THE DEBATE TONIGHT
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Jay B. Gaskill, Attorney at Law
“As in 1980, voters want a better president — but they first have to be assured he’s on the ballot.”
Victor Davis Hanson, Hoover Scholar, Classicist and Farmer
I am an experienced debater and I am well aware that someone can win the debate and lose the argument. There is no advice that I could provide Governor Romney that someone else – and closer to him – has not already provided.
Over the years I’ve trained scores of trial lawyers, hired many of them, promoted some of them, and my core advice about the conduct of final argument before the jury always started and ended with some version of this:
Be true to who you are. A jury can spot a phony a mile away. Identify the lynchpin point or points (never more than three) on which the case will turn. Then focus 99% of your energy, your thinking and persuasive abilities, on just those lynchpin points. Stay focused. Stay in yourself. Move the needle. Quit when you’re ahead.
Having watched our president as an on-his-feet, in-the-moment thinker/debater, I would not have hired him as a trial lawyer, partly because of his thinking and speaking speed deficiencies (not a problem for an academic, but a big problem for a litigator), but mostly because of his obvious resistance to training (he’s just too into himself). Governor Romney would have made a solid trial lawyer, not because he is one at the moment, but because he has a quick intelligence, great discipline and determination and, unlike his opponent, he’s not so into himself that he is untrainable.
So, ignoring my own advice to myself, here is what I would tell each candidate.
Mr. Romney: This is not a resume presentation, not an executive hiring interview. It is a sales pitch.
Mr. Obama: Be a graceful looser. If you insist on winning, bomb Iran and postpone the debate in the interests of national security.
Copyright © 2012 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law
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