In a presidential campaign that has twisted at every turn, it's no surprise that the latest issue up for debate concerns debates.
Surprisingly, the Trump campaign now favors more debates, while some liberal pundits are suggesting that there should be fewer - maybe none. Seems clear to me: In a pandemic-torn campaign, voters will benefit from as many presidential face-offs as possible.
Writing to the Commission on Presidential Debates, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani argued that a fourth debate should be added to the current schedule of three, with the first moved up before early voting gets underway.
Giuliani noted that by the time of the first debate on Sept. 29, "as many as eight million Americans in 24 states will have already started voting." Even more ballots will have been cast by the second and third debates, Oct. 15 and 22.
The CPD said it would not move the planned debates earlier. However, the group indicated that if both Trump and Biden want a fourth debate it would consider the request.
Both campaigns should act immediately to arrange a fourth event, in the interest of filling the gaps in this most unusual presidential campaign. Both candidates have been off the trail, with rallies and virtually all public appearances canceled. Democrats announced that Biden will not be going to the convention in Milwaukee to accept his nomination, opting to speak by video connection. Republicans will hold a modified convention in Charlotte but Trump, too, will appear via video.
At this point, nationally televised debates are all that remains of a conventional campaign.
"For a nation already deprived of a traditional campaign schedule because of the COVID-19 global pandemic," Giuliani wrote, "it makes no sense to also deprive so many Americans of the opportunity to see and hear the two competing visions for our country's future before millions of votes have been cast."
Meanwhile, a mystifying op-ed by columnist Elizabeth Drew in The New York Times declared: "Let's Scrap the Presidential Debates." What a strange suggestion in an election year that has already been forced to scrap just about everything else.
The chorus of liberal pundits urging Biden to skip the debates entirely is alarming. Joe Lockhart, Bill Clinton's former press secretary, advises Biden: "Whatever you do, don't debate Trump." According to Lockhart's analysis for CNN, "It's a fool's errand to enter the ring with someone who can't follow the rules or the truth."
If Lockhart believes Biden can't think fast enough to counter Trump's lies, he's wrong. Moreover, if the former vice president can't handle a ruthless debate opponent then he probably can't handle the presidency.
It wasn't long ago that some of us believed Trump might duck the debates altogether, with so much of his disastrous past year ripe for interrogation. But as polls show him trailing Biden (the Real Clear Politics average gives Biden a 7 point lead), Trump's strategy is shifting.
Four presidential debates of two and a half hours each is probably all that can be squeezed in. Perhaps one could be devoted to domestic issues and one to foreign affairs. To further probe the differences between the two campaigns, a second debate for the vice presidential candidates should be added to the one planned for Oct. 7.
Before selecting Joe Biden as their nominee, Democrats had 12 official debates. The events were strained at times because there were so many candidates - but not because debating itself wasn't vitally important. Now, with Election Day drawing near, why should voters have to settle for misleading campaign ads, brief news clips and Twitter bombs to make their decision?
The CPD has opened the door for a fourth presidential debate - and presumably a second vice presidential debate - if requested by both campaigns. Trump and Biden should act quickly to make it happen.
In Pew research following the 2016 election, 63 percent of voters said the presidential debates were "very" or "somewhat" helpful in deciding which candidate to vote for. Certainly in the pandemic election of 2020 voters deserve all the help they can get.
A list of Peter Funt's upcoming live appearances is available at www.CandidCamera.com.
Peter Funt is a writer and speaker. His book, "Cautiously Optimistic," is available at Amazon.com and CandidCamera.com.Copyright2020 Peter Funt. Columns distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate.