Fussy columnists at The New York Times are already trying to stack the debates for Joe Biden, claiming that because he's chosen not to do any campaigning, that's somehow putting President Trump at an unfair advantage. Thomas Friedman's column carried the headline "Biden Should Not Debate Trump Unless… Here are two conditions the Democrat should set."
I worry about Joe Biden debating Donald Trump. He should do it only under two conditions. Otherwise, he’s giving Trump unfair advantages.
First, Biden should declare that he will take part in a debate only if Trump releases his tax returns for 2016 through 2018. Biden has already done so, and they are on his website. Trump must, too. No more gifting Trump something he can attack while hiding his own questionable finances.
And second, Biden should insist that a real-time fact-checking team approved by both candidates be hired by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates — and that 10 minutes before the scheduled conclusion of the debate this team report on any misleading statements, phony numbers or outright lies either candidate had uttered. That way no one in that massive television audience can go away easily misled.
Debates always have ground rules. Why can’t telling the truth and equal transparency on taxes be conditions for this one?
The Times has been obsessed with Trump's taxes as some sort of Silver Bullet to Ruin Trump from the last weeks of the 2016 campaign. As for fact-checkers, it's tremendously unlikely that Trump and Biden could agreed on a nonpartisan "real-time fact-checking team," since most professional "fact check" squads are transparently liberal and anti-Trump.
Friedman uncorked conspiracy theories about the undisclosed tax returns, that "may be related to Trump’s incomprehensible willingness to give Russian President Vladimir Putin the benefit of every doubt for the last three-plus years."
Would a nonpartisan fact checker suggest Trump's Russia policy has been far softer than Barack Obama's?
Reality check: Obama let Putin just take over Crimea. He did nothing. And then Friedman came rushing to Obama's defense: "If Obama has been a reluctant warrior in Crimea, it’s because it’s long been part of Russia and home to a Russian naval base, with many of its people sympathetic to Russia."
The last person Trump should want moderating the debate is a partisan like Thomas Friedman....or the last person setting the terms of the debate. Friedman closed as he began:
Only if leading into the debate, American voters have a clear picture of Trump’s tax returns alongside Biden’s, and only if, coming out of the debate, they have a clear picture of who was telling the truth and who was not, will they be able to make a fair judgment between the two candidates.
That kind of debate and only that kind of debate would be worthy of voters’ consideration and Biden’s participation.
Otherwise, Joe, stay in your basement.