Debate Prep Made Easy

[ Posted Wednesday, September 16th, 2020 – 16:46 UTC ]

President Donald Trump just made Joe Biden's debate preparation a whole lot easier. Appearing at an ABC town hall last night, Trump showed exactly what he's going to be like in the upcoming presidential debate. By so obviously telegraphing his moves and strategy, Trump essentially handed Team Biden a playbook for how Biden should debate him. And since Trump is reportedly not even doing real debate prep, the chances he will get better or even in any way different in the next two weeks are minimal.

The townhall last night was moderated by George Stephanopoulos, who apparently made the decision to just let Trump talk for as long as he wanted on most subjects. Very occasionally, Stephanopoulos would gently interject some facts and truth, but it was rare. Even when he did so, Stephanopoulos spoke in such low and quiet tones that Trump mostly just ignored him altogether.

This will likely not be the case in the presidential debate, for a number of reasons. The first is that Chris Wallace has a much more direct style, and will likely challenge both candidates with the facts in a forthright fashion. The second is that there will be time limits on the answers, meaning Trump won't get to just filibuster forever, as he repeatedly did last night. And the third is that Joe Biden will be free to interrupt at any time, which he should do whenever Trump drops a whopper of a lie (which he did last night about every 20 seconds or so).

Donald Trump lives in a fantasy world where everything he does and says is perfect. There simply is no room for improvement, because how can you improve upon perfection? He has surrounded himself with toadies and bootlickers who feed into this fantasy. He rejects any other interpretation of reality, in the few times he takes questions from reporters. In his press appearances, Trump retains full control of the format, which allows him to brush off any question he doesn't like.

He tried to do this last night, without much notable success. An uncommitted voter would ask him a direct question, and Trump would just ignore it completely and go off on whatever tangent he liked. This led to visible frustration from most of the questioners, but Trump didn't seem to notice. In essence, he just rejected the premise of most of the questions put to him and blathered on about whatever popped into his head. In doing so, Trump lied repeatedly about just about every subject he brought up. For the most part, he got away with these lies, although Stephanopoulos did occasionally try (sotto voce) to correct some of the biggest whoppers.

This is what Joe Biden needs to be prepared for. However, this shouldn't be too hard, because Trump's answers were really a sort of "greatest hits" of his fantastical worldview. In other words, he's extremely likely to use all of the talking points from last night again when he faces Biden. Take any subject -- the coronavirus pandemic, Obamacare, racial unrest, whatever -- and it's pretty clear that Trump is going to respond in the debate almost exactly the way he responded last night. This provides Biden with Trump's entire debate strategy, two weeks early.

This is why Trump's performance last night was so valuable for Biden. All he has to do is work through the video question by question and come up with the perfect responses to all of Trump's lies. Biden could just interject "That's a lie!" at key points and then trot out the facts and reality that Trump is ignoring. When challenged on the facts, Trump gets flustered pretty easily. Biden should make this work in his favor, by doing so throughout the entire debate. This was what was missing last night, although some of the questioners did actually challenge Trump when he veered too far away from reality.

Joe Biden can be a forceful debater, as he proved repeatedly during the primary debates. He needs to exhibit the same feistiness with Trump, which shouldn't be too hard to do. The biggest strategic move Biden should make would be to remind Trump, whenever necessary, of one basic fact that Trump seems not to fully grasp: Joe Biden is not currently president. Last night, Trump chided Biden for not issuing a national mask mandate, for instance, even though Biden has no actual power to do so. A major portion of Trump's campaign message is that things are horrible now solely because Joe Biden is running for president. This is nonsensical, because Donald Trump is actually president right now. Biden needs to make this basic point as often as necessary: "You say you'll magically fix everything if you win the election, but what is stopping you from doing so right now? If a problem needs fixing, it happened on your watch and nothing you do next January will change that basic fact. Whatever happened to Republicans being the party of 'personal responsibility,' for Pete's sake?"

Biden should also practice keeping Trump on subject. When challenged on his fantasy version of the world with actual facts, Trump almost always immediately veers off on some completely unrelated tangent. He will almost certainly do so when on stage with Biden, so Biden's got to resist taking the bait and circle the conversation back to the subject at hand: "See? President Trump has no answer, so he just wants to talk about something else. Either he didn't understand the question or he just has no answer at all!"

Team Trump's other big strategy will be to try to catch Biden in a "gotcha" moment. This may or may not work, but it is an incredibly risky strategy for Trump for two basic reasons. The first is that Trump will likely not recognize a Biden gaffe when it happens. If Biden misspeaks or misquotes some statistic, Trump is quite likely to be incapable of realizing Biden just tripped up. Trump may tweet about it much later, after someone points it out to him, but it will be obvious that Trump's strategy of: "Biden doesn't know what he's talking about" won't work if Trump is also oblivious to the mistake in real time.

The second big reason this isn't likely to work is Trump himself, who is a walking, talking gaffe machine. Last night, Trump couldn't remember the term "herd immunity" (he substituted "herd mentality" instead) and seemed to momentarily forget the name Bahrain, even though he had met with the country's leader earlier in the day. Trump also didn't listen closely to a woman whose mother had tragically died from cancer last month, insisting repeatedly that she had died of COVID-19 (which the woman never actually said). Those are just a few examples, although there were plenty of others on display last night as well. Trump misspeaks so often -- and so consistently -- that it's pretty easy for Biden to point out all the Trump gaffes.

Here's an easy one, by way of example. Biden should ask Trump to his face "when did the Spanish flu pandemic happen?" Trump will -- as he always does -- respond: "1917." This is false. Trump's off by a year. And yet even though for the past eight months we've been dealing with a pandemic that is compared to the Spanish flu over and over again, Trump has never bothered to learn this correctly. Biden should point it out, if he needs to show any proof of who makes more gaffes. Or Biden could remind Trump that it happened during the first world war, not the second, if he really wanted to rub it in.

I have no idea why Donald Trump agreed to do a town hall meeting two weeks before the first presidential debate. Perhaps he believed his own fantasy that Biden will gibber and drool during the debates, and he wanted to show what a stable genius he is as a preview. Trump even challenged Biden to an extra debate, which he wanted to hold earlier, so perhaps the town hall was the result?

Whatever the reason, Trump's performance last night was nothing short of disastrous. He refused to face reality over and over again, instead preferring his own twisted version of events. This should have been painfully obvious to anyone watching. Trump made a political mistake by agreeing to this town hall, because not only was his fantastical worldview exposed, but he also provided Joe Biden with the perfect blueprint for the first debate. All Biden has to do is prompt one of last night's talking points from Trump, and then destroy it with facts and truth. Over and over again.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


35 Comments on “Debate Prep Made Easy”

  1. [1] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Some waiter at Mar a Lago told the orange imbecile that he doesn't like wearing a mask, probably hoping that he'd be promoted to CDC Director. This would actually be a good plan for an ambitious death cult zombie. Drumpf actually said he's taking his advice. Biden should be able to slaughter this fool. It's really hard to imagine more than one "debate".

  2. [2] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    I don't understand why Redfield hasn't resigned after this afternoon's disgrace. The first time I ever heard of him was his debut on the coronavirus taskforce. He kissed Drumpf's ass like Peter Navarro. He looks like an Amish farmer and has lost all credibility. His days are surely numbered and he should be all over the airwaves this evening telling the world that Fat Donny is an ignorant, lying cult leader. It's hard to see how things could get a lot worse and he's not preventing disaster by doing (or not doing) what he is now.

  3. [3] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    I can't wait to hear about the secret Obamacare replacement plan at the "debate"!

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    "Scientific American has never endorsed a presidential candidate in our 175-year history—until now. The 2020 election is literally a matter of life and death. We urge you to vote for health, science and Joe Biden for President."

    Well, how about that!!! :)

  5. [5] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    I'm genuinely sick to my stomach wondering what this cretinous lunatic will do to punish us when he loses the election. I'm afraid he's going to "take out" the blue states like he said this afternoon.

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    A Biden presidency really may be written in the stars. But, I won't be getting my hopes up. I just can't.

  7. [7] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    Reading the press commentary on the Town Hall, I'm not finding any reports of what the people in the audience thought, as opposed to what the reporters assume they thought. And I'm definitely not finding any reports that the president's absolutely standard performance changed a single mind in America regarding his fitness for office and re-election.

    I'll go ahead and say the same thing about the debates with Biden, before they even happen: nothing that Biden or Trump says will change a significant number of minds among the electorate. It's nice to advise Biden that this or that tactic, informed by this Town Hall, will send an effective message to the voters.

    But it's not going to be about Biden, no matter what he says to fact-check, shame, or expose the president. This president's style and rhetoric is burned into us by now, like a third-degree scar. Most people hate it and wish for the pain to end; a large minority continue to say, as always, "but on me, it looks good!"

  8. [8] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    I still cannot get over Trump’s interview before his Nevada rally where he was asked if he worried about catching the virus with so many people ignoring guidelines on wearing masks and was he worried about the health risks to those attending.

    Trump answered that HE was not worried because the stage was so far away from the crowd that he should be safe, but remained silent on whether he was worried that the crowd were being put at risk by attending his rally.

    THAT is Trump making it clear that he recognizes the danger to people’s health that attending his rallies pose!. Why else would he require them to sign waivers that they won’t hold him responsible if they get infected at the rally!?!?

  9. [9] 
    andygaus wrote:

    John M [7]: The debates may very well change some people's minds about one thing: both the American and Russian branches of the Trump campaign have been hammering home the idea that Biden is too decrepit to walk or talk. At least some people who have swallowed that line of thinking may be jarred awake by the evidence of their own eyes and ears after seeing Biden's debate performance. Will that be a significant number of people? I don't pretend to know.

  10. [10] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    in donald's universe, reality doesn't exist.

  11. [11] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    andygaus [9]:
    Yes, that's a good point I'd forgotten. I admit I don't keep up with the American and Russian branches of the Trump campaign, but I have heard that they have attacked Biden on that front. The odd thing to me, from outside that bubble, is that when comparing the two speakers, I hear Biden occasionally stumble or mis-speak, later correcting himself if necessary, while I hear Trump always rambling dementedly about nonsense.

    So maybe that will have some impact in the debates - with "at least some people" who still have open minds on this question. Thanks.

  12. [12] 
    John M wrote:

    [9] andygaus: Very true. The people who already love Trump like him for the way that he is. They like the things he says because they wanted to blow things up in the first place. That's why they voted for him. They think he speaks for how they feel. The thing that boggles my mind and that the majority of the rest of us are so exhausted from, is that they make up an astonishing 45 percent of the electorate. I understand that they believe the guys in suits look down on them and they are tired of that. But what is so concerning is that so many of them also hold anti-science, racist, views and also believe in conspiracy theories and have a divorced from reality distorted view of the world.

  13. [13] 
    Kick wrote:

    If you take the Blue states out, ~125 people died on 9/11.

  14. [14] 
    Kick wrote:

    Fun Fact: Although the address of The Pentagon is in Washington, DC, the structure is located in Arlington, Virginia.

  15. [15] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Debate prep made easy: prepare to watch something else.

    The "debate" will go something like this (to the tune of dueling banjos)




    Biden: Lie-lie-lie-lie-lie-lie

    Pundits after the debate:Lie-lie-lie-lie-lie

    Whoever wins the election to citizens:
    Squeal like a pig!!!

  16. [16] 
    TheStig wrote:


    What were you thinking Kick? - now the North Koreans know where the building is. The Pentagon will have to be moved. If you think DC area traffic is bad now, wait until the Amish lift it off the foundations and onto several thousand carefully positioned flat bed trucks. Easy...easy...little to the left.

  17. [17] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW: I have no idea why Donald Trump agreed to do a town hall meeting two weeks before the first presidential debate.

    I have an idea:

    * Jason Miller is the Trump campaign's "Chief Strategist."

    * George Stephanopoulos and Jason Miller are friendly (not to be confused with being friends).

    * Despite the campaign rhetoric, they know they are behind.

  18. [18] 
    TheStig wrote:

    My forecast is that Trump will do exactly what he does on Twitter, at his rallies and at press conferences. It's going to be stream of insults, fables, vague promises and outright lies. There is nothing the moderator can do about this...unless the moderator can cut Trump's mike. Trump does performance, not debate. Biden is actually pretty good at picking this sort of attack apart.

    Trump's supporters WANT four more years of increasing fascism (authoritarianism is too nice a word)...directed at somebody else. Trump's hope is to maximize the turnout among his base, and decrease the turnout of everybody else. Given the Electoral College, and enough state government dirty tricks - and just maybe an upturn in COVID to keep voters at home, Trump could win himself a second term. Some see the debates as debates, Trump sees them as just another political rally. It's not a great strategy, but it's good enough to work if random events go his way. It worked 4 years ago.

  19. [19] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Good points, Stig. Um, is "The" your first name?

    But, no Hillary (who, if you think about it, was as "deplorable" to Repug voters as so many Trumpanzies are to us Democrats.) And Russia/China/North Korea/Iran/Saudi Arabia are "on the radar screen." Plus no Comey. Plus, 200,000 dead Americans and another Great Depression/Recession. Still...

  20. [20] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW: Trump even challenged Biden to an extra debate, which he wanted to hold earlier, so perhaps the town hall was the result?

    Exactly this. They are behind, CW, and people are voting now in North Carolina and begin voting tomorrow in Minnesota, with Michigan and Pennsylvania beginning to vote in days.

    In other interesting news: The Michigan State Senate has agreed that clerks can begin preparing the absentee ballots for counting a day early.

  21. [21] 
    Kick wrote:

    John From Censornati

    I can't wait to hear about the secret Obamacare replacement plan at the "debate"!

    Heh. I know, right, JFC!? "Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated."

    Yet so easy!:

    "We're signing a health care plan within two weeks, a full and complete health care plan that the Supreme Court decision on DACA gave me the right to do," Trump promised in a July 19 interview with Fox News.

    After two months, Trump teased the plan again in the town hall. It matches his criteria of being closer to the election and certainly more than two weeks after his July promise. McEnany confirmed the White House's proposed law is ready to go, but she told reporters that Americans and the press aren't allowed to see it. It's unclear why the plan is a secret since the president talked about it for so long. Still, McEnany didn't clarify why the plan will remain a secret.

    "I'm not going to give you a readout of what our health care plan looks like and who's working on it. if you want to know, come work here at the White House," McEnany told CNN's Kaitlan Collins.

    The Trump propaganda machine doesn't even bother to come up with a new tactic to present to their gullible cult followers because they clearly believe them stupid enough to fall for this same bullshit over and over... and that's because a whole bunch of them obviously are that gobsmacking gullible and spectacularly stupid.

  22. [22] 
    Kick wrote:


    THAT is Trump making it clear that he recognizes the danger to people’s health that attending his rallies pose!


    Why else would he require them to sign waivers that they won’t hold him responsible if they get infected at the rally!?!?

    So Trump won't get sued for wrongful death by their families if any of them die from attending a Trump superspreader rally.

  23. [23] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    K, sports fans, let's see what's up over at The Lincoln Project. There's Broke.

    And Don the Con.

    And 9/11, in case I didn't post it from 6 days ago.

  24. [24] 
    Kick wrote:

    John M from Ct. and John M

    Oh, look! The John M's are ganging up on andygaus. Let's get 'em andy. I'll hold John M while you take John M. ;)

    The thing that boggles my mind and that the majority of the rest of us are so exhausted from, is that they make up an astonishing 45 percent of the electorate.

    Forty-five percent! They wish, John M! :)

  25. [25] 
    Kick wrote:


    What were you thinking Kick? - now the North Koreans know where the building is. The Pentagon will have to be moved. If you think DC area traffic is bad now, wait until the Amish lift it off the foundations and onto several thousand carefully positioned flat bed trucks.


    Easy...easy...little to the left.

    The DC area couldn't be much more left than it already is. ;)

  26. [26] 
    TheStig wrote:


    "is "The" your first name?"

    For the purposes of this comments section, yes. For purposes of Voter Registration, No.

  27. [27] 
    Kick wrote:


    Good, but what about this one?

    #TrumpKnew and he did nothing.

    I gave you ONE JOB.

    ;) *grin*

  28. [28] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Glad to see you in your typical snarky good form, Kick!

    How are things looking in Texas-23? Gimme some good news.

  29. [29] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Again, so long as Joe doesn't drool on himself he'll have a good debate experience. If things aren't looking so grim for Trump I wouldn't expect him to debate Joe at all.

    I hope Joe's Debate Prep Team is coaching Joe on how to get under our Whiner-in-Chief's skin. If Trump loses it he'll still get his 40-ish percent base but it could help the undecided voter.

    D'yall remember the Impeachment? Before Covid and our economic crash one poll had 50% support for both Trump's Impeachment AND removal.

    It's Joe's election to lose, Elizabeth!

  30. [30] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Here's a POLITICO article that addresses how Democrats can address racial disparity AND white working class dissatisfaction with our economy.

    We know this because in 2018, the progressive group Rural Organizing surveyed 820 rural Americans to test the power of the following message: “Instead of delivering for working people, politicians hand kickbacks to their donors who send jobs overseas. Then they turn around and blame new immigrants or people of color, to divide and distract us from the real source of our problems.”

    Note the three elements: 1) Americans of all races need good-paying jobs; 2) politicians have let the donor class gut Americans’ standard of living; 3) then they try to deflect the blame onto immigrants or people of color. In the survey, three-quarters of rural respondents agreed with this message, which appealed not just to liberal voters (who made up only 23 percent of the respondents), but also to the 42 percent who were conservatives and the 26 percent who were moderates.

  31. [31] 
    Kick wrote:


    How are things looking in Texas-23? Gimme some good news.

    Good news: Another big chunk of Texas is still likely to flip Blue. :)

  32. [32] 
    Kick wrote:

    Olivia Troye, a former top aide to Vice President Mike Pence on the COVID task force from Day 1, endorses Biden:

    When we were in a task force meeting, the President said "maybe this COVID thing is a good thing, I don't like shaking hands with people, I don't have to shake hands with these disgusting people." Those disgusting people are the same people that he claims to care about. These are the people still going to his rallies today, who have complete faith in who he is.

    ~ Olivia Troye

    Sounds like her experience working with Trump matches Bob Woodward's observations and the myriad of taped quotes of others from "inside the house"... including Trump's words to Woodward.

  33. [33] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    FYI Live Virtual Concert Tonight

    Tonight at 8pm eastern watch a live stream concert in support of Crew Nation, featuring artists from various bands including Tommy Shaw from Styx! You just have to create an account and donate whatever you wish ...

  34. [34] 
    Kick wrote:

    Pennsylvania Supreme Court decisions regarding 2020 General Election:

    * Will extend the deadline for accepting mail ballots
    * Will allow voters to submit their ballots through drop boxes
    * Will remove the Green Party's candidate for president from the ballot

    PA Supreme Court Decision 09/17/2020

    Mail ballots will now be accepted in PA if they are received by 5:00 p.m. on the Friday after the election and were either postmarked by Nov. 3 or there is no evidence to suggest they were sent after Election Day.

    Trump had planned to sabotage the USPS mail delivery and also filed a lawsuit in federal court to simultaneously keep the State of PA from instituting their own ballot drop boxes to therefore compensate the (planned) slowed mail service -- drop boxes that multiple other states have had for years -- thus and thereby attempting to disenfranchise thousands upon thousands of voters in Pennsylvania. The PA Supreme Court has very different ideas.

    Republicans, of course, aren't done trying to disenfranchise voters in multiple states including Pennsylvania... so stay tuned.

  35. [35] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    TheStig [16] -

    The Yippies (the Youth International Party) held a massive march on the Pentagon in the 1960s, with the stated goal being to encircle the building and levitate it.

    No lie. Look it up!



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