can the Republicans now impeach, for example, Mayor Pete for being gay? Being gay is offensive to some.

              Impeachment is wide open for interpretation now. As one witness/scholar said “If the house impeaches Trump on abuse of power it will be your (houses) abuse of power.”

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