The Republican Nominee showed signs that he might be ducking out of the Presidential debates last Friday. Donald Trump said via Twitter that Hillary Clinton and the democrats were trying to “rig the debates.”
The official schedule made public last fall shows that two of the showdowns conflict with NFL games. This is not a new criticism for Trump. During the primary debates, both Senator Bernie Sanders and Trump criticized Clinton for preferring debates with smaller audiences.
As usual, Hillary & the Dems are trying to rig the debates so 2 are up against major NFL games. Same as last time w/ Bernie. Unacceptable!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2016
However, this time, Trump’s argument might not hold up. The democrats have no advanced input over forming the debate schedule. The dates were picked by an impartial commission almost a year ago. Incidentally, it is hard to pick dates in September that don’t interfere with one sporting event or another. The debate commission acknowledged this fact in a statement.
In an interview with ABC, Trump said he received a letter of complaint about the conflict from the NFL. First, if the NFL was angry about competing against the debates it seems weird to contact nominees over the commission. Second, the NFL has since denied contacting Trump concerning the debate schedule.
On Saturday, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy tweeted. “While we’d obviously wish the Commission could find another night, we did not send a letter to Mr. Trump.”
Although debates are widely considered a mandated institution of the Presidential election process, it’s not necessarily a guaranteed event. In 1962, 68 and 72 there were no presidential debates at all. That was only 40-50 years ago.
As recently as 1992, President George H.W. Bush tried desperately to get out of debates with Bill Clinton. He probably would have skipped them had Clinton not vigorously painted Bush as a chicken. Clinton literally got supporters to dress up as giant chickens and follow Bush around until he agreed to debate. It worked.
In fact, the first general election debate was only in 1960, between Nixon and Kennedy. That might seem like ancient history but that was only 56 years ago. Odds are good that a little under half the people you know, lived through that debate.
So in other words, no. The debates do not have to happen by any means. A debate between Clinton and Trump requires both candidates show up willingly. The debate dates (assuming they happen) are Sept. 26, Oct 9 and Oct. 19. The Vice President debate is Oct. 4.