Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign fired off a scathing letter to the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates bemoaning the absence of foreign policy as one of the six topics for the president’s second and final debate with Democratic nominee Joe Biden on Thursday.
“As is the long-standing custom, and as had been promised by the Commission on Presidential Debates, we had expected that foreign policy would be the central focus of the October 22 debate. We urge you to recalibrate the topics and return to subjects which had already been confirmed,” Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien wrote in his letter dated Monday.
NBC News’ Kristen Welker, who will moderate the next debate, announced on Monday the topics would cover Covid-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security, and leadership.
While those topics “are serious and worthy of discussion,” Mr Stepien wrote to the commission on Monday, “only a few of them even touch on foreign policy,” and they each were “discussed at length” during the first debate.
Mr Stepien rattled off a list of grievances against the nonpartisan debate commission that has run presidential debate programming for decades.
The Trump campaign manager claimed Mr Trump won the first debate “over moderator Chris Wallace and candidate Joe Biden” after Mr Wallace, an anchor with Fox News, “styled himself as a third combatant on stage with almost all his venom directed at President Trump.”
Mr Stepien blamed the commission for moving the second debate to a virtual format after Mr Trump and several White House and campaign aides tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this month.
Mr Trump refused to appear for a virtual debate.
Mr Trump, who ran on an isolationist foreign policy platform under the banner of “America First” in 2016, has been eager to talk about his international successes on the presidential debate stage.
During his time in office, the US helped its allies in the Middle East eliminate the rest of the Islamic State’s geographical foothold there. The president has promised to bring all US troops home from Afghanistan by Christamas. And his administration helped broker peace between Israel and several countries in the region that have traditionally not recognised its sovereignty.
But Mr Biden has highlighted other data points undercutting Mr Trump’s claims of foreign policy success: The US trade deficit with China has continued to mount, Iran is closer to a full-fledged nuclear arsenal after the president pulled out of a fragile multilateral agreement from 2015, and Russia has been emboldened to assert its influence in the Middle East and in European election contests.