This past Wednesday it looked like President Obama wouldn’t even take his own side in his debate with former Governor Mitt Romney. The subtext from Mr. Obama was “Please let me be President again because I’ll try harder next time.” The subtext from Mr. Romney was “I deserve to be president because I’m a rich businessman.”
Never mind Romney’s seeming desperation, manifested in his aggressive performance: when you’re losing, you can afford risky if not rude behavior. It seemed like Mr. Obama’s challenger observed different rules in the debate—
• Bully and interrupt the moderator
• Dodge questions that might lose you support
• Betray your own base if it will win you debate points
• Be sure not to talk about poor people, or wars, or the bloated military budget, or global climate change, or corporate control of public services like education and law enforcement – and never contrast cutting “entitlements” for the rest of us with cutting endless entitlements for the wealthy and powerful
• Bring up your religion to demonstrate your “values”; that is, bring up an irrelevancy to demonstrate a non sequitur
• And be sure you get the last word (or lie) in every exchange.
Since Mr. Obama was clearly unprepared to counter Mitt’s mendacities, I’d like to offer a suggestion for his next debate: don’t show up. But if you insist on facing Gov. Romney again, and if you’re serious about keeping your job, then try these three things:
• Anticipate what lies your opponent will repeat and debunk them first; anticipate which of your policies your opponent will criticize and defend them first
• Pretend you are the challenger: Look at your opponent and be assertive – unapologetic – relentless
• And, if you really want the votes that will keep you in your job, give a shout out to the progressives that got you elected the first time: they’ll invest energy in you if you show some energy for them.
There is a real difference between both corporate-friendly, military-friendly candidates. One cries “no representation without taxation”; the other was told it was debate night and thought they said “date night.”
To hear an audio version of this Quick Comment, click on this link: Debating Debating