Dangerous Debates: Trump Needs to Be Quite Careful

AP Photo/Chris Seward

The most important thing to remember about U.S. presidential debates is they are historic, essential, decisive, and absolutely necessary for Americans to properly select their next commander in chief. 

You will be hearing in coming weeks that the upcoming televised verbal confrontations are obviously so very important that every single citizen who cares about the nation should watch or listen to decide how to vote.

Until, that is, the debates actually happen.

Then, no one agrees on anything. Both parties will claim a clear victory. Committed viewers will say their favored candidate won in a walk. Others will go “Meh” and switch channels before the last over-priced commercial.

We’re witnessing the same scenario already. Joe Biden’s puppeteers and supportive media claim he pulled a fast one on the former president. 

They surprised everyone with secret advance talks with a Democrat CNN. They got what they wanted — just two debates, no live audiences, and early ones on the calendar because the tone-deaf Bidenomics campaign is dead-in-the-water right now.

Donald Trump, who ducked every GOP primary debate to deny other contenders his presence, agreed immediately. Everything Trump knows, he knows for certain. 

He’s confident, maybe a little too confident. Polls are not predictive. But they’re treated that way anyway. They show Trump doing not great in key states, but better than Biden, which is what will matter in 170 days.

That’s a very long time, even if you don’t measure it in hours (about 4,100) or seconds (14.7 million). Plenty of time for some adverse health event for either or both of the two oldest presidential candidates ever (Biden 81, Trump 78 next month).

Plenty of time for any number of foreign events and malevolent actors to scare comfortable Americans, already anxious over a current leader with clearly diminished faculties. 

Plenty of time for well-financed demonstrators pretending to espouse some made-up concern to repeat their violent campus disruptions at party conventions — Republicans July 15-18 in Milwaukee and/or Democrats in Chicago five weeks later, as they did in 1968.

Debates have forever changed presidential elections. They once were sold as “must-watch TV,” which they could be with substantive policy questions and time for detailed answers. 

But TV being TV and modern viewers having been trained to expect quick cuts and quips, presidential debates have become more like staged reality shows with beauty contest questions seeking short sound bites for headlines. “How would you end the Ukraine war? You each have 30 seconds.”

Previous debates came later in the cycle when vacations were over and voters more focused. But a confluence of events and strategies has conspired to change political priorities this cycle.

Widespread early voting means millions would cast their ballots before traditional debate dates as if answers to the gotcha questions from media celebs actually shaped decisions, instead of merely confirming voters’ existing impressions.

These two candidates are likely the best-known wannabe presidents ever. 

No doubt some earnest folks will decide their vote based on debate-viewing. Even though nothing in TV debates resembles anything a president with a vast staff would ever experience, except perhaps remembering a rehearsed comeback from an anticipated criticism.

If being knowledgeable and judicious mattered in TV debates, then voters would have swung to a prescient Mitt Romney in 2012 when he warned in the Denver debate that Russia remained a serious strategic challenge with territorial ambitions.

Barack Obama, his vice president, Joe Biden, and media mocked Romney as outdated and uninformed. But then, oops, just 15 months later, Vladimir Putin’s Russia seized all of Crimea and eastern Ukraine. 

That was the precursor to its full-scale 2022 invasion when — Oh, look! —  the same voters had made that former vice president into a president after another set of TV-show debates. 

Typically, politicians doing well in a campaign prefer early voting because it locks in voter decisions and prevents damage from October surprises.

But 2024 is different. Biden has too much ground to make up in just those last few weeks. He plans to use his successful fundraising to attack Trump relentlessly all summer to dilute the publicity bonanza and usual poll bounce of the GOP convention with a surprise GOP VP nominee.

Biden’s problem, however, is Biden himself — his brain freezes, incoherent rambles, falls, and weak physical demeanor. 

Polls show that, having endured Biden’s 40 months of inflation and policy and personal disasters, voters now overlook Trump’s turmoil and current court cases and have developed a fond memory for his four years of economic growth, peace, low inflation, and energy independence.

His ban from social media actually helped that image, preventing trademark “angry tweets.”

Four years ago, the personnel and rhetorical turmoil of Trump’s term was fresh in mind. Despite some concerning signs of Biden’s angry mental confusions and a campaign largely from his basement, the familiar Democrat’s vows of returning to normalcy seemed safer.

Upwards of 70 percent of Democrats said they were voting against Trump more than for Biden.

The trouble with votes though, is they’re indelible. You can’t exchange them when the product is not as promised. In office, Biden made a sharp turn to the far left of his party. His wild spending ignited nine percent inflation, which he said was only temporary. 

Biden’s intentional assassination of the country’s hard-won energy independence combined with his poorly-planned EV mandate to jack gas prices. To counter, he drained the nation’s oil reserves by nearly half, then went back on his promise to refill them.

On Day One, Biden inexplicably removed southern border controls. That has since allowed the uncontrolled arrival of 10 million illegal aliens, including Europeans and Chinese, undocumented and untracked.

And then came Biden’s lethal refusal to accept Pentagon advice on the Afghan troop withdrawal. That resulted in 13 troops' deaths, the abandonment of thousands of Americans and Afghan allies to the conquering regime’s revenge, billions in modern equipment donated to the Taliban, and global mortification for the alleged super-power. 

Biden still calls that botched operation “an extraordinary success.” Which brings us to Joe Biden’s trouble with truth.

Liars are liars. My father would remind me, “If you see someone lying to others, what makes you think he’s not lying to you?”

I think Americans presume all politicians tell some “stretchers.” Joe Biden, however, tells so many countless verifiable untruths about his background, life, relatives, policies, and economic data. 

The Washington Post dutifully documented thousands of lies by Republican Trump. But that paper has given up counting Democrat Biden’s innumerable whoppers.

A senator from a minor blue state famous for bankruptcies can perhaps get away with that like a goofy uncle at Thanksgiving. But not a commander in chief who tells allies he has their back and service volunteers their country needs them to risk their lives.  

Any chuckles over fibs have long since dissipated. And they’ve been replaced by a genuinely serious concern for the mental state of anyone in a position of immense power who utters such a relentless flood of obviously false claims and stories. How can Joe Biden not realize that?

New polls indicate Americans are unusually eager to vote this timetying a record.

What Donald Trump is counting on – dangerously, in my opinion – is this Joe Biden showing up at the debates:

That’s painful to watch -- and devastating. Last week, Trump took to social media to say Biden is the “worst debater I have ever faced. He can’t put two sentences together.”

This is Trump cocky and NOT what you want to do in advance. Americans already know Biden is enfeebled. You want to build up expectations for your opponent, perhaps higher than anything he could possibly reach: 

This man has been in politics longer than many of you have been alive. And he looked pretty sharp at the State of the Union.

Safer to set debate expectations high for your opponent, not yourself. Let the public decide how good he is.

In his brief debate challenge video — which obviously needed heavy editing, by the way — Biden boasted how good he was in 2020. In a regal cocoon, he might genuinely be unaware of how awful he looks even to the dimmest voter. No number of muttered “Anyways” can erase that sight. 

Any of this on a nationally-televised presidential debate would doom the dream of Jill Biden and staff for another four years of government housing and 24-hour servants.

No one outside that inside crowd knows what happens to this president during the 40 percent of his term that he, or someone, deems it necessary for him to be in Delaware, out of public sight with no record of visitors.

Which is why Trump now calls for a drug test before the debates. That’s a clever move, even if it doesn’t happen, because it feeds the wide suspicion that Biden’s starkly different speech performance in the House was somehow chemically enhanced.

Nor does any outsider know what happened to Joe Biden in the empty hours before his State of the Union Address on March 7. Biden was coherent for a change, but strangely yelled often during his 67 minutes at the podium.

The C-SPAN video of that speech is here. Biden doesn’t speak until the 9:32 mark.

Expectations for Biden’s debate performance are below minimal. Unless he is drooling or pulls a “Dave” collapse, anything like his State of the Union performance would be an immense success for Democrats, dissolving in just a few minutes three years of documented rambles and brain freezes.

His staff must be extremely confident they can prep him for that.

Trump needs to be prepared for the worst, which is the best Biden. No surprised or angry Trump. He knows what presidential is; he’s been there. 

He’s not the best at self-discipline in message or behavior. But if No. 45 can control himself, deliver his own campaign message about the future, not the past, and respect Americans’ ability to judge Biden by themselves, Trump would be well on his way to becoming No. 47.


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