US President Donald Trump is supposedly feeling fine after testing positive for COVID-19 last week, but the Commission on Presidential Debates isn’t taking any chances and decided to go virtual for the next presidential face-off on 15th October. But Trump says that would be a “waste of time,” according to an interview with Fox Business's Maria Bartiromo, where the president refused to participate in the virtual town hall-style debate in lieu of an in-person one.
"The commission changed the debate style and that's not acceptable to us," Trump said on Thursday morning. "I beat [Joe Biden] in the first debate, I beat him easily." The president went on to claim that the Commission’s decision to change the debate format was made in an effort to “protect Biden,” and added that the former vice president would lose in another debate. But there won’t be another debate, according to Trump, who told Bartiromo, "I am not going to do a virtual debate. I am not going to waste my time on a virtual debate." Confused? Us too.
It's obvious why members of the debate commission deemed the change necessary following the president’s coronavirus diagnosis — they said their decision was “supported by the Cleveland Clinic,” which serves in an advisory role to the commission. President Trump tested positive for COVID-19 on October 2 and spent three nights over the weekend at Walter Reed National Medical Center.
Conflicting information continued coming out about his health from his personal doctor, Sean Conley, and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. While Conley told the public the president was doing well, Meadows painted a more grim picture of the situation, stating that at one point over the weekend, Trump’s vitals “were very concerning.”
Meanwhile, the president downplayed COVID-19 over Twitter and made it sound like he was the healthiest person on the planet after receiving an “antibody cocktail” — including steroids that would make anyone feel great — as part of his treatment. The contradictory reports about the president’s health, and the fact that coronavirus patients have reported a “second-week crash,” mean a virtual event is the safest way to move forward with a debate.
But the Trump campaign doesn’t see it that way. The president’s campaign manager Bill Stepien, who also tested positive for the virus, told Fox Business they would “pass on this sad excuse to bail out Joe Biden and do a rally instead.” A rally isn’t exactly the best idea, as nearly a dozen GOP officials have tested positive for the virus in the last week, some of which can be traced back to a “superspreader” event held at the Rose Garden.
Perhaps the best reason to hold a virtual presidential debate is the mute function that might actually force Trump to shut up for once. Unfortunately, no one can mute the president from a live rally, and no one can force him to debate, either, though perhaps avoiding another 90-minute segment where he shouts lies at Biden's face is in everyone's best interest.