Opinion: Trump’s Debate Prep Is Whining and Making Stuff Up

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images

With the first presidential debate of 2024 now just days away, Donald Trump is doing what he does best: whining, complaining, and casting aspersions.

This infantile behavior is bookmarked in Trump’s playbook. When he lost the 2016 Iowa caucuses, it was because Ted Cruzstole it.” The 2020 presidential election was likewise pilfered by Joe Biden. And, of course, the New York hush money trial was a huge sham.

Per his method, Trump seeds the ground early. Even before the outcome is known, Trump sets the table by telling us the only way he could possibly lose is if it (the election, debate, or trial) is “rigged.”

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Sadly, Trump’s tactics can be successful on two levels. By preemptively crying foul, Trump can “work the refs” in advance, effectively lobbying for more favorable or special treatment, thus increasing the odds that he wins.

And if he loses, Trump will have already poisoned the well, casting a pall on the results and on the institutions themselves.

In other words, heads he wins, and tails you lose.

This brings us to Thursday’s debate: Trump and his minions are already laying the groundwork to suggest the debate was orchestrated to favor Biden. Shocking, I know.

While there’s still plenty of talk being circulated by Trump and his followers about Biden using caffeine (or some other performance-enhancing drug), they have contrived an even better excuse for a Trump loss by pre-blaming CNN and the debate moderators: Jake Tapper and Dana Bash.

Again, this is part of Trump’s pattern. For every event that is rigged to victimize Trump, there always has to be a villain to blame. It hardly matters whether the villain is the “deep state”, a “conflicted” judge, or (in this case) the liberal media.

Fox News was probably first to inaugurate this pre-spin. And in recent days, the message has been repeated by The Daily Wire’s Andrew Klavan and Trump spokesperson Karoline Leavitt (whose CNN segment was cut short when she insisted on attacking the moderators).

Not to be outdone, Donald Trump, himself, got into the act by referring to “fake Tapper.”

Now, truth be told, the deck is stacked against Trump. But that’s not because Biden will be “jacked up” or the moderators are biased; it’s because Trump foolishly agreed to unfavorable terms for this debate. To put it simply, Trump and his team were politically outmaneuvered by Biden and his team.

To be sure, a Biden win isn’t a foregone conclusion. I don’t have to remind you that Biden has lost a step and that there’s always a chance he will have a devastating “senior moment.”

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What I am saying is that his campaign has done everything possible to mitigate that possibility and create a favorable debate environment. Conversely, when it comes to setting the contours of this first presidential debate, Trump and his team were passive and reactionary.

But now, having accepted Biden’s debate terms, Trump is attempting to preemptively undermine the credibility of the debate (in case things don’t go his way).


The truth is, if Trump loses this debate, he’s either a) the kind of guy who loses debates to a geezer, or b) the kind of guy who allows the liberal media to steal a debate from him. Neither option is a good look.

For a party that fetishizes fighting and winning, it’s unfathomable why they tolerate someone who does so much whining and losing.

Again, though, this is Trump’s MO. It’s a similar dynamic to the 2020 election, where it’s fair to say that (depending on your perspective) Trump was either a) a guy who lost an election, or b) a guy who allowed liberals to steal an election from him while he was president.

These are really the only two options, and either option should have disqualified him in the minds of Republicans.

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To be sure, nothing will stop Trump from crying about a “rigged” debate if he loses. And I have no doubt that this victim mentality will inspire and further radicalize his supporters, many of whom also see themselves as victims of the media/the left/the “deep state.”

Once upon a time, Gen. George S. Patton declared that “Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser.” For decades after that, most Americans (and virtually all Republicans) still adhered to former NFL coach Bill Parcells’ maxim that “You are what the scoreboard says you are.”

Perhaps some day Republicans will rejoin the reality-based world and start caring about winning again. And then, maybe, they will see Donald Trump for the loser he really is.

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