My colleague Bonchie reported last night on how Bret Baier’s interview with Joe Biden campaign press secretary T.J. Ducklo went off the rails fast Thursday after Ducklo repeatedly refused to answer the Fox News host’s questions and laughably accused Baier of being a surrogate for President Trump’s reelection campaign.
For those who missed it, Curtis Houck from Newsbusters put together a short montage of clips:
Video: Here's just a sample of the back-and-forth between Fox News Channel's @BretBaier and TJ Ducklo from the Biden campaign. Baier repeatedly asked the simple question of what Biden would have done differently on COVID, and Ducklo accuses him of being a Trump campaign stooge pic.twitter.com/kQw9PZJAUk
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) September 10, 2020
Watching this interview and others Biden’s handlers have done in recent weeks, including one Biden senior advisor Symone Sanders did Sunday with Baier, got me to wondering that if the people closest to him are showing up so ill-prepared to handle questions by interviewers they clearly deem adversarial, what does this say about Joe Biden’s debate prep?
Over the last several months, Biden has had a really tough time being able to handle even basic questions without the assistance of a teleprompter or an aide nearby cutting the basement feed short when things get embarrassing. When he does appear in public, the events are heavily staged, with Biden reading off a script before campaign staff quickly whisk him away from reporters in an effort to avoid gaffes or flubs.
Remember this, too: Before he became the nominee, Biden did not have a single standout performance during any of the numerous Democratic presidential primary debates. Some debates, like the first one in June 2019 where his eventual vice presidential running mate Sen. Kamala Harris clocked him, he clearly lost. At other debates, Biden was viewed as merely “surviving” them, which is what political pundits and commentators proclaimed at the time was “all” Biden needed to do.
General election presidential debates, however, are much different and much more high-profile than primary debates. The stakes are much, much higher. More people are watching to see if you sweat, to see if you make a big mistake, to see if you stumble over your own words. How do you interact with the moderator(s) and your opponent?
Like it or not, most people watch debates not to see civility and grace between the participants, but to see who will survive what oftentimes ends up being the debate equivalent of a bar fight.
Trump has had a lot more practice battling the media and his political opponents over the last several months than Biden has. Trump has shown up in person for interviews and press conferences with media figures he views as “the enemy” or at the very least hostile. On the other hand, Biden and his staff have run a very sheltered campaign since the pandemic started, sequestering him in his basement as often as possible, with him making occasional public appearances that often coincide with criticism from Trump that Biden is physically and mentally unfit to the lead the country as president.
Between Biden’s handlers treating interviews with news networks they don’t like as something they just have to “get through” with no prep work, Biden getting softball questions from other reporters, and with him still struggling through public campaign appearances to the point he openly calls for help from his aides, you have to think that with only a little over two weeks left before the first debate, it’s obvious neither he nor his campaign are prepared for what’s coming. Whatever debate prep that has been done hasn’t helped.
The Democratic presidential nominee is left with two choices at this point: Bow to demands from some on the left to skip out on the debates or show up and endure the embarrassment.
Biden said at a recent campaign event that he’s “looking forward to getting on the debate stage with Trump and holding him accountable. I think I know how to handle bullies — we’ll find out.”