Out of nowhere today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she thinks Joe Biden shouldn’t even debate Donald Trump, saying “I wouldn’t legitimize a conversation with him.” This has set off a round of controversy and discussion – but what is Pelosi really up to?
First, let’s be clear. Nancy Pelosi is one of the savviest people in modern American politics. She knows darn well that Joe Biden is going to have to debate Donald Trump, or else voters in the middle would conclude that Biden is too afraid to do so. Pelosi also knew that Biden would have to quickly push back against this – which he did, by announcing just now that he’ll definitely participate in the debates. So Pelosi’s goal clearly wasn’t to get Biden out of the debates. She’s after something else.
Pelosi is usually a step ahead of the rest of us in her strategy, so it’s not always immediately clear why she’s doing what she’s doing. But in terms of impact, Pelosi has set a few things in motion. First, she’s almost certainly assured that Donald Trump will show up to the debates, because now he’ll want to spite Pelosi for having tried to take the debates away from him.
Second, Nancy Pelosi has a history of jabbing Donald Trump with things like this in order to knock him off his game so he can’t focus. She usually spars with him whenever they’re about to head into negotiations, but this time she appears to be trying to knock him off his game so he goes off the rails during his big convention speech tonight.
Finally, Pelosi has helped create public sentiment that Joe Biden is too good to even show up and debate a deranged lying thug like Donald Trump. That way, when Biden shows up, he’ll come off as a hero for “taking one for the team” and taking it to Trump directly.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report