In the early morning hours of Thursday, October 8, the Commission on Presidential Debates said that the next presidential debate, which is supposed to happen on Thursday, October 15, will be done remotely, with the presidential candidates in two separate elections. Many American parents, who have been stuck at home doing Zoom meetings and working from the kitchen table, can relate to the change in plans. The second debate, which was supposed to be in a “town hall” format, with candidates taking questions from an audience, will now be done with the candidates virtually — that is, if Trump changes his mind and agrees to the new format.
Very shortly after the news broke that the commission decided to change the debate from in-person to virtual and remote, Trump went on his favorite news network, Fox News, and said he wouldn’t be attending the debate. “I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate, that’s not what debating is all about,” Trump said to Maria Bartiromo, a Fox Business anchor. “You sit behind a computer and do a debate. That’s ridiculous,” he said.
Such a statement is an insult to millions of American families who have been forced to do just that — and another sign that Trump isn’t taking his COVID-19 diagnosis as seriously as he should. After all, the format was changed due in part to the COVID-19 outbreak that is sweeping the White House after the Republican party held a nomination ceremony to potential Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, flouting social distancing rules and even congregating inside without masks on. That event led to dozens of cases of COVID-19, including the President and the First Lady, Melania Trump, and led to Mr. Trump being briefly hospitalized.
Instead of staying in the hospital, however, Trump had his Secret Service put themselves at risk of getting sick by making them drive him around the hospital and then discharged from the hospital to go to the White House, where he regularly comes into contact with staffers who could also get sick. Several people who work at the White House in custodial work have also come down with the illness.
Add this to the fact that Trump wants to return working in the Oval Office and have his staffers come in and speak to him in person in Hazmat suits. It looks like no one in the White House is going to stop him from doing so. And it also sure looks like Trump has no regard for the safety of the people around him — not the people who work for him, not his staffers, not other candidates.
Plus, it’s not even the first time a debate was done remotely. The first televised debate ever was done with Presidential Candidate Nixon and future President John F. Kennedy in two separate locations. It’s certainly not impossible, it’s the safest possible option for a President who could still be contagious with COVID-19, and it reflects the real experience of most working parents. Many working parents have had to be on Zoom for ninety minutes, often several times a week. Why shouldn’t the President have to do the same thing?