Thomas L. Friedman says Biden should refuse to debate Trump unless two conditions are met: 1) the latter must release his tax returns for 2016-18, as the former has; and 2) there should be a real-time fact-checking team that, 10 minutes before the scheduled conclusion of the debate, reports on any misleading statements, phony numbers or outright lies either candidate had uttered. Since debates always have ground rules, Friedman argues, why can’t telling the truth and equal transparency on taxes be conditions for this one?
Of course, Trump will stomp and protest and say, “No way.” Fine. Let Trump cancel. Let Trump look American voters in the eye and say: “There will be no debate, because I should be able to continue hiding my tax returns from you all, even though I promised that I wouldn’t and even though Biden has shown you his. And there will be no debate, because I should be able to make any statement I want without any independent fact-checking.”
If Trump says that, Biden can retort: “Well, that’s not a debate then, that’s a circus. If that’s what you want, why don’t we just arm wrestle or flip a coin to see who wins?”
I get why Republican senators and Fox News don’t press Trump on his taxes or call out his lies. They’re afraid of him and his base and unconcerned about the truth. But why should Biden, or the rest of us, play along?