In a NY Times Op-ed, psychiatrist Richard Friedman offers some debate advice to Joe Biden. Friedman recommendations draw upon his understanding of narcissistic and antisocial personalities. He also pulls a bit from cognitive research.
Don't argue point by point with each lie, attempting to refute them all. That would let Trump control the debate by turning Biden's comments into a series of responses that dance to the tune Trump is calling. Furthermore, research suggests that refuting lies, if not done in the right way, can lend credibility to lies.
Friedman suggests instead that ridicule can rattle a boasting narcissist:
Mr. Trump, faced with a pandemic and an economic downturn, tells Americans what a great job he’s done. In response, Mr. Biden should smile and say with a bit of laugh: “And just where have you been living? South Korea? Or Fiji? You cannot be in the United States — except maybe on the golf course. We’ve got about 4 percent of the world’s population and 21 percent of all Covid deaths and the highest unemployment since the Great Depression! You must be living on another planet!”
He also suggests "truth sandwiches," for lies in the pursuit of a goal, which are the kind of lies that are commonplace among sociopaths. This type of lie must be confronted directly, according to Friedman:
“The fact is that more than 200,000 Americans have died — even if the president falsely suggests that the number is lower. But let’s focus on the grim truth: More than 200,000 of our loved ones died from coronavirus, many because of the president’s deception.”
The sandwich refers to placing true statements before and after false claims, capitalizing on the primacy and recency effects in memory. People tend to remember the first and last statements in a series. This is the most effective way to correct a lie as opposed to giving it credibility.
Friedman also notes that the debate will not include an audience, which places Trump at a disadvantage. He relies heavily on his emotional fluffers to build him up. Without audience support, ridicule will land heavily on him.
The question I have about all of this is "to what end?" If Biden were to execute this perfectly, will these tactics change any votes? Will they motivate Biden supporters to vote, or will the discourage any Trump voters from voting? Or is this just about how to survive a debate with a lying sociopath, so that Biden doesn't look incapable? That latter may be reason enough to adopt these tactics, but I would like to hear more of Friedman's thoughts on the practical effects of this approach.