Is there any debate? This is the existential threat scorecard you need to rate the Biden and Trump matchup

By John Mecklin | June 26, 2024

The media chatter in the run-up to Thursday’s very early presidential election debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump has tilted heavily toward matters of style and age. Will Biden be cogent and spry enough to dispel worries about his age? Will Trump display his own presentation problems, turning into a rambling emitter of incomprehensible word-salads who tromps all over debate rules (as he did in the 2020 presidential debate)? On social media, the debate moderators—CNN’s Jake Tapper and Dana Bash—have become unwilling storylines of their own, as Trump supporters call the debate “rigged” and a Democratic-leaning “trap.” And when it turns to public policy issues, much of the pre-debate media opining has focused on the usual suspects: the economy and immigration, with a side of abortion.

As important as those three subjects might be, they are, by definition, subordinate to the Bulletin’s concerns—the global threats that, if not properly managed, could severely cripple or even end human civilization. Most recent presidential debates have avoided much discussion of these existential threats—nuclear war, climate change, and a variety of disruptive technologies ranging from synthetic biology to artificial intelligence—often dealing instead in concocted political conflict and “gotcha” questions.

Our handy existential threat scorecard (below) will help you keep track of how often the presidential candidates and debate moderators address the complex technological threats that any president must manage if global catastrophe is to be forestalled. Given the wars in Ukraine and Gaza—along with heightened geopolitical tensions that are sometimes likened to a new Cold War—let us hope we’re all surprised, and your scorecard is full of “x” marks by debate’s end.


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