Change is gonna come.
It must, after Donald Trump turned the first presidential debate (if it qualifies for that formal term) of 2020 into a chaotic shambles condemned by political leaders, experts of all stripes and countless TV viewers.
One significant change, according to CBS News, is that the moderator will be able to cut off the candidates’ microphones if things get out of hand.
Trump’s heedless and frequently incoherent performance on Tuesday provoked his opponent, Joe Biden, to tell him to “Shut up, man!” and to call him “the worst president America has ever had.”
Which was mild stuff, compared with many of Trump’s bellowed rants.
“That was a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck,” CNN’s Jake Tapper said. “That was the worst debate I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t even a debate. It was a disgrace and primarily it was because of President Trump, who spent the entire time interrupting, not adhering to the rules he agreed to.”
It was too much for the man in the middle — the moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, who tried, and mostly failed, to restore order. But it would have been the same for nearly anyone.
So it was obvious that the organization that sponsors the debates — The Commission on Presidential Debates — had to do something.
On Wednesday, the commission issued a statement saying it will add “additional structure” to the debate format going forward “to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues.”
“The CPD … intends to ensure that additional tools to maintain order are in place for the remaining debates,” the statement said.
What those “tools” might be is unclear.
But in a tweet, citing “an informed source,” Norah O’Donnell of CBS News reports that going ahead, the moderator’s control powers will “include cutting off a candidate’s microphone if they violate the rules.”
The commission’s statement “came as both candidates returned to the campaign trail, and Biden called Trump’s behavior at the debate ‘a national disgrace’ during a stop in Ohio,” reported the Washington Post.
“Meanwhile, several GOP lawmakers urged Trump to address his refusal during the debate to condemn self-described white supremacists.”
There will be two more Trump-Biden debates: first a town hall-style Q&A session on Oct. 15, followed by another one-on-one debate Oct. 22, currently set to have the same format as Tuesday night’s disorderly affair.
“In the hours since the candidates’ bitter clash — during which Trump attacked Biden’s family and Biden called Trump a ‘racist’ and a ‘clown’ — some Democrats have suggested the former vice president should not participate in the two remaining debates,” Politico reports.
But Biden campaign officials said both Tuesday night and Wednesday morning that he plans to be at both upcoming events.