Latest News 16-05-2024 13:02 8 Views

Morning Glory: Trump sees Biden debate bid and raises it

First the good news: The Commission on Presidential Debates is dead, dead, dead. It ran a game rigged for Democrats for many cycles and deserved to die long ago. It is done for now. Good. 

More good news: President Joe Biden issued a two-debate challenge Wednesday to former President Donald Trump which Trump instantly accepted via Truth Social. The former president immediately elaborated on his acceptance in a previously scheduled interview with me Wednesday morning. (The complete audio and transcript of the wide-ranging conversation is here.)

On the first subject of accepting the Biden invitation, the key exchange with me is:

DJT: I think we should go two hours, yeah. I think we should go two.

HH: Okay.

DJT: And a stand-up podium is important. If he wants to sit down, you know, he wants to do things like he wants to sit down, I think a debate should be standing up. Don’t you agree with that?

HH: Well, I’ve done them both ways. The best debate in modern history was Lieberman and Cheney when they were sitting down, but that was a good moderator, and it went a long time, and I don’t think you’re going to find a good moderator very easily. I really don’t. I think you should have a liberal…

DJT: Did you think my debates with Hillary were better? Didn’t you think my debates with Hillary were…

HH: Yes, I did. Yes, I did, and I…I don’t want Chris Wallace. I don’t want Candy Crowley. I want someone who’s fair, Mr. President. I just don’t want…

DJT: But let me ask you this. I’d like that, too, but I’d be willing to take anybody. You know, what difference does it make? I’d be willing to take anybody. But you know, the Commission got caught cheating with me. You know that?

Also, of great interest for those following the campaign was this exchange:

HH: You know, when you ran in 2016, you surprised me. You surprised everyone when you won. I think one of the keys was you put out a list of possible Supreme Court justices. Would you consider putting out a list of your national security team possibles – I mean, people like Ric Grenell and Robert O’Brien and Mike Pompeo and John Ratcliffe? I mean, they’re all going to be there somewhere. You don’t have to name where they’re going – Tom Cotton, Michael Waltz…

DJT: Yeah, that’s an interesting, that’s an interesting question. And the answer is yes, I think it’s a great idea. Nobody’s suggested that but you. See, you’re a step above. Nobody has suggested that but you. It’s a very good idea. I will be putting out a Supreme Court list.

HH: Oh, good.

DJT: That’s a very interesting idea. Yeah.

HH: Well, if you just listed a half dozen people, and I know Grenell, and I know O’Brien. These are my friends. And I know Waltz is on your list. And I’ve seen the vice president list. By the way, does Doug Burgum have this locked up?

DJT: No, but he’s very good. I’ll tell you, he’s really good. He’s an expert. You know, he made his money, made a lot of money in technology, and yet he’s, to me, I think he’s more of an expert on energy. He’s an very talented guy. He has a great wife and family.

Read or listen to the whole thing. Trump is energized and raring to go. Of course, President Biden is physically infirm and the video of his 'debate challenge' had eight 'jump cuts' as Fox News media analyst Joe Concha noted. How many 'takes' did that require one wonders? 

Team Biden stipulated that only certain networks could host the debates and that there be no audience. This telegraphs Biden’s frailty and uncertainty. CNN got in the first bid and so it will be put on in June in the CNN Atlanta studios. This guarantees a better bottom line for the network with much lower production costs, but how will their production values and biases be displayed?

Most Republicans believe CNN’s anchors and production staff are left-of-center or way-left-of-center, but I’ve worked with the CNN talent and production teams extensively in 2016 and again in 2023, and they have it within them to do a balanced debate if they let some air in the usually closed rooms. Dana Bash and Jake Tapper are professionals — I moderated four GOP debates with CNN in 2015-16, all with Dana and two with Jake — but there needs to be balance in the debate prep rooms and on stage and I don’t think there is even one pro-Life, pro-originalist person within the organization. There are many, many liberals. It will be very hard for CNN not to reflexively end up favoring Biden, and in a significant way, but especially in the question set. 

Would you consider putting out a list of your national security team possibles – I mean, people like Ric Grenell and Robert O’Brien and Mike Pompeo and John Ratcliffe? I mean, they’re all going to be there somewhere. You don’t have to name where they’re going – Tom Cotton, Michael Waltz…

Trump’s counter for two more debates should be immediately accepted by Biden just as Trump accepted Biden’s challenge. Not to do so will show more weakness from Biden beyond the stringent conditions Team Biden laid out. 

I also noted to Trump that because of the Alvin Bragg prosecution and a wildly partisan judge, Trump 'can’t go out four days a week' to campaign. 

He responded:

DJT: But thank goodness, I can speak to you. Thank goodness, I can speak to you by telephone, unlike Joe Biden. Would he ever take your call? I don’t think so.

HH: No. (laughing) He doesn’t do any interviews. 

DJT: You think he’d, can you imagine him doing an interview like this?

HH: You think Joe Biden could…no. 

DJT: Can you imagine him doing an interview with you like this?

Trump and I spoke for 35 minutes about breaking news — the April inflation number was released just before he came on as well as the debate challenge — and he had no idea where I was going except that I would be bringing up Israel’s war in Gaza as I had in our last interview. All told, I asked him more than 30 questions or made statements eliciting a response in just over a half hour. It was fast-paced. He wasn’t fazed by anything. Can you imagine Joe Biden doing anything remotely like that?

Notice the ease with which President Trump changes direction, answers questions, makes his points and is ready to move on. Save for the interview with Howard Stern, President Biden hasn’t done a 35-minute interview with anyone in at least a year. He declined the softball Super Bowl interview. I believe his CNN interview was 14 minutes. His Yahoo interview Tuesday was much shorter. His speeches are a mess. The Teleprompter is Biden’s mortal enemy. He’s fixed a lie in his head — that inflation was 9% when he was sworn in, when it really was 1.4% — and repeats it endlessly. Every appearance brings a new faceplant. 

Biden should agree to all four debates and would if he had a prayer of getting through them. And he should not tremble at the fear of them. If he does, what do you think Xi, Putin and Khamenei think of Biden!

Team Biden doesn’t want fair and balanced; it wants a big home field advantage and Biden’s campaign team is counting on CNN and another big broadcast network to shape the questions to fit the left’s narrative and not tax the president with hard questions. 

What Trump displayed to me, and with his see-and-raise, is the supreme confidence of someone who feels momentum. Biden even proposing debates signaled alarm within the White House, an alarm more than justified by recent poll results. 

One more pull from my interview:

HH: Do you think if [President Biden’s] infirmity increases, they will dump him, Mr. President, at the convention, replace him with Kamala or Gavin or someone like that?

DJT: I do. I do.

So perhaps the June debate is a test the Democrats want to see? Can the president limp through a climate-controlled home field advantage debate with the former president? 

If he can’t, start looking for the hook. 

Democrats aren’t leaving the levers of power willingly and if a fading Biden can’t keep the party competitive, mutiny may be in the offing. 

Hugh Hewitt is host of 'The Hugh Hewitt Show,' heard weekday mornings 6am to 9am ET on the Salem Radio Network, and simulcast on Salem News Channel. Hugh wakes up America on over 400 affiliates nationwide, and on all the streaming platforms where SNC can be seen. He is a frequent guest on the Fox News Channel’s news roundtable hosted by Brett Baier weekdays at 6pm ET. A son of Ohio and a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Michigan Law School, Hewitt has been a Professor of Law at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law since 1996 where he teaches Constitutional Law. Hewitt launched his eponymous radio show from Los Angeles in 1990.  Hewitt has frequently appeared on every major national news television network, hosted television shows for PBS and MSNBC, written for every major American paper, has authored a dozen books and moderated a score of Republican candidate debates, most recently the November 2023 Republican presidential debate in Miami and four Republican presidential debates in the 2015-16 cycle. Hewitt focuses his radio show and his column on the Constitution, national security, American politics and the Cleveland Browns and Guardians. Hewitt has interviewed tens of thousands of guests from Democrats Hillary Clinton and John Kerry to Republican Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump over his 40 years in broadcast, and this column previews the lead story that will drive his radio/ TV show today.


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