Pollster Frank Luntz and Historian Doris Goodwin Offer Up Ridiculous Claims About the Presidential Debate

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

On Sunday's "This Week," Martha Raddatz had a panel discussion with three "experts" on the upcoming presidential debate. The panel included Frank Luntz, and what he offered up made little sense.  

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Luntz claims that the last two presidential campaigns, beginning with Trump versus Clinton in 2016 and then Trump versus Biden in 2020, were the beginning of the end of democracy. It seems everything in politics is “the end of democracy.” Luntz claimed that personal invectives and insults are too debasing and, apparently, a sign of the end of democracy. Luntz is a pollster, not a historian. Maybe he’s unaware of the long history of politicians insulting each other. While Lincoln and Douglas were debating, they were long on insults; they were just more creative with their rhetoric.  

Howard Taft punched out a political rival who insulted his wife. When Teddy Roosevelt decided to run for president for the second time, he tried to convince Taft to step aside. When Taft refused, he and Taft constantly insulted each other on the stump – and they were fast friends. Insulting rivals is not new to Trump. Trump is just the first meme candidate.  

Luntz said: 

If we have another reaction like that first 2020 debate, where the two candidates just go at each other, at some point, our system breaks. Our democracy comes undone.  

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Calm down, Frank. 

Luntz is worried about how Biden and Trump will treat each other – with respect or contempt. Let’s be honest. Neither candidate has any respect for the other. Trump has reason to find Biden in contempt. Biden has spent his entire adult life in government and getting himself and his family rich while doing it. Trump is far from perfect, but he built a private sector business while Biden was lying his way through the Senate and as VP. Biden will, guaranteed, bring up “34 felonies.” 

The other guests were Jon Meacham and Doris Kearns Goodwin. Meacham is a “never-Trumper" who worked for Bush and has little substantive to say. Goodwin is a historian. I’ve enjoyed all of her books, but she has a distinctive blindside when it comes to JFK and LBJ. She worked for Johnson and has high regard for him. I don't.

Goodwin offered a comparison between Thursday's Biden-Trump debate and that of Kennedy and Nixon. She claimed that there are parallels between the two. Kennedy prepared, and Nixon (believing that he had the stronger points) didn’t. Goodwin noted that Kennedy came off as “handsome” and Nixon came off as “pasty” and nervous. 

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She ignored some salient points. People who listened to the Kennedy/Nixon debate knew that Nixon had wiped the floor with Kennedy on substance. Those who watched saw Kennedy as vibrant and young. There is no parallel between Kennedy and Biden. Biden is a walking, talking cadaver. Biden is incapable of looking like a "vibrant" 40-something. He is almost twice Kennedy's age when he debated Nixon. Biden is a physical and mental train wreck. 

Goodwin mentioned that her husband was working for Kennedy and thought that the debate had sealed the presidency for Kennedy. Kennedy knew that he hadn’t sealed it at all. He still needed his daddy’s money and Democratic machines in a couple of states to cheat for him to win. 

To borrow a line from Lloyd Bentsen, Joe Biden, you are  "no Jack Kennedy."

Biden is more like Joe Kennedy—a deeply corrupt, consistently wrong, and arrogant man who was a practiced liar.

All Trump has to do is keep his rhetoric down to maybe an eight on the insult scale, and he wins.  

Biden has never been "like Kennedy." 

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