The CPD announced Monday that US President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden would have their microphones turned off during their final debate on Thursday while the other candidate is speaking.
Each candidate will be given two uninterrupted minutes at the beginning of each topic to give their answer to the question before the other candidate’s microphone is unmuted to allow a back-and-forth exchange between them. The commission’s rules have always provided for this, but only in this election cycle have the candidates decided to totally ignore those rules.
The first and only debate thus far between the two nominees was not well received by viewers, many of whom slammed moderator Chris Wallace’s inability to keep the September 29 event on track.
While the upcoming debate was meant to be the third in the series, the tentative match-up is set to be the second and final time voters will see the two presidential hopefuls argue for their platforms before the November 3 election.
Trump and his campaign have been on the offensive in regard to the CPD’s handling of the debates. The US president refused to participate in a virtual debate on October 15 and even suggested that he and Biden organize debates without the nonprofit corporation, which receives funding from Democrats and Republicans.
The US president’s vocal opposition to the CPD may ultimately result in another cancellation. However, his campaign said on Monday evening that regardless of the last-minute rule changes, Trump was committed to debating Biden again before the election.
“As is the long-standing custom, and as has been promised by the Commission on Presidential Debates, we had expected that foreign policy would be the central focus of the October 22 debate. We urge you to recalibrate the topics and return to subjects which had already been confirmed,” said Trump 2020 Campaign Manager Bill Stepien in a letter penned to the commission.
He went on to claim the CPD lacks objectivity and has been engaging in “pro-Biden antics.”
Responding to what were then reports about the microphone change, Stepien argued “it is completely unacceptable for anyone to wield such power.”
Tom Switzer, executive director of the Centre for Independent Studies and a columnist at the Sydney Morning Herald, says that the controversy about the US Commission on Presidential Debates is "hardly surprising".
"It announced that the second debate would be virtual before either the Democratic or Republican Party was even consulted. Although it’s widely believed the Commission consists of both Democrats and Republicans, it’s understood none of the members is a Trump supporter. Meanwhile, the debate hosts in recent years appear to discriminate against Trump. No wonder doubts are growing that the Commission is part and parcel of the Washington establishment class", Switzer says.
According to Paolo Raffone, a strategic analyst and director of the CIPI Foundation in Brussels, these new rules "reinforce the privatization of the electoral campaign".
"In fact, each 2 minute statement will be tailored for the support/opposition by each respective campaign on all media, especially social media, out of the broadcasting set. More than the quality/capacity of the candidate, this arrangement allows for the real communication force of the capital supporting each candidate to grab voters and votes. Media outlets are dependent on financial powers that can influence their editorial line and allow the most efficient use of big data", Raffone says.
Therefore, he believes, the success of each candidate will depend on the support they can get from "the financial mandarins".
"The traditional Wall Street people (and traditional media) seem to be supporting Biden. If Trump’s supporters among the big-tech and social media moguls prevail, he may have a chance to gain points. So, the presidential 'debate' will highlight the confrontation between the two financial camps: the more regulated Wall Street against the less regulated global finance of funds, big tech and social media. Old globalization (open) against New globalization (closed). In this game, also the finance dependent big pharma can play a substantial role due to the sanitary emergency and the closely related vaccine war. This may explain Trump’s strategy to play down the traditional big pharma but favoring smaller and less regulated pharma innovative riders", he says.
Meanwhile, Biden's press secretary TJ Ducklo retorted saying that "the campaigns and the Commission agreed months ago that the debate moderator would choose the topics”.
“The Trump campaign is lying about that now because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous COVID response. As usual, the president is more concerned with the rules of a debate than he is getting a nation in crisis the help it needs."
The final, 90-minute debate will be split into six 15-minute segments.