Debating 101: A Primer

My father was fond of saying “This isn’t a high school debate!” whenever I took exception to anything he said.  It was his way of saying “Shut the hell up!”  That’s pretty much how I would handle a debate if I were a Presidential candidate.

I have never participated in a debate.  I’ve argued a lot and even yelled at people, but that’s different.  I have been married for almost 25 years, so these types of encounters happen on occasion.  That said, I’m sure I would do poorly in a real debate.

I don’t pay that much attention to politics, except for the few issues which interest me.  As a result, I’m not fan of political speeches or heated back-and-forth on the issues of the day.  I do, however, watch quite a bit of television.  Presidential debates are, after all, made-for-TV events. As such they neglect one basic element of good television:  Entertainment.

Despite some thinking that 47% of the public has made up its mind about the election, I doubt that.  My guess is that 45% are in the bag for Obama and 45% are on the Romney bandwagon.  That leaves 10% to decide the leader of the Free World.

Chances are that these folks aren’t much interested in politics, but–like all of us–they want to be entertained.  Something has to resonate with these folks–draw them in.  I don’t think two stiff politicians droning on about political minutia will do it.

The few debates I’ve watched have been dreadfully dull, like most of the candidates.  Given the critical nature of the upcoming presidential debates, I’ve thought about what could be done to spice them up a tad.

The first thing needed is a change in format.  Rather than one dullard as a moderator, I would pick a panel of controversial blowhards.  My initial thought is to have Keith Olberman, Ann Coulter and Simon Cowell.  Instead of the usual mundane questions, they could take turns introducing hot button topics, such as:

  • You, sir, are a damned liar!
  • Tell us about Bill Ayres!
  • Where are your tax returns?
  • Where is your birth certificate?
  • Sing your favorite song!
  • I hate you!
  • You are a communist!
  • You are a rich sonofabitch!
  • You are a Muslim!
  • You are a Mormon!
  • You don’t have star power!

After each topic is introduced, each candidate will have two minutes to respond.  Our panel, being pathologically unable to stay quiet, will be free to interrupt the responses with their own inane rants.

These changes, while helpful, won’t fix things unless the candidates themselves are willing to make some changes to their own approaches.  Below are my suggestions for both candidates:

For Obama:

  1. If asked about the economy, light up a Marlboro and mutter “I don’t know.  I just don’t know….”
  2. Demand that Romney make public all his tax returns…and his wives.
  3. Invoke Patriot Act; Declare Romney an Enemy Combatant.
  4. Announce that Biden is being replaced with The Turtle Man so that someone more qualified will be in line for the Presidency.
  5. Throw Osama Bin Laden’s head into the audience, screaming:  “I didn’t say anything about not spiking his head!”
  6. If asked about taxes, respond with:  “I’m taxing you bastards into the Stone Age.”
  7. Plant Bill Clinton in the audience.  Have him interrupt to answer any difficult questions.
  8. At some point, say:  “KARL Marx?!?!  That’s completely different!  All this time, I thought I was following GROUCHO!”
  9. Counter any valid argument with “I’ve got your predator drone, right here!”
  10. Announce plans to end war in Afghanistan; start war in America.

For Romney:

  1. Enter stage with Honey Boo Boo on his shoulders, thus insuring ratings bonanza and currying favor with the 47%.
  2. Announce that he’s legally changed his name to “Mint” and wear gigantic gold dollar sign around neck.
  3. Pointedly challenge Obama:  “If you’re really Kenyan, then explain to the public why you can’t run faster than Paul Ryan!”
  4. Draw hilarious caricature of Mohammed.
  5. Drink first cup of coffee ever during debate.  Go mental.
  6. Announce plans to invade Canada.
  7. Take vow of poverty, then laugh uncontrollably until time is up.
  8. Respectfully address Obama as “Commissar Commie Pinko Obama.”
  9. Wear a monocle.
  10. Undermine Biden’s inroads with biker-voters by referring to Ann as “my old lady.”

In addition to these specific pointers for the candidates, there are also general tactics which can be used by either candidate. These will insure lively back and forth while not turning off the viewer with wild, controversial stands on important issues.

A tried and true approach is to redirect the question toward a topic you’d really like to discuss. I call this “Debate by Diversion.”  Here is an example:

QUESTION: Sir, you have been accused of being vague on specifics. How exactly will you balance the federal budget?

ANSWER:  I’m glad you asked that question.  A balance budget is vital to our future–and that of our children.  I will balance the budget, but–speaking of children–the more important question is why does my opponent continue to deny that he authored a series of erotic novels for children? 

This outlandish and baseless accusation will subtly divert the viewer from the mundane budget issues, focusing his or her attention on the more inflammatory topic of adolescent erotica.  The opponent will be on the defensive for the remainder of the debate, plus viewers will remain glued to their TVs for the remainder of the debate.

There is also the irrelevant point:

QUESTION:  Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was long viewed as a staunch ally of the United States.  With the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt, what will you do to re-build our relationship with Egypt?

ANSWER:  A strong, democratic Egypt is vital to our interests in the Middle East.  I will work with all Egyptians to build a strong relationship based upon mutual respect and peace.  Of course, the biggest issue facing us today is the rampant abuse of bath salts, both here in the United States and in Egypt.

The candidate has defused a potentially devastating lack of knowledge of the Middle East by injecting an irrelevant issue into the middle of the debate.  Many more undecided voters are likely to be addicted to bath salts than to actually know someone in Egypt.

Then, there is the non-response.  If your opponent makes an especially stinging comment, respond:  “WhatEVer!” Then, storm out of the room and refuse to speak to your opponent until he apologizes, even though he did nothing wrong.  Okay, I’ll admit that won’t improve ratings, but it works.  My wife does it all the time.

Finally–and most importantly–do not take a position on anything, except being “Anti-Terrorist” and “Pro-America.”  Don’t screw up and become “pro-crime” or “anti-God.” Your ratings will plummet.

Trust me, when you watch the debates, you’ll wish they’d read this.  Of course, you can always check out Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and watch the debate highlights on the news.  That’s my plan.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2012

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: A Debate Overview: What Went Wrong? | Coaltroll's Blog

  2. Pingback: The Madness of Joe Biden | Coaltroll's Blog

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