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Wed Apr 17, 2024, 11:21 PM Apr 17

David Frum, The Atlantic: Why Biden should NOT debate Trump. [View all]

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Why Biden Should Not Debate Trump
The networks want their show, but to give the challenger equal status on a TV stage would be a dire normalization of his attempted coup.
By David Frum

The role of the television networks here is, unfortunately, not an innocent one. “The stakes of the election are high” is a commencement-address way of phrasing the thought: We are anticipating huge ratings. Trump is box office; everybody knows that—and box office translates into revenues at a time when television is losing them. For TV executives to convince themselves that what is good for their own bottom line is good for the country seems very easy. But good for the country is radically not the case here.

Imagine watching the debate with the sound off—what would you see? Two men, both identified as “president,” standing side by side, receiving equal deference from some of the most famous hosts and anchors on American television. The message: Violence to overthrow an election is not such a big deal. Some Americans disapprove of it; others have different opinions—that’s why we have debates. Coup d’état: tip of the hat? Or wag of the finger?

For Biden to refuse to rub elbows with Trump won’t make Trump go away, of course. The Confederacy did not go away when Abraham Lincoln refused to concede the title of president to Jefferson Davis. That’s not why Lincoln consistently denied Davis that title. Lincoln understood how demoralizing it would be to Union-loyal Americans if he accepted the claim that Davis was a president rather than a rebel and an insurrectionist. Biden should understand how demoralizing it would be to democracy-loyal Americans if he accepted the claim that Trump is more than a January 6 defendant.
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