Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Zing! went the strings of my heart

By Mustang Bobby

Debate prep is going ahead at both campaigns:

Mr. Romney's 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. His strategy includes luring the president into appearing smug or evasive about his responsibility for the economy.

Mr. Obama is not particularly fluid in sound bites, so his team is aiming for a workmanlike performance like his speech at the Democratic convention. He is looking to show that Mr. Romney would drive the country in an extreme ideological direction at odds with the interests of the middle class.

If a presidential candidate is spending time memorizing witty ripostes as opposed to coming up with cogent but brief descriptions of policy ideas and plans, then there's something wrong.

In the first place, a rehearsed zinger is an oxymoron; in order to really work and not sound like something planned out, it has to be spontaneous. Otherwise, it sounds like it was rehearsed thereby loses its punch.

It also leaves the candidate vulnerable to not being ready just in case his opponent comes back with a spontaneous zinger of their own. The most famous of those in real life was the debate between Dan Quayle and Lloyd Bentsen in 1988 when Sen. Bentsen floored Mr. Quayle with the "you're no Jack Kennedy" line that has entered popular culture.

If these debates are going to mean anything — and that itself is debatable — they have to do more than give us rehearsed zingers and massaged messages that are watered down to nothing more than talking points written by staffers aimed at focus groups, the only difference being that they're delivered by the candidates themselves instead of via Twitter.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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  • I would say that Quayle's comment wasn't a zinger but rather a talking point. I can't watch that bit of the debate, because I feel sorry for Quayle. Bentsen is punching way below his weight. But I loved it at the time.

    By Anonymous Frankly Curious, at 1:47 PM  

  • The zinger was "you're no Jack Kennedy."

    And sometimes punching down is well-deserved.

    By Blogger Mustang Bobby, at 9:13 PM  

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