Trump and Biden agree to face off in Grandpa Rumble TV debates

  • Post last modified:May 16, 2024
  • Reading time:7 mins read

US President Joe Biden and disgraced ex-President Donald Trump have agreed to hold election debates in June and September.

The two have been taking potshots at each other about their first on-stage meetings in nearly four years. The sudden agreement, ending months of uncertainty over whether the debates would happen at all, came after Biden, 81, challenged his scandal-tinged Republican rival to “make my day.” Trump, 77, quickly responded that he was “ready to rumble.”

Within hours CNN announced it would host the first debate in Atlanta on 27 June, and ABC said it would stage the second on 10 September.

Grandpa Rumble coming to a TV screen near you

With former president Trump leading polls in battleground states, Biden appeared to be trying to seize the initiative by proposing both the dates and an audience-free format for the debates.

It represents a calculated political risk against a supreme political showman, with Biden hoping to use the debates to overcome concerns about his age and remind voters of Trump’s chaotic time in the White House.

When asked by an AFP reporter if he was looking forward to the debates, Biden replied: “I am.”

Earlier, he said in a video on X:

Donald Trump lost two debates to me in 2020. Since then, he hasn’t shown up for a debate. Now he’s acting like he wants to debate me again. Well, make my day, pal.

Biden also trolled Trump over his criminal hush-money trial in New York, which features a mid-week break, adding:

I hear you’re free on Wednesdays.

Trump’s swift acceptance is in stark contrast to the fact that he’s avoided any debates with his Republican rivals. Perhaps he’s itching to get out of the courtroom after all.

“Let’s get ready to Rumble!!!” he wrote on his Truth Social app, describing Biden as the “WORST debater I have ever faced.” He continued his ramble by saying:

I would strongly recommend more than two debates and, for excitement purposes, a very large venue, although Biden is supposedly afraid of crowds.

CNN confirmed there would be no audience for its June debate. Biden, apparently unable to help himself, tweeted:

I’ve received and accepted an invitation from CNN for a debate on June 27th. Over to you, Donald. As you said: anywhere, any time, any place.

‘Shut up, man’

The last debates between the two men in 2020 were tension-filled affairs, with Biden at one point snapping “will you shut up, man?” as Trump repeatedly talked over him.

It was later revealed that Trump had also tested positive for Covid shortly before that debate, without informing organisers.

This time, Biden’s campaign said it would bypass the debate commission because of its “failure” to meet the needs of voters.

Neither debate was set to involve independent challenger Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Kennedy accused Trump and Biden of:

colluding to lock America into a head-to-head match-up that 70 percent say they do not want.

Ken Miller, an associate professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas said:

My guess is that Biden wants to remind people of Trump’s abrasive personality.

Trump’s personality is so hard to forget, isn’t it?

Miller called the debates a “rare chance” for Trump to speak directly to voters, but maintained that:

Presidential debates rarely have had any long-lasting effects on voters’ opinions.

No real choice with Trump vs Biden

How much actual difference is there between Trump and Biden? Bloomberg lay out some of Biden’s achievements during his term and conclude:

Despite economic gains, the president’s approval ratings are dismal.

Now why could that be? Perhaps because Biden’s policies on policing, Israel, and immigration have proven to be in the same vein as Trump’s. Sure, Biden’s policies aren’t covered with the same breathless indignation from the mainstream media, but what’s the actual difference between the two?

Just in 2019, Trump promised $3.3bn in funding to Israel. Reuters estimate that Biden has given about $3.8bn to Israel. The Council on Foreign Relations found that:

The United States has provisionally agreed (via a memorandum of understanding) to provide Israel with nearly $4 billion a year through 2028.

As the council notes, that doesn’t include any supplementary funding given to Israel – with plans of $1bn more a possibility.

What about immigration? Trump certainly broke the rules of polite society with his rants about Mexican people, immigrants in general, and his bloody wall. And Biden? Well, he’s avoided the rapid-fire rambles characteristic of Trump, but when it comes to actual policy they’re not that different. The Washington Post reported:

Since Title 42 ended in May [2023], Biden officials have deported or returned roughly 500,000 people to Mexico and other countries, exceeding Trump’s totals, which averaged roughly 500,000 annually.

The core difference between Biden and Trump, for liberals at least, is that Biden knows how to behave politely in front of the cameras. Unlike Trump, he has a sense of decorum, can stand around in a suit without weirdly hugging a flag and uh… well, that’s about it.

For the rest of the world, there’s no functional difference between the two. Would you prefer bombs raining down in the name of the Democrats or the Republicans?

And for a real treat, you can watch these two scrap for the most social media-worthy soundbite while the US continues to flex its military power worldwide regardless of which presidential figurehead is on top.

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