Yesterday, Jackson Baker reported on the growing list of Memphis Journos that Willie Herenton doesn’t want to moderate a debate between he and Congressman Steve Cohen.
From the article:
The fact of Birch’s exclusion was first revealed by Cohen in a press conference at WREG Sunday night, scheduled during the hour that the July 11th televised encounter, previously agreed to by both candidates, was to have aired. Herenton bowed out of the arrangement months ago, citing what he said was “bias” on the part of Brewer and Sanford.
Subsequent to his pullout from the Channel 3 affair, Herenton had negotiated signed agreements for possible debates with several other TV stations and organizations.
Although Herenton himself would not comment on the matter Monday, calling the whole debate situation “history,” his aide Michael Gray forwarded to the Flyer copies of the proposed debate contract with WMC-TV.
I think there is universal agreement that any debate would be better than the current none, but considering the hurdles put up by the Herenton campaign, including the pullout from the WREG debate that was to have happened this weekend, ANY debate seems unlikely.
As Memphis Flyer Editor Bruce VanWyngarden noted in the comment thread:
It’s entirely plausible that WW never really wanted a televised debate at all and that this is all gamesmanship, don’t you think? Besides, a debate is a total lose/lose for Cohen at this point. He gave Willie a shot and he backed out. If Cohen backs down and agrees to a debate now, he looks weak for acceding to WW’s demands and, if the polls are correct, he can only lose votes by giving Willie free airtime to appear as his equal. What’s in it for him? Nada.
If WW really wanted a debate (which I’m beginning to doubt), he made a huge blunder in not recognizing that he’s the challenger and a huge underdog this time around and therefore doesn’t get to set the terms for anything. Standing on corners and waving signs and saying “I’m Willie, vote for me” is about as good as it’s going to get for him, I suspect.
Despite Herenton’s calls for more debates at other places, the simple fact remains that he pulled out of the one debate that was scheduled of his own accord. Any calls now are too little too late, and, as Bruce notes, likely more about scoring points with the electorate than actually wanting to debate.