Opinion: 7 Exciting, Outside-the-Box Ideas for Biden-Trump Debate Moderators

Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero / The Daily Beast / Getty
Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero / The Daily Beast / Getty

After months of jousting about when and if a presidential debate might happen, a debate deal miraculously came together Wednesday morning. Things escalated quickly after Joe Biden released a video challenging Donald Trump to two debates.

“I’ve received and accepted an invitation from @CNN for a debate on June 27th. Over to you, Donald. As you said: anywhere, any time, any place,” Biden said in a post on X.

“The answer is yes, I will accept,” Trump responded.

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Since we’re already breaking protocol by hosting a presidential debate in June (these affairs are normally reserved for the fall), here’s a modest proposal: Why not get creative with the debate moderator(s), as well?

Admittedly, once you leave the bounds of supposedly unbiased journalists, finding an acceptable moderator is about as hard as finding a jury pool that is unfamiliar with Donald Trump’s alleged crimes. Everyone is going to have some baggage, and if they don’t they’re probably too boring or stupid for the job. So what qualities am I looking for?

This should not be somebody who lacks opinions, but it also should not be someone who is a cheerleader for either candidate. This person or persons (I’m open to a panel) should have sufficient gravitas to command a stage. And as a bonus, it helps if this person has some sort of pop culture entrée into a segment of America that might not typically tune into a political debate.

With no further ado, I give you seven unconventional moderators that would be sure to spice things up:

1. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

He’s a wrestler, a movie star, and a mogul. He backed Biden in 2020, but now says he shouldn’t have weighed in. “My goal is to bring this country together,” he told Fox & Friends regarding 2024. “At this level of influence, I will keep my politics to myself. It is between me and the ballot box.”

The Rock isn’t a crazy partisan ideologue. But if Biden starts to filibuster or Trump starts to go off the rails, he’s also not someone you’d want to tangle with, either. What is the rock cooking? How about a debate that would generate interest from the kinds of people who watch pro-wrestling and Fast & Furious films.

2. Piers Morgan

When it comes to interviewing (interrogating?) people, the British are both bitchier and tougher. Morgan is both. He’s anti-gun, but also seems at home with the anti-“woke”/anti-political correctness vibes. Regardless, his desire for good TV and shameless self-promotion would outweigh any partisan political leanings he might harbor.

3. Jerry Seinfeld

Fresh on the heels of his Duke commencement speech (which led some pro-Palestinian students to walk out), Seinfeld is having yet another moment. Once upon a time, Seinfeld, a Jewish comedian from New York who became a huge TV star, would have been presumed to be too liberal.

But in today’s topsy-turvy world, Seinfeld’s pro-Israel, anti-cancel culture, and anti-PC positions make him despised by the progressive left. What is more, having spent years doing crowd work and being heckled, comedians are almost always sharper and quicker than political folk (see Jon Stewart taking down Crossfire).

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4. Nikki Glaser

While we’re talking comedians, did you see her roasting Tom Brady the other week? I have no doubt she’s on the progressive side of the aisle, but you can’t deny she’s got balls. While it’s hard to imagine someone so irreverent hosting an entire presidential debate, how about bringing her in out of the bullpen to work over both candidates for 5-10 minutes? I’d watch.

5. Oprah Winfrey

She’s famously a Democrat, but she also hosted Trump on her show and helped launch the career of Dr. Mehmet Oz (who ran for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania as a Republican). Trump and Biden both need to appeal to suburban soccer moms, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else having as much cachet.

6. Mark Cuban

He’s no Trump fan, but the former Dallas Mavericks owner is a billionaire businessman who voted for Nikki Haley. He also spent years as one of the main "sharks" on ABC's “Shark Tank.” Cuban probably isn’t cut out to moderate solo, but like Glaser, I’d love to see him come in for a segment or two.

7. Matthew McConaughey

He’s a famous moviestar with an everyman appeal. His first big movie was 1996’s A Time To Kill, where he played a Southern liberal lawyer defending a Black man who shot two white men who raped his daughter, while also supporting the death penalty for the rapists.

McConaughey's real-life politics are just as curious. “I’m an artist. I’m a storyteller. I’m a folk singer,” he said. “[Are] those parts of me that could be useful in a political position of leadership, to be the CEO of a state or country? Maybe.” I’m not sure if that would make him a great candidate, but it sure as hell would make him an interesting debate moderator.

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These are admittedly weird ideas—and each of these folks might be crazy in their own way (but no crazier than continuing to do what we have been doing). I mean, it’s not like the usual mainstream media figures have done a great job over the years of (a) keeping the candidates in line or (b) enlightening the American public.

What is more, during a populist moment such as this, traditional American stuffed-shirt journos project an out-of-touch image, which the candidates can then weaponize for cheap applause (either literally or figuratively).

It’s time to rethink how we run debates. These are not conventional candidates or normal times. So why pretend a conventional moderator is the answer?

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