On Tuesday, in the span of less than two hours, President Donald Trump laid waste to those long standing norms and traditions.
n the aftermath of a chaotic and widely-panned debate marked by Trump's repeated interruptions of his opponent, falsehoods and persistent squabbling with the moderator, the commission announced Wednesday it's considering as-yet-unspecified changes to "ensure a more orderly discussion."
The commission's brief statement didn't mention either candidate by name, but it was clear the move was intended to crack down on the disruptions largely, though not exclusively, instigated by the president.
For the COPD, it was a tacit admission of failure. For Trump, it offered a capstone for his four-year campaign attacking the legitimacy of what he refers to as the "so-called Commission on Presidential Debates."
"They're only doing this because their guy got pummeled last night." the Trump campaign responded in a statement. "President Trump was the dominant force and now Joe Biden is trying to work the refs. They shouldn't be moving the goalposts and changing the rules in the middle of the game."
The suggestion that the commission was contemplating rules changes at Biden's behest was in keeping with Trump's grievance-driven politics, serving as a campaign-sustaining elixir for a candidate who thrives on chaos and picking fights with the political establishment. It's also a preview of what's to come for the next 34 days on the campaign trail as Trump, trailing in the polls, seeks to cement the narrative that the fix is in and the system is rigged against him in his bid to win a second term.
"He's a grievance guy. Everybody's always out to screw him," Nelson Warfield, a veteran Republican strategist and debate-prep specialist, said in describing Trump's mindset and his appeal to his base. "He wins despite the establishment colluding against him."