There are two ways to read today’s New York Times report from Donald Trump’s debate preparations, or lack thereof. One is that Trump’s advisers are deliberately setting expectations at rock bottom, so the media will proclaim him the winner if he can merely remain upright for the entire time. A second possibility is that they have come to the horrifying realization that their candidate is delusional, uninformed, lazy, and utterly unsuited to the presidency, and they’re hoping without evidence that these traits can somehow be hidden from the viewing public.
The two possibilities are not mutually exclusive. In either case, Trump’s advisers are advertising that their candidate is a man-child. Trump cannot read and must be shown videos instead:
Mr. Trump is largely shunning traditional debate preparations, but has been watching video of Mrs. Clinton’s best and worst debate moments, looking for her vulnerabilities … He has paid only cursory attention to briefing materials.
Trump won’t even practice standing still:
He has refused to use lecterns in mock debate sessions despite the urging of his advisers … He prefers not to do a full-length mock debate, and has no set person playing Mrs. Clinton.
He is not using a lectern for mock debate drills, despite suggestions from some on his coaching team that simulating a one-on-one debate is good practice after the primary debates that featured several rivals …
Some Trump advisers are concerned that he underestimates the difficulty of standing still, talking pointedly and listening sharply for 90 minutes.
He prefers spitballing ideas with his team rather than honing them into crisp, two-minute answers … He does not like practicing an answer over and over until it is letter-perfect and appropriately brief. But this weekend’s work will be geared to running through questions while Mr. Trump is on his feet and aware of a countdown timer when he is speaking.
Trump is so ignorant there’s no point in even trying to teach him facts:
He believes debates are not won or lost on policy minutiae since most viewers will not remember them in an hour. His advisers see it as a waste of time to try to fill his head with facts and figures … Advisers are urging him to focus on big-picture themes rather than risk mangling facts.
Trump is uncontrollably abusive:
His instinct in debates is often to attack and insult opponents, which had an upside during the circuslike primary debates but could be grating during a 90-minute one-on-one debate.
Trump’s attention span is so limited that his advisers have given up on getting him to focus on preparation and simply hope he can pay attention throughout the actual debate:
Mr. Trump can get bored with both debate preparations and debates themselves. His advisers have been reinforcing the importance of listening and focusing on every word Mrs. Clinton says and looking for ways to counterattack.
Trump is unable to grasp the connection between practicing for something and performing, so his advisers have resorted to explaining that if he wants to win he should avoid doing the most extremely stupid things:
He may not like debate preparations, but he is very competitive and wants to vanquish Mrs. Clinton on Monday night. His team has been emphasizing the best ways to win: Do not pick stupid fights with her or with the moderator; explain yourself rather than get defensive; and deliver the answers you want rather than worrying about directly answering the question.
If Trump is legitimately as stupid, lazy, and childlike as his advisers portray him to be, they should stop helping him get through the debate and instead warn America not to let him become president.