I’ve got good news for conservatives and independents who watched last Tuesday’s first presidential debate. If you had ‘Witness a Train Wreck’ on your Bucket List, feel free to check that one off.
The encounter was a disaster for Trump supporters. When all viewers can recall from a debate is the bickering and not a single sound bite, then the strategy was a failure.
And forget about fighting over earpieces. Tuesday was the first debate in history where allowing candidates to use a teleprompter would have been an improvement. In extemporaneous situations Trump has always been Wham–bam–thank–you–ma’am when it comes to staying on message. One quick mention and he’s done.
A ‘prompter might have kept Trump on message and would’ve allowed voters to see Biden can’t even follow a script.
Trump ignored Napoleon’s maxim: Never interfere with the enemy when he is in the process of destroying himself. Each time Biden was busy digging himself into a hole, Trump would interrupt and grab the shovel.
I assumed Trump spent about five minutes on debate preparation, but now I think that estimate was generous. He should have been ready for four topics and one strategic problem: Flu Manchu, racism, the economy and law & order. The strategic problem was Chris Wallace who was guaranteed to be a hostile interviewer whose sympathies were with Biden.
Most candidate debate preparation includes pre–rehearsed zingers to use on the opponent when he walks into a trap. Think Ronald Reagan and “there you go again” with Jimmy Carter. Trump’s zinger should have been prepared for Wallace with the goal of putting him and the rest of the OpMedia on notice.
Trump could have watched the video of Dick Cheney emasculating the oleaginous Wolf Blitzer. Cheney rejected the premise of loaded questions and refused to fall into Blitzer’s slimy “some people say” innuendo.
Wallace may have guaranteed his retirement income as the chair of a prestigious journalism school with his performance, but Trump didn’t have to help him. The perfect zinger opportunity was when Wallace asked Trump, “But are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups…”
Instead of bending over backwards to accommodate Wallace, Trump should have jumped down his throat.
A sample answer, “Let me explain something. I’m the President of the United States and I was elected by almost 63 million Americans of every race, creed and color and I’ve about had it. You sit there like some prim little schoolmarm and smear those Americans by baselessly implying we welcome the support of racists, bigots and supremacists. You want an answer to your question? Well here it is: I won’t dignify that slander with an answer.”
That would have been the Trump voters elected in 2016. Trump voters are tired of being on the defensive about race and he botched a perfect opportunity.
And that wasn’t the only dropped ball. Trump failed to put the WuFlu in context. When Biden said Trump’s responsible for 200,000 Kung Flu deaths, the president should have said the WuFluenza victims were at least getting treatment. During the Obama/Biden administration 307,000 veterans died WAITING for treatment in VA hospitals.
And the worst is Trump may not have an opportunity to recover because there is a good chance Biden may quit winners and refuse additional debates.
In the 2016 presidential matchup Trump was the challenger and his goal was to reassure conservatives and Republicans that he would fight for them and that he would implement and defend conservative policies.
He did an excellent job. After his performance in the classic second debate I was converted from tepid to triumphant. Still convinced Trump would lose, I was nevertheless eager to get to the polls and vote for him.
This year his goal was different. Trump was the incumbent and defending his record is part of the job description. He didn’t have command of his own facts and it undermined his credibility much more than any OpMedia attacks ever did.
It contrast, Biden’s job was easy. The Trump campaign and columnists like me set the expectations for his performance so very low that all Biden had to do was prove for 90 minutes that he wasn’t Bart Simpson’s grandfather. And that may be enough.
Even worse Trump, the tribune of the forgotten, forgot to speak to directly to the ‘deplorables’ who elected him. He never once looked at the camera — as Biden did — to address his people.
My suggestion to Trump is acquire some discipline and fast. Conduct the next debate tactically and counter–punch rather than counter–shout. Otherwise there is a very real danger that on November 3rd he may be on the receiving end of two words he made famous, “You’re fired!”