If the trial balloon floated by Democrats gains altitude and Joe Biden withdraws from participation in the three scheduled presidential debates, it will surely go down as one of the most egregious blunders in presidential election history.

For someone who for months has fought off rumors and speculation about his declining mental nimbleness, Biden’s withdrawal from the debates would confirm for many the validity of the rumors and accuracy of the speculation.

Remaining sequestered in his basement is central to his campaign strategy, a belief that he benefits greatly from President Trump’s erratic and undisciplined behavior while remaining out of the media spotlight and studiously avoiding interviews and public appearances.

Biden’s history is one of misstatements, rambling responses and embellishing his personal role in a variety of incidents.At times, he appears befuddled and incapable of maintaining a cogent train of thought. His ability to ad lib – a debate essential – is non-existent. And when attacked as he was during the Democratic Party primary season, his responses often verge on the unintelligible.

In his most recent interview, Biden grew agitated over a question and angrily implied that the questioner was addicted to cocaine.

Using friendly media to raise the possibility of ditching the debates seems like a calculated move by the campaign to assess the public reaction and, if necessary, develop a plausible cover story to rationalize a withdrawal.

One columnist went so far as to propose that since Biden had nothing to gain and everything to lose in a debate with Trump, there was no legitimate reason to engage the President.

Translation: I’ll probably lose, so I won’t participate.

Another pundit characterized presidential debates as having outlived their usefulness and were no longer relevant, while still another offered the astoundingly silly suggestion that Biden should refuse to debate unless Trump released his income tax returns.

Biden’s campaign quickly reiterated their candidate’s eagerness to debate in what resembled a “whistling past the graveyard” response.

The obvious cover story for skipping the debates would be concern for personal safety in the face of an unprecedented public health crisis – the same rationale Biden is currently utilizing to remain in his basement.

However, with major league baseball, professional basketball and hockey having resumed their seasons – albeit abbreviated ones – voters would react skeptically to an argument that Trump and Biden standing more than six feet apart for 90 minutes in an empty auditorium poses a threat to either one.

Presidential debates have become a vital element of campaigning. For the overwhelming number of voters, taking the measure of presidential candidates responding to media questions and making their case for leading the country is as close as they’ll ever come to personal contact.

Refusing to participate because of a deep fear of embarrassing oneself or appearing unprepared to take on the burdens of the presidency is not an acceptable explanation.

Despite his seclusion, Biden has built and maintained a lead in numerous national and swing state polling. However, believing that public distaste for Trump is so deep it will negate significant adverse reaction to rejecting 60 years of presidential debate tradition is foolishly short-sighted.

To be sure, Trump is in his element during one on one debates. He enjoys nothing more than standing in the center of the ring throwing haymaker after haymaker, hoping one will land with devastating consequences.

Unconcerned with the veracity of his assertions, he is the embodiment of the ancient Greek prophecy: “In war, truth is the first casualty.”For Trump, the debate is war.

Biden, though, must demonstrate he’s willing to mix it up, to stand tall, challenge Trump and demolish once and for all the man-in-decline narrative.

Whatever his and his staff’s misgivings, his debate participation is imperative. Failure to do so will add a third question to the nation’s political lore:

Should Nixon have burned the Watergate tapes?

Did Bill Clinton have sex with a White House intern?

Should Biden debate Trump?

Yes, yes and yes.

Copyright 2020 Carl Golden, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University in New Jersey. You can reach him at [email protected]