We are still more than a month away from the first real presidential debate. That is opposed to the 622 or so preliminary skirmishes in the nominating processes. The site will be Hofstra University on Long Island.
On top of the usual pre-debate arguments about who will moderate, whether the candidates will stand or sit, blah blah, heavier questions hang. When the schedule was announced, the Trump camp objected to the dates, pointing out that two of the three conflicted with national telecasts of NFL games. The “they want to hide Hillary” talk led to a spate of stories, apparently made up out of whole cloth, about how he might skip the debates.
Superstar blogger Ann Althouse recently speculated that Clinton, with health problems the mainstream media go to great lengths to never mention, might be the one who backs out. Ms. Althouse:
“If Hillary can maintain her lead in the polls, why would she want to subject herself to the kind of treatment we’ve seen Trump deliver in debates? … If she’s on a clear path to victory, what would he do to her when he’s got nothing left to lose? She might think that just standing there solidly allowing him to be offensive in her presence would make a powerful implicit argument in her favor … But it’s still risky. There are now attacks on her physical and neurological fitness, and any flubbing of lines or seeming shakiness will be used against her.”
Ms. Althouse, a law professor, speculates about how some Clinton political strategists might be proactive:
“She would have to handle the bowing out carefully. Get proxies to float the idea. Smoke out the arguments against it, see who picks up the idea and expands upon it. Choose some things Trump says and act like these things are the last straw making it inappropriate for her to stand beside him on the stage. He’s the one that essentially forfeited the debate. And so on.”
Her conclusion: “Whatever hits she may take for bowing out, they’re a known risk, and they pale in comparison to the unknowns of the debate. She might make blunders. She might falter in her stamina. Trump may get off some brilliant hits that leave her reeling. Her verbose, flat, evasive style of speech might seem especially awful next to the pithy, entertaining Trump. His presence on the stage with her may catapult him into a newly presidential appearance. And how can she prepare? He likes to surprise. He might take any number of approaches, while she has only her usual, boring presentation. People may think: Is that what we want to look at and listen to for the next 4 years? Why give Trump that opening?”
If Hillary calls in sick, she will enjoy the full-throated approval of most of media outlets, which will stand on their heads to somehow call the idea of presidential debates un-American. But a question will linger: If she can’t stand down a real estate developer, how will she fare against Vladimir Putin?
I hate debates, but if this one comes off as scheduled, from 9 to 10:30 p.m. Eastern, the Falcons and Saints won’t keep me from watching.