Issues & Insights

Trump-Biden I: Reality Is Reality

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One can already hear the punditry repeating the most ridiculous and annoying of all public relations and political nostrums.

“Perception is reality.”

And when it comes to the first debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, “perception” favors the former veep.

He stayed on his feet. He was lucid. He had good prepared lines on his sons and other matters. He talked into the camera effectively.

Meanwhile, Trump was a bully. Interrupting and talking over Biden and moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News. Out-of-bounds in his attacks on Biden’s son and his drug addiction. Turning the event what one CNN commentator surprisingly called a “s—. show.”

Winner: Not-As-Sleepy-as-Usual Joe.

Well, here’s one long-time communications practitioner’s response to that whole line of argument.

To put it politely, bullcrap.

Perception is not reality. Reality is reality. You just have to make sure people know about it.

And the reality is that Donald Trump wiped the debate floor with Biden and his plugged pate.

The president was admittedly not at his best. He too often failed to accomplish his most important job for the evening: underscore his many accomplishments as chief executive and paint a visionary picture of the next four years, while contrasting Biden’s wild and expensive schemes.

When Wallace gave him a shot to explain why he should get four more years in the job rather than turn it over to his opponent (the basic question Teddy Kennedy flubbed in his famous interview with Roger Mudd), Trump once again missed the opportunity to point to his slam-bang second-term agenda and repeat his pronouncement that the “best is yet to come.”

But the president clearly did have a strategy, one that recalls the famed statement first attributed to Finley Peter Dunne’s wise-cracking Irishman, Mr. Dooley, “politics ain’t beanbag.” 

His obvious plan: rattle Biden into making mistakes. Trump forced the Delawarean into a number of indefensible and outright untrue statements (that will never be reviewed by the “fact-checkers” who once again dug into the president). 

The prez got onto the record, and the public consciousness, questions about Biden that would not normally get picked up in mainstream media coverage. In particular, issues relating to the former vice president’s son Hunter and his cash-raking from a rogue’s gallery of American enemies. And his kowtowing to Sanders and his party’s radical left wing. The president pushed the longtime senator into exaggerations about the extent of lost health coverage in the event of Obamacare repeal and COVID-19. Trump brought out the VP’s weaselly positions on opposing violence in the streets.

But Barack Obama’s wingman’s biggest mistake, under pressure from Trump, was losing his cool and failing to adhere to the political “norms” to which he and his party so frequently appeal.

Get this: in a single debate, the Democratic candidate told the president of the United States, on national television, to “shut up, man.” Called him a clown and a racist. And termed him the worst president in history (an especially ludicrous statement given that Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama held the office in this commentator’s lifetime).

The moderator’s response to such extraordinary breaks in decorum? Calling the president out for breaking debate rules, when both men were guilty at various times.

Wallace let Biden get away not only with disrespect for the office of president and the conventions of political debate, but also with an approach of slipping, sliding, prevaricating and outright running from his record and his party’s positions – for example, repeatedly and simply responding “that isn’t true” to charges that were in fact well-grounded.

To charges that he gave in to the Sanders/AOC wing on health care and climate policy. (In particular, Trump had Biden against the ropes and pummeled him on the Green New Deal.) And to charges relating to specific payments Hunter had received.

To Trump’s contrast of the candidates’ records on criminal justice reform and the economy.

And even in defending the indefensible behavior of educators who truly are teaching the younger generation, as POTUS rightly pointed out, to hate America.

Like a referee covering up a weaker fighter and sending an aggressive opponent back to his corner, Wallace repeatedly enabled Biden to slip away just as Trump was landing roundhouses and body blows.

The most outrageous part of Wallace’s Candy Crowley-like disgraceful performance was failing to pin Biden down on whether he would acquiesce to Democratic suggestions of court-packing, opposed by more than 60% of independent voters.

The job ahead for the president and his partisans: finish the job Trump started. First, by countering Sleepy Joe’s “nice guy” image with reminders of “shut up” and insults slung at the office of president.

More important, by hammering at the former vice president’s outright lies and other wedges the president started on corruptocracy, law and order, health care and most important, the Green New Deal. President Trump flushed Joe Biden out and exposed his weaknesses on any number of subjects.

That’s the reality of Tuesday’s debate, and the president and his team need to get to work getting  public “perception” aligned with it.

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Bob Maistros

Bob Maistros, a messaging and communications strategist and crisis specialist, is of counsel with Strategic Action Public Affairs, and was chief writer for the Reagan-Bush ’84 campaign, three U.S. Senators, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at bob@rpmexecutive.com.

22 comments

  • Ack! It gave me a headache. I don’t feel the interruptions were effective at all. Yes, Trump was stronger, but, he lost his focus and didn’t list facts as he should. Biden didn’t really answer anything. He used the usual democratic bait and switch – whatever the dems do wrong is re-positioned to a republican wrong. I don’t mind Trump brought up Hunter since using your political position to enrich your family is wrong. I also thought at the end, when Trump brought up how the Obama/Biden admin didn’t encourage a smooth transition was very good. Trump needs to focus on this more.

  • They really need to make drug testing and electronics sweeping a standard requirement of the debates. Joe’s eyes were totally glassy, abnormal (drugged). He kept looking down while Trump was talking s if listening to someone else. Maybe all innocent, but we shouldn’t have to wonder.

    • It’s impossible for to fathom the idea that people would actually vote for Biden. Especially when you can read about this corrupt man who is a racist.
      Folks just don’t get it, this election is not a vote for Trump or Biden.
      I’m voting for:
      1. The 2nd Amendment
      2. The Electoral College and the REPUBLIC WE LIVE IN.
      3. The the police to be respected and Law & Order.
      4. Jobs to remain in America
      5. Unborn babies to live
      6. Our Military and it’s Veterans who FOUGHT FOR THIS COUNTRY
      7 To fight against human/child trafficking..
      8. For the American Flag that
is disrespected by the Democratic
Party.
      9. For the right to speak my
opinion & not be censored.

      I’m not just voting for one person,

I’m voting for the future of my
Country, for my children & my
children’s children to have their
freedom.

  • Trump was a disaster….Lack of ability to control himself totally undermines his arguments and make him look unfit for the office

  • I’m a Trump supporter and would love to be able to sell that he won the debate, but there was no winner. It was painful to watch. Trump bailed Biden out by interrupting him every time he spoke. He needed to give Biden a little rope, listen, and then hammer him. Trump couldn’t answer some questions because he didn’t give Wallace (also a big loser) a chance to ask them. There’s a huge swath of American voters who are simply ignorant. The most important characteristic of politicians is likeability and Trump was not likeable last night. Trump made some good points last night, but they didn’t help because from the start he was a bully, defensive, and annoying.

  • Wallace was a disgrace. Letting Biden interrupt Trump. Go back and review the tape. Trump let
    Biden speak his piece while both Biden and Wallace incessantly broke in with interruptions.

    That’s when Trump took his gloves off. Okay so that’s how it’s gonna be…..

    Trump got his points across on his successful record and exposed Biden for his weaknesses.

    GRADES:

    Trump. B+
    Biden. B-
    Wallace. C-

    • I would grade Wallace a definite F for failing the American electorate completely.

      I saw no clear winner between Trump and Biden but I saw Biden lie and perform poorly, If Wallace had not rescued Biden so many times, Trump would have ben the clear winner. Again it was never an honest debate when you start with a moderator playing on one team.

  • You yamo’s must have been watching a different debate.The rude and ill-tempered raving manic,Trump ,showed why he’s trailing with the voters.

    • Myoptic vision on your part. The simple truth is that for 4 years, the democratic party, the democratic owned media and the Pelosi lie machine, the ex-Obama personnel and Clinton cronies have been circumventing any descent behavior towards President Trump. I am surprised how polite he actually handled himself given how he has been unjustly battered non-stop for four years. Myoptic vision is another form of bias.

  • Trump did interrupt too much. He would have been more effective if he let Biden speak more before pouncing on him. But he did smoke Biden out on a few issues.

  • It wasn’t Trump against Biden, it was Biden against his own party after Trump pushed him to deny the Biden/Bernie manifesto, admit he wouldn’t enact AOC’S Green New Deal, refuse to say he would pack the court if elected after republicans put Barrett on SCOTUS by making it a 9 judge panel & put liberal judges on those extra 4 seats, he never said he supported Black Lives Matter & denied ANTIFA’S existence.

  • The first presidential debate of the 2020 election is over: It was a mud fight.

    Let’s stop throwing the word “rhetoric” around and judge the performance by the three simple standards of persuasive speech set forth by Aristotle about 2,500 years ago.

    LOGOS
    The hosts of the first debate on FOX, Martha McCollum and Bret Baier, said people they spoke to in Cleveland wanted “issues” discussed. To discuss means two or more participants set forth their positions for public examination, or winnowing by their opponent in a debate. That’s logos.

    It never happened.

    And if setting forth one’s position in a straight forward manner that can be understood by all is the standard, Joe Biden won the debate. He is FOR
    police, so he left his progressive, far left money crowd behind. And he is FOR The Green New Deal because, like Roosevelt (Franklin, that is), he
    sees the Federal Government paying the bills and provided lots of jobs,
    “hard, hard employment.” No word about how high taxes will be raised to pay for this pork barrel scheme, nor WHOSE taxes, either.

    Donald Trump, the incumbent doesn’t seem to have a platform that he can repair to easily, nor does he seem to have a standard by which the coming election can be judged ‘fair’ or ‘unfair.’ He is woefully short on facts and figures.

    ETHOS
    The incumbent, the aforementioned Donald Trump, ought to be able to enunciate quickly and clearly his/her accomplishments. The challenger,
    Joe Biden, can attack and propose new directions.

    Instead, Trump attacked. Biden proposed.

    Trump attacked. Biden mocked.

    Trump attacked. We grew weary.

    The only emotion Trump induced was fatigue. Biden appeared to need a friend . . . or a road map. He was hollow eyed and slow by the end: tired.

    Sure, Biden went by toward the right in his defense of cops and denunciation of rioting, and went by equally quickly to the left in his fairy tale exposition of his “shining city on a coast” green new deal. But he acted like a challenger. Trump did, too. Too bad.

    Trump showed no attitude of elitism or superiority except when he slapped Biden down with, “Don’t talk to me about intelligence,” possibly his only convincing thrust. And you do not appeal, as a candidate, to the moderator with phrases like, “You know, Chris.” And you observe the rules when you profess to be the Law and Order candidate.

    There were times when I (almost) wished Chris Wallace was Trump’s VP!
    He never rose from his seat and he never yelled (women may disagree with me). And he asked them both pointed questions on controversial matters which ought to have been answered unequivocally.

    Trump was so short of facts, positions, planks that I felt like the head of a foreign nation trying to negotiate with him. Who is he? What’s he stand for?
    He is defenseless before the progressive pack’s charges of lying.

    PATHOS
    Possibly Aristotle saw emotion as a tool to be used in pursuit of persuasion.
    The speaker induces emotion: tears, joy, patriotism, etc. I always taught students that that was pandering, easily seen through by a Hollywood-saturated audience. Humor draws them in. Elicits sympathy. And makes your case (logos) more smoothly swallowed.

    I’m not advocating imitation of either the folksy “Aw shucks” of Will Rogers, or the “I never catch a break” style of Rodney Dangerfield, but I am inveighing against rapid whining about the feckless media and his opponents by Trump. Biden merely labeled Trump a liar repeatedly and gained public sympathy in so doing.

    Like I said earlier, “It was a mud fight.” And no one won, but Trump lost.

  • Did anyone think that the “Force of Nature” that we know as our President was actually going to behave according to the Marquis of Queensbury rules? Oh please. The people who are clutching their pearls and having the vapors on the fainting couch are either total fools or haven’t been paying attention. I heard all the same whining and complaining in 2016. The “he is rude and crude not presidential” crowd has been singing that same old song since the first time Trump appeared on stage with 17 contenders that he knocked down like so many milk bottles at the carnival.
    Trump will be Trump and win or lose you can never say he didn’t fight his hardest to win for you, Let us pray that he succeeds because other wise the Republic as we know it is finished,
    And you are right reality is reality and perception is as transient as the fools who want to believe it in any given moment. And it can be changed by a few words uttered by the right man. “I come to bury Caesar” comes to mind as a few words that changed everything.
    If more people would study Shakespeare instead of worthless women’s studies they just might learn a thing or two.

  • I must ask why Trump was “Out-of-bounds in his attacks on Biden’s son and his drug addiction?” It is an admitted fact by Hunter himself that he is a crack cocaine addict and has been through 6 or 7 rehabs. There is nothing lower than crack cocaine addiction except perhaps glue sniffing. Joe says his son has kicked the habit. Has he? Last year he turned in his rental car and somehow overlooked the crack pipe and paraphernalia in the back seat.

    No corporation or investment business will hire a crackhead or put one on its board, much less pay them big bucks or invest $1,500,000,000 into their care unless daddy holds serious power in our government. This kind of leverage is ON THE TABLE FOR REVIEW.

  • You forgot one major lie from Biden: Antifa isn’t an organization, it’s just an idea.

  • [print-me target="#post-%ID%"]

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