Juan Williams: How Trump should watch the Democratic debates

Juan Williams: How Trump should watch the Democratic debates
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This column is for President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' Trump confirms 2018 US cyberattack on Russian troll farm Trump tweets his support for Goya Foods amid boycott MORE.

He will be Viewer Number One for this month’s first Democratic primary debates.

He might as well be onstage.


Trump will be tweeting his insults and offering demeaning nicknames for all the Democrats who want to take him on in next year’s general election.

The moderators might even ask questions based on his live, running commentary.

Trump’s goal during the split night debate — June 26 and 27 — will be to tar potential opponents in their first moment in the national spotlight. He needs to make all the Democrats appear less appealing to voters than the prospect of another four years of Trump.

He has no choice.

A majority of Americans disapprove of his performance in the White House. And already a majority of likely voters tell pollsters they will not vote to reelect him.

So Trump will be multitasking those two nights: He has to deflate any future opponent and look for lines of attack he might use in the general election.

One note of caution, Mr. President.

Any candidate you try to skewer could benefit from the attention, especially if they have a strong comeback that shows they have the skills to trade punches with you.

The number one issue for Democratic voters is finding a candidate with the ability to defeat you.

That means they will prize a general election candidate who will not let your schoolyard bully-boy tactics and crude comments win the day.

Do you remember how you walked behind Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump confirms 2018 US cyberattack on Russian troll farm Hillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Biden campaign hires top cybersecurity officials to defend against threats MORE in threatening fashion during a 2016 debate without being told to sit down?

Clinton let you get away with that and Democrats don’t want to see it again. So, knowing that the candidates are preparing to counter-punch, you can’t let your guard down. What comes back at you could be devastating.

I’ve moderated a few presidential primary debates and the best performances are all about a good offense. That means the Democrats will be all about attack, attack, attack.

With each candidate expecting no more than ten minutes of talk time, they have to aim at the biggest targets — topics familiar to viewers such as the GOP’s assault on abortion rights.

So, here, Mr. President is your game plan for the debates.

First, every candidate is going to have to take a stand on former Special Counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s report and calls for the House to impeach you.

Since most Democratic voters want you impeached, your response has to be designed to please people who don’t identify as Democrats — the roughly 40 percent of voters who approve of you. You have a different audience than the Democrats.

Also on the Democrats’ list of attacks against you will be your tax breaks for the rich and the higher prices Americans are paying due to tariffs.

The candidates will have a lot to say about Mueller’s finding that he could not exonerate you on suspicions of obstruction of justice. Also, expect them to be asked if they agree with his conclusion that there is insufficient evidence of conspiracy between your 2016 campaign and the Russians to justify any charges.

Your corrupt indifference to Russian interference in the 2016 race and failure to take the lead on preventing a recurrence in 2020 are also certain to come up. Again, Mr. President, play to your base, not the Democrats on the stage or in their audience.

Now for the second level of attacks — the intramural fight among Democrats that will begin with attacks on the front-runner, Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump commutes Roger Stone's sentence Hillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok House Democrat warns about 'inaccurate' polls: Trump voters 'fundamentally undercounted' MORE.

The former vice president is popular among moderate, older, black and Latino Democrats who see him as the candidate most likely to defeat you.

There will be a moment when Biden is challenged, likely by one of the women on stage, about his handling of the Anita HillAnita Faye HillOur consciousness-changing moment — and a reckoning for 1972? Trump sets up for bruising campaign against Biden Clarence Thomas breaks his silence in theaters nationwide MORE-Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Justices rule Manhattan prosecutor, but not Congress, can have Trump tax records OVERNIGHT ENERGY: WH pushed for 'correction' to Weather Service tweet contradicting Trump in 'Sharpiegate' incident, watchdog says | Supreme Court rules that large swath of Oklahoma belongs to Native American tribe Clarence Thomas's wife criticized her town's 'Black Lives Matter' banner: report MORE hearings in 1991.

From the more left-wing candidates, Biden can expect critiques of his support for putting more people in jail as part of criminal justice reforms in the 1990s — a stance that turned out to disproportionately hurt minorities.


Since you apparently agree with polls showing Biden is the biggest threat to you, Mr. President, you have to join the critics. But be careful to avoid unintentionally elevating a non-Biden candidate in the eyes of moderate Democrats and independent voters.

Finally, expect attacks on Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump glosses over virus surge during Florida trip The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Fauci says focus should be on pausing reopenings rather than reverting to shutdowns; WHO director pleads for international unity in pandemic response Ex-Sanders aide says Biden unity task forces need to go farther MORE (I-Vt.). He is second to Biden in most polls, with strong support from the left wing of the party and younger Democrats.

His rivals will insist he is an easy target for your charge that Democrats are “socialists.” But keep in mind, Mr. President, that Sanders’s populist anger at income inequality has a lot of appeal to what you call the “forgotten men and women," your base.

If Sanders slips in the polls, the likely beneficiary is Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' Pharma pricing is a problem, but antitrust isn't the (only) solution The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic Unity Taskforce unveils party platform recommendations MORE (D-Mass.). You have to decide if facing a woman in the general election might be tougher than dealing with Sanders or Biden.

One more thing, Mr. Outsider: expect to hear that you did not “drain the swamp” of Washington politics.

That means first-term Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Senators raise concerns over Facebook's civil rights audit Biden's marijuana plan is out of step with public opinion MORE (D-Calif.), South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBiden campaign hires top cybersecurity officials to defend against threats Biden strikes populist tone in blistering rebuke of Trump, Wall Street Buttigieg's new book, 'Trust,' slated for October release MORE (D) as well as tech-savvy businessman Andrew YangAndrew YangBiden campaign to take over 'Supernatural' star's Instagram for interview Hillicon Valley: Justice Department announces superseding indictment against WikiLeaks' Assange | Facebook ad boycott gains momentum | FBI sees spike in coronavirus-related cyber threats | Boston city government bans facial recognition technology The Hill's Campaign Report: Progressives feel momentum after primary night MORE will ask voters to take the country in a new direction — beyond polarizing anger at you.

Now, take the time to read your briefing, Mr. President.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.