Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Guest Post by James Copeland: 'How I Would Coach Donald Trump for the Next Debate'

Publisher's Note: This guest post was written by James Copeland, executive director, emeritus, of the National Speech and Debate Association. He was a member of the Associated Press Presidential Debate Evaluation Panel, 1976-2000. He is the author of Cross Examination in Debate (1983) and has advised gubernatorial and congressional candidates about campaign debates.

Donald Trump, like Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Reagan, is a leader, not a man of study.  Men of study like Bob Dole, Jimmy Carter and Al Gore were good with briefing books and detail.  But briefing books and practice debates are not the best way for Mr. Trump to prepare.

Preparation for the next debate must be based upon Trump's considerable skills. His greatest skill was exhibited on “The Apprentice”, where Trump evaluated and judged the arguments of others. Trump is a counter puncher and this skill can be honed to create retorts to opposition arguments.

The retort is the most effective and dramatic argument that can be posed in a debate: It takes the PREMISE of the opponent's attack and turns it back against the accuser.
Example #1: [Premise: Transparency]
Secretary Clinton insists I release my tax returns.
I insist she release the transcripts of her speeches to Wall Street firms, which paid her thousands of dollars in speaking fees. How do we know what she promised them? She demands I provide transparency, yet she provides none.

Example #2: [Premise: Honesty]
Secretary Clinton accuses me of not being truthful when I say I did not support the Iraq war.
My opinion was that of a private citizen. I accuse Secretary Clinton of not being truthful about the Benghazi attack. Publicly she blamed the attack on an anti-Muslim video. Privately she tweeted her daughter, Chelsea, that it was a terrorist attack! She demands honesty from private citizens, yet refuses to provide it as a public official.

(NOTE: A retort is NOT a pivot. A pivot tries to dodge an argument, not turn it back on the accuser.)

If I had the honor to coach Mr. Trump I would follow this plan:
1] Mr. Trump should be seated in an executive chair behind a table, like “The Apprentice”
2] Facing Mr. Trump about ten feet away should be two side by side podiums.
3] At one podium is the Clinton surrogate; at the other a Trump surrogate.
4] Staff will have prepared a list of Clinton personal attacks on Trump and a retort for each.
5] Staff will have prepared a list of Trump issues, Clinton's rebuttal and Trump's retort.
6] Each surrogate will be scripted with the material prepared by staff.
7] The surrogates will act out one attack or issue at a time. THEN
10] Roger Ailes should attend each session and privately offer his critique to Mr. Trump.
11] Each session will not last more than one hour (15 minutes for each issue).

For James Copeland's assessment of the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, see this post on Bearing Drift:  "Champion Debate Coach Assesses Trump-Clinton Performances."

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