Scott Feschuk

Memo to Donald Trump: Tips for the next debate

Donald Trump did great at Monday night’s first U.S. presidential debate, says Scott Feschuk. He just has a tip or 11 for the candidate—like ‘wink constantly’


Maclean’s photo illustration by Sarah MacKinnon and Richard Redditt 

To: Donald Trump

Subject: Strategy for second debate

Great job in the first debate, sir. Very savvy to leave room for improvement. You know who wins first debates? Losers. Recommend just a few subtle tweaks for the next time around:

1. Really liked the way you used the solemnity of a presidential debate to promote your new hotel. So now all Americans know that Trump International in Washington is “way under budget and way ahead of schedule.” Blue-collar voters in Ohio are going to be super relieved—so many sleepless nights spent worrying! Next time, maybe work in a plug for Trump Steaks, but only if it comes up organically. “Putin. Tough negotiator. You know what’s not tough?” That kind of thing.

MORE: Nine must-see moments from the debate

2. Very clever the way you leaned into the microphone all night, repeatedly interrupting your rival by shouting, “Wrong!” Focus groups showed this played well among certain demographic subsets: specifically, four-year-old children. Key tactic in next debate: Attempt to delay the election until 2030 so these kids can vote.

3. Loved the way you bragged about paying no taxes. Such a great way to connect with working-class voters. They’ll be so happy for you. Next time around, it’s important to strengthen the bond with these people. Maybe say something like, “Anyone who pays a cent of tax is a complete moron,” or, “Hey, why is your stupid daughter so homely?”

4. Releasing your taxes: Some killer stuff here. Nothing wins over Joe Six Pack like admitting you’ve been the subject of 15 consecutive audits. Definitely a sign you’re on the up and up. That said, the audit excuse is getting old. You need a new reason to be the only candidate in 40 years not to release his or her taxes. Some options:

— “My dog ate them.”

— “Hillary’s dog ate them.”

— “I would release them, but the copier at work is out of toner and only Doug knows how to replace it and Doug is on sick leave with shingles, God bless him.”

— “Look! Over there! ISIS!”

5. Some critics pointed out that you didn’t finish most of the sentences you started in the first debate. Good. It’s fun. Any debate with Donald J. Trump immediately becomes like 250 choose-your-own adventures! What’s great about an unfinished sentence is that it opens up a world of possibility. Maybe you were just about to say something smart. People can imagine it that way.

6. Turns out “temperament” does not mean “person with the best temper.” Just an FYI for next time.

7. Re: the section on cybersecurity. You went in a quite a few directions. Pretty sure at one point you said your 10-year-old son was hacking for the Russians. Or maybe that he is 400 lb. Next time, simplify. Americans need to know where you stand on this. Just look straight into the camera and say, “I don’t know what ‘cyber’ is. Is that the Interwebs?”

8. The Obama birther thing is a tough one. You need to thread the needle here. You can’t alienate racists, who form the foundation of your electoral support. But at the same time you need to draw in bigots, xenophobes, conspiracy theorists, lunatics and the criminally insane. Recommendation for next time: Adopt a more conciliatory tone while also winking constantly.

9. Great job drawing attention away from Hillary by sniffling constantly while guzzling water and licking your lips. No one heard a word she said! Next time, maybe up the ante by also clipping your fingernails?

MORE: The subversive smile of Hillary Clinton

10. Some pundits say you should have prepared more, or at all. Don’t listen to them. With each answer in the first debate, you transported voters back to their own childhoods, and reminded them how it felt when they had to give a book report without having read the book. Good times! Very nostalgic! Your answer on nuclear was basically the equivalent of standing before America and saying, “Catcher in the Rye: terrific book about an alcoholic baseball player.”

11. Yes, you addressed some of the defining issues of our time: obese hackers, La Guardia airport and Rosie O’Donnell. But the morning after the first debate, many Americans were still left wondering: Where does Donald Trump stand on the Brangelina divorce? You can’t leave them hanging next time.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.