Republicans show some backbone on the presidential debates

For a so-called loser who's out of power and supposedly irrelevant, President Trump sure does seem to be triggering changes among the jellyfish who otherwise make up the Republican Party leadership.

It's not just that candidates who imitate President Trump's agenda are doing well in elections, as did Glenn Youngkin in Virginia's governor's race, or those who yell about Trump are washing out.  (Memo to Liz).

It's not just that all of a sudden, congressional representatives and senators are deciding to stay in the House and Senate, as did Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who had been talking up retirement for years.

We're now seeing a Trump-like fighting spirit coming from the Republican National Committee, which put out this decision, as reported by Maggie Haberman of the New York Times:

The Republican National Committee is preparing to change its rules to require presidential candidates seeking the party's nomination to sign a pledge to not participate in any debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Republican committee officials alerted the debate commission to their plans in a letter sent on Thursday, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times. If the change goes forward, it would be one of the most substantial shifts in how presidential and vice-presidential debates have been conducted since the commission began organizing debates more than 30 years ago.

The nonprofit commission, founded by the two parties in 1987 to codify the debates as a permanent part of presidential elections, describes itself as nonpartisan. But Republicans have complained for nearly a decade that its processes favor the Democrats, mirroring increasing rancor from conservatives toward Washington-based institutions.

Ever since swamp-thing moderator Candy Crowley "fact-checked" then–GOP candidate Mitt Romney on the debate floor — and was wrong in her fact-check, no less — the presidential debates have stunk.

Remember this travesty?

By now you know what happened: Obama said he'd called the Benghazi attacks an act of terror the day after they occurred. Romney, seeing an opening, said in fact it had taken him 14 days to do so. Crowley intervened to correct Romney. "He did call it an act of terror," she said.

Set aside for a moment the argument, pushed by some on the right, that Obama might not have been referring to Libya when he used the phrase "act of terror" at a Rose Garden event aimed at responding to those attacks. What really seems to have rankled the right is the fact that Crowley dared to weigh in at all, and that by doing so, she single-handedly defused what had been anticipated as a potent line of attack for Romney.

Then Crowley admitted she was wrong:

The moderator in Tuesday night's presidential debate, after appearing to side with President Obama on the question of whether he called the Libya strike a terror attack from the start, conceded afterward that Mitt Romney was "right" on the broader point — that the administration for days insisted it was a spontaneous act.

"He was right in the main. I just think he picked the wrong word," Candy Crowley said of Romney on CNN shortly after the debate ended.

Crowley was referring to the tense exchange in the final half-hour of the debate, when Romney questioned whether Obama had called the attack an "act of terror" rather than "spontaneous" violence that grew out of a protest against an anti-Islam video.

But the moment had passed.  The Democrat won the debate.  It's always easy to make the correction after the fact — and bury it in the back pages.

Worse still, the leftist media defended these moderators' insertions into the debates.  Look at these comments from "experts" cited by MSNBC:

In essence, conservatives are opposing the very notion that the media should play a fact-checking role. The only conclusion is that they'd prefer to see a world in which candidates and parties get to make whatever claims they want, while journalists merely transcribe them, leaving voters to sort out for themselves which are true. Call it a free market of political attacks.

Geneva Overholser, the director of USC's Annenberg School of Journalism, said that approach doesn't serve the public. "It's the journalist's role to help the consumers of news know what the truth is," she said.

Jay Rosen, a professor of journalism at NYU, agrees. In a long recent post on the press's fact-checking role, Rosen urged journalists to "fight for what is true," rather than critiquing politics as a game.

Crap like this has infuriated Republicans for nearly a decade because none of these people is fit to fact-check anything a candidate may say.  Worse still, up until now, nothing has been done about it.

The bias, like some unchecked virus, took on many, many forms and variations.  Aside from the bias of moderators over the years — why the heck were they all known leftists? — there also was the bias of omission.

Remember this outrage?

Out of a concern for safety, a virtual debate was set for the candidates on Oct. 15. However, President Trump withdrew from the event — one that Stepien says the commission scheduled without consulting their campaign. Instead, both Biden and the President held televised town halls Thursday night.

The next day, Moderator Kristen Welker of NBC released the six topics for the Belmont debate: "Fighting COVID-19," "American Families," "Race in America," "Climate Change," "National Security," and "Leadership."

The commission had promised that the Oct. 22 presidential debate would be on foreign policy and then reneged on that promise because Trump's record was so stellar — and Biden's record was so execrable.  They were busy helping Joe even as they put on a neutral face in the form of Kristin Welker.

Might a foreign policy debate around the issue of, say, Afghanistan, have been useful to the voters right about that time?  The voters didn't get it, because the press was busy covering for Biden.

Trump's campaign manager could see what they were doing with this morally flexible decision-making regarding their own promise for a foreign policy focus on the debate and sent this letter:

Nothing, again, was done.

This commission, loaded as it was with rabid NeverTrumps who claimed to be Republicans, as well as standard leftists, were all masters of rigging.  The so-called Republicans on it worked against their own party candidate's interests.

As President Trump rightly put it, these biased debate moderators, who simply never cleaned up their act since the Romney fiasco, made the debates "two on one."

Now things have changed.  Suddenly, the debate commission is facing its own irrelevance.  The commission is supposed to be fair and impartial, but all of its mistakes go only one way, and these mistakes morph into so many different directions.  Republicans should be free to pick a good moderator such as Tucker Carlson, and Democrats should be free to pick a left-wing crazy.

Why should any Republican participate in this kind of farce otherwise?  Left-winger after left-winger keeps showing up at these debates in the moderator's chair.  If this commission can't be neutral and fair, the way real moderators are, then they've got to go.  Let Democrats talk to their hands.

Someone put his foot down over at the RNC and that's good news for Republicans.  Seems they like the Trump-like idea of winning now. 

Image: Screen shot from MSNBC video via YouTube.

If you experience technical problems, please write to