The Republican Party may bar GOP candidates from participating in debates hosted by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD). A proposal to require candidates to refuse participation in the commission’s debates will be voted on at the RNC winter meeting in February.
If adopted the proposal would, I assume, put the CPD out of the presidential debate-running business. Presumably, the debate rules would be established, and the moderators (if any) selected, via direct negotiations between the two candidates and their representatives.
The resolution to cut the CPD out stems from radical dissatisfaction with the 2020 debates and, in particular, the abominable anti-Trump performance of Chris Wallace. Candy Crowley’s performance on behalf of Barack Obama in 2012 might also have something to do with it.
The resolution has the backing of RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. She stated:
So long as the CPD appears intent on stonewalling the meaningful reforms necessary to restore its credibility with the Republican Party as a fair and nonpartisan actor, the RNC will take every step to ensure that future Republican presidential nominees are given that opportunity elsewhere.
McDaniel itemized the RNC’s grievances and concerns. They reportedly included:
Waiting until after early voting had already begun to host the first presidential debate;
Making unilateral changes to previously agreed-upon debate formats and conditions, in some cases without even notifying the candidates;
Selecting a moderator who had once worked for the Democrat nominee, a glaring conflict of interest; and
Failing to maintain the organization’s strict nonpartisanship, with a majority of its Board Members publicly disparaging the Republican nominee.
McDaniel called for the following reforms:
Enact a code of conduct prohibiting CPD officers, directors, and staff from making public comments supporting or opposing any candidate, or otherwise engaging in partisan political activity in connection with the presidential election, with meaningful consequences for violations;
Establish transparent criteria for selecting debate moderators that would disqualify individuals from consideration who have apparent conflicts of interest due to personal, professional, or partisan factors; and
Enact a transparent code of conduct for moderators in conducting debates, including guidelines for appropriate interactions with the participating nominees, with meaningful penalties for violations.
These are all good ideas, but transparency criteria and codes aren’t fool, or operative, proof. A better idea would be to forget about the CPD altogether.
Even if the result turned out to be no debates (which is unlikely), that would be a better outcome for Republicans than debates moderated by Chris Wallace, Candy Crowley, and several others who have emerged from the CPD process.