In Part I of this note, I referred to the concern Mr. Biden’s advisors reportedly have about his ability to withstand the barrage that President Trump is expected to try to visit upon Mr. Biden tonight. I would suggest that Mr. Trump’s very predictability provides Mr. Biden with opportunities if he and his staff are savvy enough to exploit them. Possibilities:
The first time the President lies [likely within his first response]: “What you just said about [whatever] is simply not true. Either you know it, or you’re dreaming – either is dangerous in a president. Tonight, whenever you say something blatantly untrue, rather than waste time, I’m simply going to start my response with a ‘Ding.’” [If effectively used, this could drive Mr. Trump crazy.]
When Mr. Trump tries to interrupt him: “I’m speaking now, Mr. President. You have to wait your turn.”
Mail-in voting is fraudulent: “Ding. There is no evidence of significant mail-in fraud ever occurring anywhere in this country. Quit being a whiny baby. You are complaining because you think you’ll lose a fair fight. Every time our people hear you complain about mail-in voting, they should realize you’re just making excuses.”
Hillary Clinton: “You keep trying to run against Hillary Clinton. It’s because you’re afraid to face me.”
That the Russia investigation was a hoax: “Ding. Four years ago, you told the American people that none of your people had anything to do with Russia. Now, we know that during the campaign your lawyer was trying to get Putin to let you build a building in Russia. Not only that, the Senate Intelligence Committee led by Republicans – led by Republicans — just released a report that said, “[I haven’t read the 900+ bipartisan pages, but Mr. Biden’s people have; there are plenty of plums regarding the Trump Campaign’s interactions from the Russians to choose from.]”
He’s done a great job on the Coronavirus: “Ding. You knew it was deadly. You knew it passes through the air. You told Bob Woodward that you were playing it down. We’ve all heard you on tape. You let the American people down. And now more than 200,000 of our people are dead.”
When he suggests that Biden will be a prisoner of the “Alt-Left”: “Who could believe that? Just look at me. I come from Scranton working people. You come from your Daddy’s mansion in New York.”
When he claims that Biden will defund the police: “Ding. I have never said that. I believe that we need more funding and training for police, not less. I condemn all violence, whether left or right. You, Mr. President, tweeted support for a 17-year old who crossed the border to commit murder in Wisconsin. You’ll defend anybody that supports you. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
If he challenges Biden to name his Supreme Court picks: I’d come out with Merrick Garland. On Amy Coney Barrett, I’d point out her law review article criticizing the Supreme Court’s upholding the ACA, and take the high road on her nomination: “She seems like a nice person, but with views very different from those of Justice Ginsburg. Isn’t it fair, after what Republicans did four years ago, to wait for the outcome of the election?” He won’t stop the Republicans; but he can win the persuadable swing state voters.
If he criticizes the Green New Deal: “First priority is to be sure that we provide a transition in jobs for our people in affected industries. Effective manufacturing and jobs in clean energy will make us the world leader again. We need to give tax credits so those new jobs are based in the areas affected by any transition. But to deny climate change is silly. Americans have the guts to look at the truth. Look at the melting Alaska glaciers. Look at all the wildfires. Look at all the hurricanes. Let’s be real. We have no time for fantasy land.”
If he suggests the NYT story on taxes is false: “Fine. Show your taxes. The IRS says there is no reason an audited return can’t be disclosed.”
Three final notes:
The Moderator, Fox News’ Chris Wallace, will certainly inquire about the New York Times’ recent article on Mr. Trump’s taxes. I think it could well cast a different tone on the debate not because of the effect it will have on the President’s supporters — independents leaning toward him have undoubtedly already accepted that he’s a charlatan and his base supporters won’t care – but because of the effect it may have on Mr. Trump. His niece, Mary Trump, writes near the end of her book, Too Much and Never Enough: “[Y]ou have to remember that [Mr. Trump] is still, in essential ways, the … little boy who is desperately worried that he … is inadequate and … will be destroyed by his inadequacy.”
Mr. Biden is fiercely protective of his family, and his advisors apparently worry that he’ll erupt when Mr. Trump attacks Hunter Biden’s dealings in Ukraine. My advice would be: At least outwardly, shrug it off. (Hopefully, those preparing Mr. Biden for the debate have pounded mercilessly, ingeniously, and repeatedly on Mr. Biden about his son.) “My son did nothing wrong. Your bootlickers in Congress and the media are taking false information from the Russians, and they know it. They will even traffic with our country’s enemies to win this election. You don’t have the guts to face Putin, but you’re going after my son to hurt me. Be a man if you can.”
On the issue of Hunter Biden, I’d actually be more concerned about Mr. Wallace, who can justifiably point out that during the impeachment hearings, several members of the Obama Administration expressed concerns about the appearance of a conflict of interest that arose from Hunter Biden’s Ukrainian dealings while Mr. Biden was Vice President. If I were Mr. Biden, I’d say, “Chris, in retrospect, the appearance wasn’t the best. Although he did nothing illegal, Hunter has said that taking the seat showed poor judgement.”
Although what I offer here cannot be assumed, there is nonetheless the possibility that an overt attack on Mr. Biden by Mr. Trump may be counter-productive. In the Democratic presidential debates, U.S. CA Rep. Eric Swalwell, then U.S. CA Sen. Kamala Harris, and then former HUD Director Julian Castro had their campaigns shrivel after they overtly and personally attacked Mr. Biden. Vicious attacks on Mr. Biden by Mr. Trump will play well with Mr. Trump’s supporters, but the game will be decided by persuadable swing state voters. An aggressive attack on Mr. Biden by Mr. Trump could backfire because even many of Mr. Trump’s supporters don’t like him personally; Mr. Biden comes across as a decent man who means well; and people don’t like unlikeable people who attack people they like.
So tonight, we’ll see.