Biden vs. Trump debates have the right balance

The last time the Democrats and the Republicans held a White House rematch with the same two contenders was 1956, when Ike beat Adlai Stevenson for the second straight time. Earlier, there were redos with William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan (McKinley won both in 1896 and 1900) and Grover Cleveland vs. Benjamin Harrison (in 1888, Harrison defeated the incumbent Cleveland, who then staged a comeback victory in 1892).

In the pre-Civil War days, before the GOP existed, when there were Whigs and such, Martin Van Buren beat William Henry Harrison in 1836 and lost to him four years later. The same for John Quincy Adams besting Andrew Jackson in 1824 and falling to Jackson in 1828 and way back in the beginning, John Adams was victorious over Thomas Jefferson in 1796 and was ousted by Jefferson in 1800.

All the losers accepted the outcomes (although Jackson’s bitter 1824 defeat in the House of Representatives was known as the “corrupt bargain”) and such good sportsmanship is something we can’t count on this year from one of the candidates. Something else that all these prior repeats shared was that none of the competitors ever face off against each other on stage, as presidential debates only started in 1960.

That also will change on June 27, when Joe Biden and Donald Trump, a pair of presidents, current and former, have a one-on-one on CNN, with a second debate, on ABC, on Sept. 10, the day after Labor Day. There are many good things here in this arrangement, which was sealed yesterday via social media (Twitter/X for Biden and Truth Social for Trump).

Even though neither man is formally yet their party’s nominees (the Republicans gather in Milwaukee for their convention in mid-July, while Chicago welcomes the Democrats five weeks later) this election has been well underway since Trump closed down Nikki Haley’s challenge in March, so there is no reason to wait until the fall.

The Commission on Presidential Debates, created by the two parties, and which has run the debates since 1988, is being boycotted by both campaigns. Just as well, as the commission’s debates were to be on Sept. 16, Oct. 1 and Oct. 9. That calendar just doesn’t work with early voting starting on Sept. 20 in Minnesota, South Dakota and Virginia.

Besides having the debates before balloting starts, we also like they are keeping out spoilers like Bobby Kennedy Jr., who cannot win. We were likewise pleased when Ross Perot was excluded from the debates in 1996.

It’s also helpful that there will be no audience to applaud and boo. Let the contenders duke it out sans cheering sections.

Biden only wants two debates, Trump wants more. We wouldn’t be opposed to a third, as two or three have been the norm since debates became a regular feature starting in 1976. They did debate twice four years ago, so that’s four in total. And Americans might get sick of these guys.

To their credit, ABC will let others carry their broadcast so it can be seen by the whole country. CNN should as well. It’s their debate, but CNN should let everyone, even those without cable, watch.

This editorial first appeared in the New York Daily News. This commentary should be considered another point of view and not necessarily the opinion or editorial policy of The Dominion Post.