Feb. 19, 2020. It is a night that still replays almost frame by frame in my mind. My former longtime boss, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, was going onstage for his first presidential debate to face off with other leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination. But I was nervous. Days earlier, I had warned in an opinion piece for CNN that Bloomberg needed to avoid the debate stage at all costs. As someone who had been by his side since the very birth of his foray into politics — his run for mayor in 2001 — I knew that no matter how much debate prep he had under his belt, Bloomberg was going to get his clock cleaned by the longtime professional politicians he was going up against on that stage. The current model of American presidential debates effectively favors a certain personality type — sharp rhetorical and verbal skills or a knack for delivering punchy one-liners. And that is precisely what happened. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was relentless in her verbal assault on Bloomberg that night, frequently leaving the former mayor flat-footed and struggling to defend himself. It was a brutal pummeling. And it ultimately marked the beginning of the end for a campaign that at that point had been rising swiftly in the polls, buoyed by nearly a billion dollars in spending and a platform offering an impressive track record of public- and private-sector leadership and an even-keeled, centrist and no-nonsense approach to the presidency — something that would have marked an 180-degree reversal from the splenetic years under Donald Trump. I found myself thinking about this turn of events again when the Republican National Committee announced that it was considering amending its rules to ban GOP presidential candidates from participating in debates put on by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, or CPD. Bloomberg was participating in a debate organized by the Democratic National Committee — intramural affairs that would ostensibly not be affected by the cancellation of CPD-sponsored debates. But if the end result of the RNC’s saber-rattling is that the institution of the presidential debate comes to an end, I would say good riddance. And with no clear indication of how the RNC would replace the commission’s debates, it seems like that could be a real possibility. In a letter to the commission, RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel wrote that “[s]o long as the CPD appears intent on stonewalling the meaningful reforms necessary to restore its credibility with the Republican Party as a fair and nonpartisan actor, the RNC will take every step to ensure that future Republican presidential nominees are given that opportunity elsewhere.” I don’t buy into the RNC’s specious arguments that the nonpartisan commission has established rules that tend to favor Democratic candidates, but I firmly believe that the theatrics, pageantry and hoopla that have become the modern national political debate stage make a mockery of our political process. A nationally televised debate should be a serious affair that highlights opposing candidates’ differences in policy and gives the public a chance to see what kind of leaders it might be electing. Instead, in recent years these debates have often seemed more akin to the verbal equivalent of an MMA fight. Who can forget Trump’s ominously pacing behind Hillary Clinton at a 2016 town hall debate? It was a bizarre incident that was so outrageous that some in the media called it a “scorched-earth” affair. “Saturday Night Live” parodied the incident with Trump (played by Alec Baldwin) lurching at Clinton (portrayed by Kate McKinnon) while music and sound effects reminiscent of the film “Jaws” played offstage. Although we in th . . . read the full article here.