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Why Did Pelosi Suggest Biden Not Debate?

Pelosi fired a shot at the scheduled Biden-Trump debates when she said that she thinks Biden shouldn’t debate Trump because of Trump’s “skulduggery”. She’s accusing Trump of using tricks. He’s unscrupulous, she claims.

Biden’s camp immediately affirmed that Biden would debate, but Pelosi already accomplished her political aim.

Debates are important poll-movers. They shift votes dramatically. In criticizing the debates beforehand by criticizing Trump’s tactics, Pelosi hopes to reduce the importance of the debates. She suggests that Trump will debate unfairly and that he’ll lie. She hopes to reduce the prospective damage of a poor Biden performance by blaming Trump before either man says a word. Now, if Biden does debate and does do badly, she and her chorus can repeat the refrain: It wasn’t Joe’s fault, it was Trump’s tricks and lies.

Biden may yet pull out. His affirmation that he’d debate was not that strong. However, pulling out is a sign of weakness on his part. He’d be seen as unfit to debate, weak and cowardly. Biden almost surely cannot back out of the debates. Backing out is backing down. It’ll cost him a lot of votes. Besides, expectations about Biden are so low that if he merely can stand up for an hour or so and emit some well-rehearsed phrases, he’ll be praised as of sound mind and body. Odds are that Biden will debate Trump as agreed.

However, what if his side makes out like Trump is some kind of Stalinist monster, unworthy of debate, a man who doesn’t respect the democratic (small “d”) ways and customs? One doesn’t debate with enemies of the state, and that’s what Pelosi has already accused Trump of being. She has said that Trump shouldn’t be legitimized by debating him, because he’s an enemy of the state.

So now Pelosi is leading a two-pronged attack on Trump and the import of the debates. Trump’s both unscrupulous and an enemy of the state. He’s a liar. He doesn’t preside, Putin does. He doesn’t protect Americans, he kills 170,000 of them.

Now if Biden debates and does badly, Trump can be blamed for lying and misleading, for behaving unfairly, for lacking scruples and for adopting debating points made in Russia.

Will Biden debate or pull out? Pelosi designed her attacks and statements such that Biden need not pull out, so that Trump could be blamed if Biden performs poorly. If Biden does okay, Pelosi will say that it was despite Trump’s underhanded debate statements.

There does not at this time appear to be a Democratic aim not to debate, even on Pelosi’s account. To pull out offers Trump tremendous ammunition against Biden, and she knows it. Her statement’s aim was to propagate negative images of Trump. At the same time, she aimed to reduce the fallout from a poor Biden performance, should it occur.

If information were perfect in the minds of voters, lies like Pelosi’s would have no impact. They’d be known to be lies, and she couldn’t utter them without hurting herself. Everyone would know that Putin doesn’t rule Trump and that Trump didn’t kill 170,000 Americans. Voting depends greatly on information, and it’s imperfect.

If every voter knew what Kamala Harris thinks and says about nationwide protests, especially just before the 6-minute mark when she says that they should keep on going before and after the election, would the Biden-Harris ticket stand a chance in November?

Debates provide imperfect information about the two candidates, but they are what we have to show their capacities and beliefs in a somewhat spontaneous way, as long as one candidate is not being fed the questions beforehand as was Hillary Clinton the last time around, and as long as third party commentators do not grab a portion of the screen to make their comments while the debate is going on, or afterward immediately monopolize the airwaves and spin fairy tales about what the candidates have said.

If Pelosi were serious in what she said and not playing a political card, we’d have to say that she favors not informing the public, that is, she’d rather the public not see the imperfect information that debates provide. She’d prefer they see no debates at all. But how can such a strong proponent of democratic procedures and democracy favor a non-informed public? How can she favor removing one of the public’s key sources of information, albeit imperfect? What sort of democrat (small “d”) is she really? If we took her seriously, we’d have to say that she’s afraid of the public’s seeing Joe Biden out of his basement and unprotected on a debating stage. We’d have to say that she doesn’t believe in her candidate’s powers of debate. Biden himself replied to that angle, saying that he’d be the Trump fact-checker on the spot. If we take Pelosi at her word, she’s saying that the public hasn’t the mental capacity to see that Biden’s better than Trump, but she does. Pelosi insults American voters.

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11:00 am on August 29, 2020