Frank Miele: How Trump wins the debate



It’s the demeanor, stupid.

The public already overwhelmingly supports Donald Trump on the issues. But what many of them worry about is his demeanor. In other words, does he “act presidential”?

So, on June 27, when Trump joins President Joe Biden on CNN for the earliest general election presidential debate in U.S. history, it’s not going to matter what the former president says so much as how he says it.

Think of it as the equivalent of a medieval knight running the gauntlet. Every question from pro-Democrat moderators Jake Tapper and Dana Bash and every taunting response from President Biden about threats to democracy will be an opportunity for Trump to lose his temper or to alienate moderate voters with intemperate replies.

But if Trump keeps his cool in hostile territory – and CNN is definitely hostile –  he will pick up invaluable points in the “seems more presidential” surveys that will certainly follow. The demeanor issue could cement Trump as the winner not just of the debate, but of the 2024 election itself.

Of course, Biden and his team are betting that Trump can’t keep his cool. They are no doubt thinking about the first debate of the 2020 campaign when Trump came across as a ferocious junkyard dog by constantly interrupting Biden and insulting him. That’s exactly what the Biden campaign is hoping for this time around, and if their calculation is right, then the president may be able to ride his “sympathetic, well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory” persona to victory in the fall.

Remember, this debate and another one in early September were proposed by Biden at a time when he was trending badly behind Trump in the polls, especially in battleground states. Presumably, the Biden campaign believed the early debates would shore up his support and hurdle him over the much indicted, and now convicted, former president.

But that doesn’t have to be true. All of the potential pitfalls for Trump are clearly marked with giant cartoonish neon signs of pointing fingers flashing the message “Pitfall here, dummy!” Even if Trump is distracted by his legal battles, hopefully his campaign team will make sure that he is prepped and ready to avoid each obstacle, such as making ambiguous jokes like “dictator on day one,” demeaning the elderly president as “Crooked Joe,” and talking more about himself than about the problems of everyday Americans.

If Trump remembers to act presidential, and not like an attack dog, there is every reason to believe he will attract voters eager for a change. Ironically, that’s partly because the Biden campaign’s ground rules for the debate have the potential to work in Trump’s favor. There will be no live audience for the debate, which Biden probably thought would rob Trump of the fuel that feeds his reality-TV personality. In addition, microphones will be turned off for each candidate when they are not responding to the moderators. Both of those changes could help Trump avoid a repeat of the bullying performance that may have cost him the election in 2020. In addition, turning off Trump’s mic will force Biden to complete his responses without making gaffes or getting lost in his addle-pated syntax, an opportunity Trump missed in the 2020 debate.

Nonetheless, the moderators will have their sights set on Trump, whom they have criticized repeatedly on CNN. Three topics are certain to be raised by Tapper and Bash – election interference in 2020, election acceptance in 2024, and Hunter Biden. It is essential that Trump be ready for them, and then having successfully addressed them, demand that the moderators ask questions about substantive issues.

Biden, on the other hand, just needs to speak coherently and lie about his record, with certainty that the moderators will not ask any follow-up questions.

Here are three examples of how Trump’s responses to the most obvious questions can get him through the media minefield and closer to his objective – victory in November. The key in each case is to remain calm, relate his responses to the voters, and ignore the provocations tossed his way.

1) Mr. Trump, since the end of your term as president, you have become a convicted felon in a New York election interference case, and face an additional 55 felony charges in three jurisdictions. In addition, a majority of senators voted after you left office to convict you of inciting an insurrection. Why do you consider yourself fit for office when the president is the chief law enforcement officer in the country?

Jake, I’m glad you asked me that question. I don’t want this debate to be all about me. Or even about my opponent. The American people want to hear me and Joe Biden discuss the hard issues facing the country – namely, crippling inflation, out-of-control illegal immigration, and a world on the brink of war. But the people have a right to know that I maintain my innocence regarding all the charges brought by my political opponents. It’s a sad day when Democrat prosecutors will go to any lengths to destroy me and to prevent me from promoting the policies that will save this country. But it’s not about me. It’s about a corrupt system of justice that the people have lost confidence in. Donald Trump isn’t the first person to get caught up in a two-tier system of justice. You can ask any black or Hispanic family whether they know someone who was railroaded into prison. They’ve lost faith, but I will restore that faith. Not only am I fit for office, but I am the first person to run for president who has experienced what black and minority families have known for decades. And I will fight for them.

2) Mr. Trump, after the 2020 election, you refused to accept the results even though more than 50 courts ruled against you. To this day, you call President Biden an illegitimate president, and you are currently under indictment for election interference. Now, Americans want to know if you will accept the results of the 2024 election regardless of who wins.

Dana, thank you for asking me that question. First of all, I need to correct you on one point. I believe it was more than 60 courts, but none of them heard our evidence of election fraud by the Biden campaign and his surrogates. In other words, we were never given the opportunity to prove our case of election tampering, and the national media failed miserably in looking at the facts objectively. Just saying the election was “safe and secure” does not make it so. Everyone knows the media was out to “get Trump” and to “protect Biden,” and in that regard, nothing has changed since 2020. But more importantly, as we look at accepting the Nov. 5 election results, it is not relevant who wins the election. All that matters is that the election be conducted fairly and transparently. And Dana, you can’t guarantee that will happen. Earlier this month, Democrat officials in Connecticut were charged with election fraud, and there’s no reason to believe the coming election will be any more fair unless it is completely transparent. No one should give up their right to look at the evidence and make up their own minds about the underpinnings of our democracy. “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

3) Mr. Trump, you continually claim there is a two-tier system of justice, but in recent weeks, the Biden Department of Justice has charged or put on trial New Jersey’s Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, Texas Congressman Henry Cuellar (another Democrat), and President Biden’s own son, Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden was convicted of three felonies, and could be sentenced to jail time despite your attacks on the attorney general and the president, who has said he will not pardon his son nor commute any sentence. Isn’t it about time that you admit that the American system of justice is fair and even-handed?

Jake, this may be the most important question facing millions of Americans, even more important than whether they can afford to put food on the table, pay rent, or buy a home of their own – which many of them can’t. Of course, it’s not up to me to pass judgment on the three gentlemen you bring up in your question. Everyone can make up their own mind about whether justice is served in those cases. But I guarantee you that millions of black and minority families don’t trust the government to administer justice fairly, and the individual verdicts won’t make them forget their own experiences – their own children or parents sent to prison for long sentences, their own struggles against a system that too often rewards those with money or a celebrity name. Nothing can make them forget how they and their families were overlooked by a system gone awry. As for Hunter Biden, I won’t comment on his conviction on gun charges, but I will say that his story is an all-too-common American tragedy. My brother Fred was an alcoholic. His struggles with addiction mirror the experience of millions of Americans. I sympathize with the family of Hunter Biden and hope that he gets the help he needs.

If former President Trump follows the example laid out in these mock questions and answers, and worries more about reassuring the public about himself than attacking his opponent, it is almost certain he will also be future President Trump.

This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics and made available via RealClearWire.

Frank Miele, the retired editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, Mont., is a columnist for RealClearPolitics. His newest book, “What Matters Most: God, Country, Family and Friends,” is available from his Amazon author page. Visit him at or follow him on Facebook @HeartlandDiaryUSA or on Twitter or Gettr @HeartlandDiary.


    • Just give him TWO ice cream cones, one in each hand, and he’ll be so overwhelmed by indecision he’ll completely shut down.

    • No…this article is right. Trump needs to reign in the mudslinging and name-calling. That was his biggest folly in the last election. It’s time to put away the junk-yard dog persona and show some class. If he does this, then he will be very, very successful. There is a time for the junk-yard dog act, and this is not it.

      • “………this article is right. Trump needs to reign in the mudslinging and name-calling…….”
        He can’t or won’t do it. Any debate was a trap and completely unnecessary. Biden is almost fully engulfed in dementia. The Democrat Party is in complete failure mode, worse than the Republican Party……… impossible a feat as that should be. Trump himself almost certainly agreed to this, and likely against the advice of his campaign team, if he even has one of those.
        This coming comedy event is the perfect show to illustrate our collective disaster. Neither men deserve or should be our chief executive. The perfect candidate, if he/she (is that even legal to write anymore?) even exists, would never subject him/her self to this nightmarish torture chamber.
        As we steadily move toward a nuclear WWIII, we are in pretty dismal domestic political condition. We didn’t have this kind of political dysfunction in the late 1930’s, and we weren’t facing this kind of international Armaggedon in the late 1850’s (although Europe was having their own continental war in ……… of all places ………. Crimea at the time).
        I won’t watch this debate. I already know where we’re going. I think I’ll play my fiddle…….

  1. Trump is more comfortable talking about electrocution from electric boats, shark attacks and how beautiful Taylor Swift than any real policy. Get out the popcorn, it will be entertaining

  2. If Trump stays true to his core campaign promises he made in 2016 the debate will be a cake walk for him. Americans are sick of never-ending war, NATO, inflation, open borders and the “woke” agenda being force fed us. In the past three years the Biden administration has just about destroyed our country. The USA is about to lose reserve currency status as the BRICS alliance is set to admit another 59 nations into their monetary organization because of Biden’s disastrous foreign policy in Ukraine. Trump will have a tough time turning the country around because of the damage the Democrats have caused.

    • “………Americans are sick of never-ending war……..”
      Warfare is ‘never-ending’. Period. There has never been a single moment in human history when warfare wasn’t ongoing somewhere, and chimps engage in it, proving that we did it before we were even human. Count the number of years in American history when we weren’t engaged in armed conflict somewhere, then examine the following years of warfare and tell us how that happened. The new peaceniks, just like those of the 1930’s and 1960’s, aren’t so much eminating peace as they are an unwillingness to pay for it or fight in it, and that’s only going to devour their buttocks later.
      We’ve finally figured out how to do it while minimizing our own casulties, and now it’s too expensive for the conservatives. Amazing.

    • Yawn…
      Waste of time commenting on any Trump related article, Greg. Everyone knows you abhor the man. That tune has played incessantly for several years now. it is background noise at this point.
      Please, do yourself, and everyone else a favor, and add comments that include some context. Not just the same old hatred of Trump over, and over, and over, and over again.

  3. Sometimes I want to play an old game show with you, Greg. Like “Will the Real Greg Forkner please stand up?” When I first started reading MRA, you seemed fairly conservative, even though you obviously hated Donald Trump. No biggie–not my favorite guy either. You made many interesting comments. Now you are following the left party line really well. Were you just faking it to begin with so we’d all accept you on a conservative slanted news site?

  4. In 2016 Trump stalked Hillary Clinton around the debate stage. Funny as hell and it scared the daylights out of Hillary. If Joe Biden is able to slip or fall or stumble ……Trump should rush over to him and assist. Easy election win!

  5. “………In 2016 Trump stalked Hillary Clinton around the debate stage……..”
    ………and uttered, “because you’d be in jail.” And THAT, Ladies and Gentlemen, was the genesis of the following eight years of Lawfare engaged in by the Demonrats, the Party of Lawyers, including all the crimes committed by those in the intelligence community with law degrees.
    If there was ever an example of why DJT should NEVER have agreed to ANY debate, the 2016 debate with Killary was it.

  6. If Trump can show discipline, stay on topic, and stick to facts the debate should be easy.

    But he’s going in knowing it’s rigged against him, so why should he?


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