House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave some unprompted remarks during her weekly Thursday news conference suggesting that Joe Biden should skip all the scheduled debates with President Trump, saying that any event where Trump is included will be "an exercise in skulduggery."
Pelosi was asked a question by a reporter about whether she believed in-person campaigning ought to occur during this election season, given the pandemic, to which she responded "no." She said as much as she missed interacting with constituents herself, she was heeding the advice of experts and avoiding creating reasons for people to congregate.
Then, as the Chronicle reports, she proceeded unprompted to turn to the topic of the upcoming debates.
"I don't think there should be any debates," Pelosi said. "I do not think that the president of the United States has comported himself in a way that anybody has any association with truth, evidence, data and facts." She added, "I wouldn’t legitimize a conversation with him nor a debate in terms of the presidency of the United States."
She further recalled how the president acted during at least one debate in 2016, skulking around behind Hillary Clinton while she was speaking and seeming to try to physically intimidate her, calling it "disgraceful."
"I think that he’ll probably act in a way that is beneath the dignity of the presidency," Pelosi said — and no doubt she's correct! "He does that every day," she added. "But I think he will also belittle what the debates are supposed to be about."
She suggested instead that Trump and Biden separately answer questions on live video instead.
The Hill has video of Pelosi's remarks, which may or may not cause a stir — though they will likely lead to a few tweets from you know who. The remarks come less than a day after Trump turned to an old tactic from 2016, challenging Biden to take a drug test before each debate and insinuating that his performance has somehow mysteriously improved by some artificial means. He suggested something similar about Clinton four years ago, though he may not even remember that he's used this page in the playbook already.
A number of opinion pieces have come out in the last month discussing the usefulness of debates, and Democrats have generally expressed nervousness about how Trump will abuse the debate format to make Biden look bad at all costs. But some, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, have supported allowing the debates to move forward as usual.
"We’ve had presidential debates for a long time now, and it’s been a way for a lot of people around the nation to be able to see the candidates in action," Warren said several weeks ago, when she was still in the running to be VP. "I know that Joe Biden will show who he is, a man of both empathy and competence, and I’d like the American people to have a chance to see that."
The Biden campaign has thus far dismissed any notion of skipping the debates, and in response to Trump's calls for drug tests yesterday, campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates said, "We know it’s unbelievable to Donald Trump, but Joe Biden can speak honestly without a shot of truth serum. We’d like to see Trump do the same."