TURES COLUMN: What Should Biden Focus On In The Debate, And His Reelection Campaign?

Published 10:00 am Saturday, June 29, 2024

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As we approach the first presidential debate, perhaps the earliest in American political history, much of the focus is on former President Donald Trump, and what wild things he might do or say.  It’s up to Biden not to try to match Trump for entertainment value or find zingers.  Nor should he focus on making the case against his opponent from 2020, as Trump has already provided him that.  Instead, President Biden must explain his vision for the next four years, if he wants another term.

Donald Trump has given us a preview of what he’ll focus on in that contest on June 27 at the CNN Center in Atlanta, blaming crime on illegal immigration and Biden.  He’ll try to convince us we need some kind of wall in the desert.  He may tout his economic record, one inherited from the successful Obama-Biden years, and probably blame the recession of 2020 on Dr. Anthony Fauci.  We also know from history that Trump can’t stand it when anyone else gets to talk in the same room as him and could have outbursts and muttering that may cost him.

In other words, this is a debate Biden can win.  And because Team Trump has insisted Biden is basically brain-dead, a halfway decent showing, or even an inspired one from the State of the Union, could put Biden ahead.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, it won’t be enough.  As we saw in 2016, it is possible to “win” all the debates and lose the election (even if you win the popular vote).  Trump won because while Clinton may have looked more presidential, everyone had a better idea of what the Republican candidate would do in the White House.  And Clinton didn’t articulate the vision.

Biden shouldn’t focus all his time on Trump’s criminal conviction and civil liability.  Nor should he harp on Trump’s authoritarian predilections or Trump’s greater focus on flavored Juul regulations than COVID-19 in 2020 until it was too late.  Biden’s ads on unity are almost as vague as RFK’s ambiguous YouTube ad insisting we need a third party, without saying why.

Biden needs to articulate that bipartisan immigration and border security plan that some Republicans liked, but Trump torpedoed with his pressure.  Biden needs to show that not only has inflation fallen from the remnants of COVID-19 and supply chain issues in 2021 (7.6) to a 3.3% inflation rate in 2024, but also that the president has a plan to keep inflation low.

More Americans know that climate change is not a “Chinese hoax,” but what’s the plan to deal with it?  We need to know not only what our country will continue to do to stay energy efficient, and grow green jobs, but also how will we get third-world polluters to cut back on emissions?   What are we doing about our coastline, subject to powerful hurricanes?  How can we raise the needed funds to cover these tornado disasters in the Midwest and fires in the West?  He needs to explain the agenda to keep “forever chemicals” out of our water supply that Trump neglected.

When it comes to foreign policy, Americans know and generally support aid to Ukraine against Putin’s authoritarian ambitions.  But we know this can’t keep dragging on forever.  What’s the plan to protect Israel and convince them to negotiate for peace before they become even more internationally isolated due to their reaction to the attacks from Gaza?  And is our country doing enough to secure a steady supply of rare earth metals, or at least some decent replacement?

It’s a tall order for Biden, but he can do it if he ignores Trump’s antics, and directly addresses the American people.  He may win cheers from pundits for attacking Trump, but not from the voters.