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浏览次数:4064次 发布时间:2016/4/5 16:53:28 【关闭】 字体: 

Want to know how to craft a great zinger? Study the presidential debates.


  We've all had this experience: You're in a debate or a discussion. You're at a loss for words. And of course, after it's all over, you think of exactly the right thing to have said.


  I hate that feeling, but do you want to know who really hates it? Politicians.


  Rhetoric and words are almost all that they have. Now that we're in the middle of the presidential campaign season, with caucuses and primaries about to happen, and one debate after another after another, that gives them an opportunity.


  Almost no political zinger is spontaneous. Consultants have spent millions trying to craft the right lines. And if you study the debates and the candidates' verbal tactics, you can find some great lessons--even blueprints--for using rhetoric to upend your adversary's position.


  Here are five examples--from both Democrats and Republicans.


  1.The dismissive counterpunch.


  Let's start with the kind of one-punch knockout that can really end an opponent's chances. The trick here to know the kind of opportunity you're looking for and be ready. Two great examples:


  First, an example from this cycle--the way Donald Trump very effectively sidelined Jeb Bush by repeatedly describing him as "low energy." When Bush came out with guns blazing in one debate, Trump was able to put him off effectively simply by saying, "More energy tonight--I love that!"


  Second, a more classic example. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter was running against Ronald Reagan, and Carter had used the same effective line of attack against Reagan--perhaps one too many times.


  Reagan was able to use a little verbal jiujitsu to turn the whole thing around on him in a debate. Instead of engaging, he simply dismissed Carter's line by chuckling: "Well, there you go again."


  2.The cool cultural reference.


  This one is really hard to pull off. It's about working a cultural reference into your reply to an opponent's rhetorical dig. It can easily backfire--but if you do it effectively, you're in great shape.


  Cultural references evolve so quickly, it's hard to recall some of these accurately, but here are two good examples.


  The first comes from 2012, when President Obama and Mitt Romney were squaring off. Obama wanted to take Romney to task for having suggested that Russia was the biggest foreign challenge facing the United States--not ISIS or another Middle Eastern foe.


  His line? "The 1980s are calling to ask for their foreign policy back."It worked--but not perfectly--in part, perhaps, because Obama didn't get the cultural put-down exactly right (and maybe because by 2012, that was already kind of a cliché.)


  A better example might come from 1984, in the Democratic primaries, when eventual nominee Walter Mondale suggested his rival Gary Hart didn't have any substance by quoting a Wendy's fast food commercial that was popular at the time: "Where's the beef?"


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