What is the difference between a debate and an argument?
No, that was a serious question. Take a moment, stop reading, think about it, come up with an answer, write it down if you have to, and then read on.
The difference between a debate and an argument is that one has rules and a format, and the other is a fight consisting of who can yell the loudest. One allows for THE PEOPLE to hear two sides of an issue and arrive a their own conclusion as to which they believe. The other just upsets people and causes them to walk away without learning, gleaning, or changing their opinion. That is truly the end result of the debate last night, nothing changed, at least according to the polls, except that 42% of people polled said they thought less of Trump afterwards and 37% of people said they thought less of Biden.
Yet, there is one inescapable fact that emerged from last night's debate as I rolled it around and around in my head. As I re-played the back and forth over and over again. Joe Biden got what he wanted and Donald Trump didn't.
Now, I can hear the knives sharpening behind me, so stop it, listen for a moment before cannibalizing me.
President Trump and his team obviously wanted to fluster Biden. They wanted to pounce on him and get him to gaffe and stumble. They wanted him to dig his own hole. It didn't happen much, and the four times that I counted where he started to, Trump WOULD NOT SHUT UP and in so doing he threw him a lifeline and allowed Biden to use his attack as a life raft. Seriously, some times the BEST THING YOU CAN DO is to shut up and let the other person talk. You learn that as part of a debate team. I could just see Ted Cruz curled up in a fetal position rocking back and forth asking someone to make it stop.
Former Vice President Biden, however, appeared to only have one real goal. He wanted to goad the President into attacking him. Into looking like a bully and unpresidential It was the good ol' "Rope a Dope" strategy, and I'm sorry to say that it worked.
You can't really attack Trump on the economy. You can't really attack Trump on law and order. You can't really attack Trump on foreign affairs. BUT you can attack Trump on his demeanor and his inability to remain above the fray, and that is exactly what Biden got him to do.
Most of the answers in the debate were so scripted it was painful. It was almost amusing answering the questions ahead of each of the candidates and then to hear them say what I had just said. No, it's not that I'm clairvoyant, it's that they were that boring and vanilla. Each and every answer could have been taped to the inside of their eyeballs, and when it wasn't scripted? It was nothing but insults and playground behavior.
That is why, in the end, this debate changed nothing, and none of the other ones will either, unless something significant changes before the next one.
So here is, for what it's worth, my advice to President Trump and his team for the next debate:
1) Apologize, no, seriously, apologize. One of the biggest criticisms of Trump is that he NEVER apologizes, even when he's wrong. Just one small, "Hey Joe, you know, I was really upset at the last debate, and I came on a lot stronger than I should have, I apologize for some of the things that I said that I shouldn't have." You want to talk about a game changing statement? There's one right there. If Biden then doesn't respond in kind, then Trump wins by showing that he's the bigger person, if he does, then there's nothing lost because they were both wrong.
2) STAY WITHIN THE RULES. You have two minutes of uninterrupted time, use them. Then ask a question, let your opponent answer it, and then dissect his answers in rebuttal. It's NOT rocket science. By refusing to stay within the rules, Trump put himself at even greater odds with Wallace who, surprisingly, began the debate with some VERY tough questions for Biden. Had Trump used the rules to his advantage and eviscerated Biden's answers in rebuttal, much of the unnecessary drama of last night could have been avoided, and Wallace could have been an ally instead of an enemy.
3) Don't call names. This includes things like, "Liar," "stupid," and "incoherent," though the list is many many times longer when you consider the other things that aren't repeated over and over again. The best way to call someone a liar is to present the truth right after they speak during rebuttal and call it such. SAY, "This is the truth." It has the same effect, but without the negative light of name calling.
4) Make Biden the aggressor. YOU HAVE THE BULLY PULPIT! You have the high ground. STOP RUNNING DOWNHILL and make Biden come uphill at you. History has proven over and over and over again that as the President, all you have to do is play defense and you win. By taking on the role of attacker, Trump gives up his natural advantage and allows Biden to sit back and look regal. Biden appears to be "above" Trump's petty attacks, and as such, he comes off as the more adult and mature. Real or not, that's the appearance. Trump HAS TO use every advantage he has, including forcing Biden to go on offense and appear desperate. By going on offense, he appears to be the desperate one, and that plays right into the hands of the Democrats who are wanting to make him appear as such.
Next up is a town hall style debate, and that has the potential to be even worse if these issues don't get ironed out. I mean, what's next, an actual fist fight? This is worse than High School politics. A looser debate style, with limited moderation, should scare the debate prep team of Donald Trump to death.
Remember, it's not how he looks to the Republicans that matters, they're already voting for him, and nothing last night changed that. It's how he appears to independents and undecideds that matters, and they see things VERY differently from your far right Republicans. I know many far right people who were cheering last night as they watched Trump attempt to verbally beat Joe Biden to a pulp. They hooted and hollered as Trump called him a liar and got excited every time Trump pressed the attack. All the while not realizing that things like that could well cost him the crucially necessary votes in the swing states that he HAS TO WIN to thread the needle to re-election.
The margin of victory is not nearly as large as they appear to think that it is.
Being Presidential does matter, at least to those 10-12% of voters in the 5 or so states that actually count and determine the election. That's what those who were celebrating last night fail to realize. It's the same problem the Libertarians have, you're excited to see your guy, "winning," except you don't realize that it actually means that he's losing.
Trump needs to grow up, he needs to do it in a hurry, and if I were him, I'd have Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Trey Gowdy up late with me every single night between now and the next debate teaching me how to actually do this the right way.
At this point all Joe Biden needs to do is let Trump be Trump. Last night proved it. It's time to see if Trump has the ability to adapt, improvise, and overcome, as we say in the US Army. I wonder, I HONESTLY wonder, if he has it in him.