June 11, 2024

Nixon and Kennedy were evenly matched intellectually in their first debate. Nixon lost because of how he looked on TV. Trump may lose because he "loses it" on TV. By Hal Brown, MSW



Team Biden bets an unfiltered Trump at the debate can shake up the race

GOP pollster Frank Luntz said the June 27 faceoff will be "the most important debate since JFK-Richard Nixon."

This is from the History.com article on the Kennedy-Nixon debates.

  • ... Nixon bashed his knee on a car door while campaigning in North Carolina and developed an infection that landed him in the hospital; he emerged two weeks later frail, sallow and 20 pounds underweight.
  • Nixon’s streak of bad luck continued. Stepping out of the car, he banged his bad knee and exacerbated his earlier injury. The vice president had recently suffered a bout of the flu and was still running a low fever; he had nonetheless spent a grueling day on the campaign trail and looked drained. Kennedy, meanwhile, had been holed up in a hotel with his aides for an entire weekend, fielding practice questions and resting up for the first of four “Great Debates.”
  • Despite Nixon’s exhaustion and Kennedy’s preparedness, the Republican and Democrat were more or less evenly matched when it came to substance. Each held forth skillfully and presented remarkably similar agendas. Both emphasized national security, the threat of communism, the need to strengthen the U.S. military and the importance of building a brighter future for America. Indeed, after Kennedy’s opening statement, Nixon said, “I subscribe completely to the spirit that Senator Kennedy has expressed tonight.” And yet, while most radio listeners called the first debate a draw or pronounced Nixon the victor, the senator from Massachusetts won over the 70 million television viewers by a broad margin.

For Trump to lose the debate he really doesn't have to "lose it" unless the "lose" that is meant is his true self. If he doesn't restrain his true self, the self we see at his rallies, in his interviews, and in his Truth Social Posts, and the self we saw in his NYC courthouse statements, he will lose. 

For him to win, or at least have pundits call the debate a tie with polls showing that the debate didn't change any votes, he has to demonstrate a command of the issues and express himself in an authoritative manner without appearing unhinged. If that word is used in the media to describe his debate performance he lost. 

If Trump really has early dementia (as experts and others have speculated - see Google search for Trump dementia) since the debate is in the evening he may be sundowning. If the much of the news coverage uses the word dementia with examples of showing signs of this disease Trump will have lost too.

Biden doesn't have to memorize responses to likely questions from moderators and to things Trump says. Although I expect he will practice he is capable of winging it. If anything he would do well to practice responding to Trump if he goes on an off the rails rant attacking him.

It's possible that Trump's narcissism will prevent him from having any debate preparation. He may view this as a waste of his time. It is better for Biden if Trump wings it because (as the MSNBC chyron says) the "unfiltered Trump will shake up the race." 

Back to the Kennedy Nixon debates from History.com:

Legacy of the Kennedy-Nixon Debates 

A month and a half later, Americans turned out to vote in record numbers. As predicted, it was a close election, with Kennedy winning the popular vote 49.7 percent to 49.5 percent. Polls revealed that more than half of all voters had been influenced by the Great Debates, while 6 percent claimed that the debates alone had decided their choice. 

Whether or not the debates cost Nixon the presidency, they were a major turning point in the 1960 race—and in the history of television. Televised debates have become a permanent feature of the American political landscape, helping to shape the outcomes of both primary and general elections. Along with distinguishing themselves from their opponents, candidates have the opportunity to showcase their oratory skills (or betray their inarticulateness), display their sense of humor (or reveal their lack thereof) and capitalize on their rivals’ gaffes (or seal their fate with a slip of the tongue). 

Two years after the Kennedy-Nixon debates, the man on the losing end acknowledged their importance—and his fatal misstep—in his 1962 memoir Six Crises: “I should have remembered that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.’”

Trump doesn't have the personal insight to reflect on his own shortcomings the way Nixon did when he wrote “I should have remembered that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.’” If Trump is trounced in the debate he won't be reflecting back that it was his arrogance and narcissism and that was the cause of this.

If narcissism and/or the inability to memorize answers to likely questions from moderators and attacks coming from Biden in a hinged (as opposed to unhinged) manner and a sensible rather than senile way he will lose the debate.

It may be difficult for headline writers not to title their articles as follows since the alliteration is so obvious:

Biden Trounces Trump

Read previous Stressline blogs here.

Blogs may be easier to read if you use my other website, HalBrown.org.

June 10, 2024

Does Trump really want to base his appeal on alleging that the testimony of this witness was prejudicially lurid? By Hal Brown, MSW


In a NY Times guest essay today, "I’m an Appellate Lawyer in Manhattan. If Trump Appeals His Conviction, He Faces Long Odds" attorney Robert L. Stavis writes:

To warrant reversal of a jury’s verdict on account of an error, the appellate court must find that an error of some kind led directly to the conviction. A technical error that does not rise to that level is called a “harmless error” and will not cause a reversal of a conviction.

He went on to give this example:

In Mr. Trump’s trial, perhaps the best example of harmless error occurred during the prosecutor’s direct examination of Stormy Daniels. The prosecutor elicited intimate details of the sexual encounter Ms. Daniels alleges she had with Mr. Trump and also her testimony that she felt physically threatened by the circumstances of their encounter. Mr. Trump’s defense counsel argued that by discussing the sexual details, which made Mr. Trump appear pathetic, and the statement that she felt intimidated, which made it appear as though the sex was not consensual, the prosecutor had greatly prejudiced Mr. Trump in the eyes of the jury. This was the subject of a mistrial motion, which Justice Juan Merchan denied.

If this supposedly prejudicial testimony is put to the judges on the appellate court, they would ask if the lurid portions of Ms. Daniels’s testimony caused the jury to convict Mr. Trump. The answer here is a clear no.

Since his conviction Donald Trump has persistently raged against Judge Merchan and D.A. Alvin Bragg. Absent from his attack list is the woman without whom there would have been no trial. A gag order prevents him from attacking witnesses though if he could I doubt he would win a social media battle with Daniels who tweeted “Real men respond to testimony by being sworn in and taking the stand in court. Oh...wait. Nevermind.” (Read article about this.)

This is from Politico: An angry Trump gathers allies to push against Stormy Daniels.


  • When Stormy Daniels testified in Donald Trump’s hush-money trial, the former president huffed in his seat. He shook his head at times. His anger was so visible and distracting that the judge asked his lawyers to tell him to cool off
  • Trump’s two days in court were clearly frustrating and excruciating for the former president, who was visibly angry during her testimony, which included intimate details of their alleged sexual encounter — including the type of underwear the former president was wearing.
  • “Her testimony makes [clear] what we already know about Trump — essentially that he’s a sleazy, narcissistic, cheater,” said Horn (a Lincoln Project so-founder), who said Daniels’ testimony was specific and detailed, lending her credibility. “Did she sound angry? Was she eager to see him held accountable? Yes, of course ... she speaks of experiences and fears that most women can relate to.”

I can't imagine that Trump wants to have Stormy's testimony which was decidedly unflattering to him to be part of his basis for an appeal. We know how much of his self-image is based on how he thinks he is God's gift to women: "I can grab them by the...." etc.

If he won his appeal based even in part on the testimony of Stormy Daniels it wouldn't be because she committed perjury and that there were untruthful elements in what she described, or that the encounter didn't happen, as he has claimed. It wouldn't be that the details were embellished to seem lurid. It would be because her testimony was prejudicially lurid and, as the Stavis essay says, made him appear pathetic.

There are psychological reasons Trump may aovid publicizing the Daniels description of what happened between them. He is highly invested in believing that he possesses extraordinary prowess with women. From his professional wrestling performances to the images he has on his electronic trading cards you can see how he wants people to see him as hyper-masculine. It had to sting to have an adult movie star undermine this image beginning with mocking him once she went public (see article about her book "Full Disclosure" from The Guardian) about the encounter and culminating in the NYC court where what she described was widely reported.

RawStory has a brief summary of the NY Times essay here.

June 9, 2024

If NATO goes to war with Russia and Trump is president Europe might not be as lucky as they were when FDR was president and the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, by Hal Brown, MSW


At campaign rally Trump said he wouldn’t come to the aid of NATO members if Russia attacked them, which was the whole point of the alliance in the first place. Trump said, “No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want.” (From the CNN article below)

Click to read above article.

If you've been following the news on MSNBC as I have you've seen coverage of Presdent Biden's trip to Europe to commerate the aniversary of D Day. He spoke of the existential threat to democracy presented by Russia without alluding to Donald Trump. Is is a convention for American presidents not speak about their political rivalries at home when they are overseas. Ali Velshi said Biden made it clear that "Democracy is a fight for the ages and that fight doesn't end" without mentioning Trump's name.

History tells us when and particularly why the United States entered World War II (read article).

World War II began in Europe on September 1, 1939 with the German invasion of Poland and the United Kingdom and France‘s declaration of war on Germany two days later on 3 September 1939. The United States remained neutral and didn’t enter the war until after the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Had the United States remained neutral for much longer I don’t think you have to be an historian to speculate about who the ultimate winners might have been.

FDR stayed out of the war because of pressure in Congress and the public rather than because he had a cozy relationship with Adolph Hitler.


Nixon and Kennedy were evenly matched intellectually in their first debate. Nixon lost because of how he looked on TV. Trump may lose because he "loses it" on TV. By Hal Brown, MSW

  Read: Team Biden bets an unfiltered Trump at the debate can shake up the race GOP pollster Frank Luntz said the June 27 faceoff will be &q...