MY DEBATE PREP FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP
Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.
It's difficult to say what makes a favorable debate performance. Undoubtedly, preparation is essential. The candidate has to have his facts ready to go. He needs to anticipate the arguments to be made against him, and more importantly, what his response to them should be. But there's more to winning a debate than a great fund of knowledge. Sometimes magnetism is of the essence, a quick tongue, and a sharp wit.
But what makes a debate so difficult to undertake, and so entertaining to watch, is the uncertainty of it all; the possibility that at any moment, something totally unexpected happens that will define the whole event.
Who can forget that magical moment during President Ronald Reagan's debate with Walter Mondale when the President was asked about his age? Without hesitation, the President answered, "I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." Nothing else that happened that evening mattered. Or how about the time when the boyish Dan Quayle stepped in it by invoking the late John F. Kennedy's name? There, the elder Lloyd Bentsen retorted, "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." A cheap shot to be sure, but it signaled the end of the young Senator Quayle's political career.
In other debates, the issue is merely one of appearance. During the first ever, televised, presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy those watching it on television declared Kennedy the winner, while most Americans who heard the debate on radio thought Nixon had won.
At times, it matters not whether you prevail, but rather the accomplishment of another, more pressing goal. The truth is that the greater goal is never to win the debate, but to win the race. The last debate between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald J. Trump was undergirded by such a dynamic. The most important goal fell upon Biden, a candidate so befuddled in his demeanor and so disoriented in his dissertations that it mattered not whether he scored points against the incumbent. Indeed, the only thing that mattered to Biden was demonstrating that he was not demented. If only for one night, Biden accomplished that goal.
Which brings us to this the third. . err. . . the second. . . and final debate between the President and the former Vice President. The rematch. The Thrilla in Nashvilla. The Tussle in Tennessee. What's the goal for the respective candidates there?
Well, in reality, the candidates are contesting over virtually nothing. For those still intent on voting for Biden, there is nothing that Trump can say or do to change their minds. They will still vote for Biden. For those intent on voting for Trump, he is their champion. They will walk through broken glass to make sure that their votes are securely delivered to the voting booth, in person. Then there are the undecided. These are just fooling themselves. They have already decided for whom to vote, and most of these vacillators will vote for Biden.
That leaves a small, but very significant group of people who want to vote for Trump, but are not quite convinced. They recognize the President's accomplishments and fear the actions to be undertaken by his opponent, should he be elected President. But they don't like Trump's style. For those people, the vote belongs to Trump unless he screws this up. For them, there are two things that will seal their vote in one direction or the other: Trump's misbehaviors and Biden's bewilderments.
So my advice for President Trump for Thursday's debate is simple. Lay low. Don't fight back except when it is your turn to do so. Don't interrupt. Don't make any facial expressions in response to whatever Biden may say, no matter how absurd the comment may be. And don't worry. You got this.
That the moderator is biased against Trump is a foregone conclusion. That Biden will lie is already well known. That the debate is rigged to make Trump look bad is recognized by everyone. There is no advantage for Trump to point that out, except by letting the events demonstrate these truths for him. Moreover, everyone, I mean everyone, knows where the President stands on everything. The country has access to him three or more times a day as compared to Biden who continues his hermitage. There is nothing to be gained by Trump laying out his arguments at the expense of appearing cordial.
So, this Thursday, watch for a more subdued President Trump and a more confused and befuddled former Vice President Biden. And as Vice President Biden falls apart before our eyes because the President followed these very simple rules, just remember, I told him so.
Dr. Julio Gonzalez is an orthopaedic surgeon and lawyer living in Venice, Florida. He served in the Florida House of Representatives. He is the author of numerous books including The Federalist Pages, The Case for Free Market Healthcare, and Coronalessons. He is available for appearances and book signings, and can be reached through www.thefederalistpages.com.
Dr. Julio Gonzalez is an orthopedic surgeon living in Florida. He is a lawyer, author, and former member of the Florida House of Representatives. He is available for speaking engagements at firstname.lastname@example.org