CNBC will host the next Republican presidential debate and several candidates’ campaigns are unhappy with the rules they’ve put out — perhaps none more so than Donald Trump. Put simply, there will be no time limit on this debate, and there will be no opening or closing statements. Trump’s campaign says that, if the rules aren’t changed, he might not participate.
We have to ask whether Trump thinks that the whole debate will fall apart if he’s not there. We already know he thinks that the whole election cycle is all about him (heck, he thinks the whole world revolves around him). It’s entirely possible this is a ploy to blackmail CNBC into doing what he wants, since that kind of thing is what he’s best at.
Trump was unhappy that the last GOP debate, which CNN hosted, went on for nearly three hours. The New York Times says that Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski said:
For us it was imperative that the time be changed to 120 minutes … Until we have this criteria specifically laid out, it is difficult to participate.
Ben Carson’s campaign has also said that he might boycott this debate unless the rules are changed. According to CNN, both campaigns have stated that the debate length can’t be more than 120 minutes, with commercials, and that CNBC must allow opening and closing statements. Other candidates seem to want this, too. CNBC apparently laid out the rules with a note that all the candidates had agreed to them, however, the candidates are saying that this was done without their even knowing, let alone agreeing.
The article in The Times says that CNBC generally doesn’t allow opening statements, so that the moderators and candidates have more time to address the issues Americans feel are important. With a field as crowded as the current GOP field, opening and closing statements can take up a lot of time, especially when the entire debate is limited to two hours with commercials.
Candidates want the debate limited because CNN’s debate was exhausting for some of them. That’s a good point, but CNBC is making a good one, too, and that’s to make this a substantive debate. We have to wonder how these candidates will be able to handle situations far more exhausting than a long debate after they’re elected, if this is how they feel about debating.
It’s interesting that they’d complain about the debate rules when they should be all for getting to talk as long as possible. It’s sad that two candidates are threatening to boycott if CNBC doesn’t bow to their whims. The whole point of these debates is to compare where each candidate stands on important issues. To be honest, these calls for limiting the debate times, and wanting opening and closing statements in addition to that limit, reeks of laziness, and even a little bit of fear.