With the first debates of the Presidential election coming up this week I’ve been preparing around the clock. I wish my camp could keep a closer lid on some of our prep. A story came out this week that said my team “has concluded that debates are about creating moments and has equipped him with a series of zingers that he has memorized and has been practicing on aides since August” and now I don’t know how effective that strategy can be. It’s one thing to try and lure a person in to a trap; it’s a completely different thing to tell them the trap is coming. Should this story leaking change my strategy?
-Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and cartoon rich person
I hate to admit this but your strategy people might be geniuses. How are most people going to get information on this debate? By watching it live? Of course not, they’ll watch the news later that night or the next day. The news won’t be showing long quotes on policy they’ll show quick clips. If you could get the president with a couple good zingers you could dominate the coverage after and create the illusion that you won the debate regardless of how the rest of that debate went. You could act like the world’s worst boxer and get hit by hundreds of jabs while you wind up for an out-of-control haymaker; if you connect you’ll win the fight.
As someone who fancies himself as a bit of a comedian I have to warn you that you aren’t going to get anywhere with memorized zingers that you’ve been practicing for two months. Comedy, especially the kind where you respond directly to something someone says before you, has to appear spontaneous. If you’re going out there with some memorized line and the president says something just a little different than what you expected then you’ll look incredibly awkward. You know what incredibly awkward feels like and, I assure you, it looks awful on film. When I see you at sporting events I’m surprised you aren’t running to take over the Dunder Mifflin office in Scranton.
I don’t think you have any other choice for this debate. You have basically no chance of coming off as more prepared or informed than Barack Obama. He’s a sharp guy and, more importantly, has cultivated one hell of a reputation as a speaker and a debater. I can’t even remember if it’s deserved. The only moment I remember from the 2008 debates is John McCain making that terribly confused face when he couldn’t find his mark or something. If you go for slow boring policy talk you’re basically playing for a tie. Try your zingers try to make the president look foolish as that is your only chance to make a real dent in this race on Wednesday. It seems desperate but, then again, your campaign looks a little desperate right now. I’d wish you luck but I sort of think this attitude is counter to the resurgence of serious discourse in American politics. Just don’t talk about raincoats again.