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Buckley's Debate Strategy

2:32 PM, Sep 28, 2012 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Adam White emails in response to this post

Your post this morning (and the Politico article) calls to mind Bill Buckley's account of his debates with Lindsay and Beame in the 1965 New York mayoral campaign:

“My associates urged, particularly in my opening and closing statements, that, instead of tangling with Beame and Lindsay, I should speak over their heads (as they were continually doing over mine and each other's) directly to the voters, giving them reasons why they should vote the Conservative ticket.  I tried to do that, as often as it occurred to me; but often it didn't occur to me, my ungovernable instinct being to fasten on a weakness in the opponent's reasoning and dive in, or on a weakness in my own, and apply sutures, on the (Platonic?) assumption that voters will be influenced by the residual condition of the argument.  A good debater is not necessarily a good vote-getter: you can find a hole in your opponent's argument through which you could drive a coach and four ringing jingle bells all the way, and thrill at the crystallization of a truth wrung out from a bloody dialogue -- which, however, may warm only you and your muse, while the smiling paralogist has in the meantime made votes by the tens of thousands.”

Obviously, I know nothing about the ins and outs of debate strategy.  But I know enough to follow William F. Buckley's advice whenever possible.  Let's hope that Gov. Romney and his advisors do, too.

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