The Right to Remain Silent: What to Expect from the Final Presidential Debate
US President Donald Trump and Former Vice President Joe Biden are both preparing for their closing debate to be held this evening at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Courtesy of a rule change, the debate should be slightly more civilized than the first. But there is sure to be no shortage of controversies.
New Rules to Cut Out Interruptions
The Presidential Debate Commission announced Monday evening measures in response to the constant interruptions affecting the first presidential debate last month. Trump and Biden’s microphones will be temporarily muted while the other is speaking during the final presidential debate to ensure each candidate can get their points across without interruption.
Those who expect cultivated silence, as a result, will be disappointed. Firstly, the candidates’ microphones are only off during the two-minutes of answering time but are on for the remainder of the debate to allow open discussion. Secondly, the debate’s topics (i.e., “Fighting COVID-19,” American Families, “Race in America, “Climate Change,” National Security, and “Leadership”) offer plenty of ammunition for both sides.
Trump Campaign Slams New Debate Rules
The Trump campaign was not pleased with either of these points. In a letter to the commission on Monday, it criticized the muting of the microphones and the choice of topics.
“It is completely unacceptable for anyone to wield such power, and a decision to proceed with that change amounts to turning further editorial control of the debate over to the Commission which has already demonstrated its partiality to Biden,” said the letter, signed by Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien.
So far, one of the three presidential debates used to focus on foreign policy and security issues. This is where the president sees his primary strengths. However, with the debate topics being much broader, he will once again be faced with issues that have proven detrimental to his approval ratings, mainly handling the pandemic and the racial tensions in the country.
Trump: “It is Very Unfair”
When asked earlier this week whether he would still take part in the debate, Trump said: “I will participate. I just think it is very unfair. “I will participate, but it is very unfair that they changed the topics, and it is very unfair that again we have an anchor who is totally biased.”
The anchor in question is Kristen Welker. Over these past days, the president continuously accused her of being biased. On Saturday, he tweeted that she was “awful and unfair.” Trump also shared an article in the New York Post claiming to reveal links between Welker and the Democratic Party, citing her parents’ donations to Democratic candidates and previous registration with the party. In response, NBC stated that Welker was not a party member, pointing out that Trump’s campaign advisor Jason Miller described Welker as “very fair” and “a very good choice.”
The Current Polls Show Biden Far Ahead of Trump Including in Key Swing States
For Trump, the debate is the final opportunity to present himself and his achievements of the previous four years to almost 100 million Americas who will likely turn in. Trump continues to trail Biden nationally by a significant margin (52.2 to 41.9 percent). Even more importantly, Biden leads most swing states comfortably.
One should thus expect Trump to be in full-on attack mode in tonight’s debate.
There is little doubt that it will get ugly. This is something one could already assume over the past few days when the traditional October surprise appeared right on time – at least according to the Trump campaign: the Hunter Biden laptop affair.
The story, published by the New York Post and whose author has rather dubious connections and possible credibility issues, was initially labeled as likely part of a Russian disinformation campaign by several outlets, including former intelligence officials like former director of national intelligence and perjurer James Clapper.
However, the Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, has contested these allegations and stated that the laptop and revelations about Hunter Biden are not Russian disinformation. There is no doubt the president will interjecting the topic into the debate and making it his primary attack angle. It makes the rule change all the more critical.