When You Base Your Position on a Lie, Yes, You are a Liar

And no, there aren't always "two sides to every story."

Senator Rand Paul got a bit wound up on This Week this morning:

The video is worth watching in full, but here are the key elements.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I have to stop you there. No election is perfect. But there were 86 challenges filed by President Trump and his allies in court, all were dismissed. Every state certified the results —

PAUL: Chris, not for —

STEPHANOPOULOS: — after an investigation —

PAUL: Not for — but —

STEPHANOPOULOS: — count (ph), after investigations —

PAUL: — of evidence. They were dismissed —

STEPHANOPOULOS: — counts and recounts.

PAUL: — for (inaudible).

STEPHANOPOULOS: The Department of Justice led by William Barr said there’s no widespread evidence of fraud. Can’t you just say the words, this election —

PAUL: No.

STEPHANOPOULOS: — was not stolen?

PAUL: Well, what I would suggest is — what I would suggest is that if we want greater confidence in our elections, and 75 percent of Republicans agree with me, is that we do need to look at election integrity and we need to see if we can restore confidence in the elections.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, 75 percent of Republicans agree with you because they were fed a big lie by President Trump and his supporters to say the election was stolen. Why can’t you say —

PAUL: Well, I think —

STEPHANOPOULOS: — President Biden won a legitimate, fair election —

PAUL: — I think where you make a mistake in — hey, George. George. George, where you make a mistake is that people coming from the liberal side like you, you immediately say everything’s a lie instead of saying there are two sides to everything.

And this:

PAUL: But you say it’s all lies —

STEPHANOPOULOS: You said something that was not true.

PAUL: You say we’re all liars. You just simply say we’re all liars and —

STEPHANOPOULOS: I said it was a lie —

PAUL: — (inaudible) —

STEPHANOPOULOS: — that the election was stolen.

Here’s the deal.

First, Paul’s inability to forthrightly answer the question, but to just do the “I am just asking questions?” routine is simply disingenuous and, by extension, is perpetuating the lie that the election was stolen.

To say, as Paul did, that “what I would suggest is that if we want greater confidence in our elections, and 75 percent of Republicans agree with me, is that we do need to look at election integrity and we need to see if we can restore confidence in the elections” is a nonanswer and Stephanopolous is correct to point out that those Republicans believe that because they have been lied to.

Again: the source of the belief is Trump and his allies. It was not some independently generated concern.

Second, there aren’t “two sides to every story.” In some cases, there are more than one side, and not just two. In others, there is only one legitimate side.

There is no need to have “two sides” to debate an issue if one side has nothing but allegations and dissembling and the other side has solid facts. If one side is perpetuating a lie, letting the “two sides” debate truth as if both sides have an equally valid position is just a way to perpetuate the lie itself.

You don’t, for example, invite a flat earther to coverage of rocket launches.

Third, Paul, like so many who are perpetuating the foundational lie, blithely shifts from worrying about “fraud” to worrying about whether procedural changes were done properly (and making a series of vague claims). One can dispute whether some procedurals changes were properly executed or not (not that I have seen any legitimate concerns), but that is different than fraud.

Paul conflates a host of issues so that he can pretend like there is a reason to question the outcomes. He hides behind being concerned and wanting “integrity” in the elections.

But, of course, raising baseless concerns about election integrity is a way to undercut confidence in the elections.

It is all like asking someone who has not committed domestic violence if they have stopped beating their wife. The very question creates concerns in the minds of those who hear the question and the person being questioned has no good way to immediately answer (as neither “yes” or “no” is an adequate answer).

Fourth, it is simply dishonest to pretend like there is a bunch of evidence that has not been seen and that all the cases have all been dismissed due to lack of standing. That is, quite frankly, a lie. Some cases were dismissed over standing, but others went nowhere because Team Trump never produced any evidence of fraud.

Indeed, the big lie in right-wing circles at the moment is that the evidence exists, it just hasn’t been heard. Paul is directly perpetuating that lie in this appearance.

There is no way around it: Paul is a liar because he is perpetuating belief in a lie. It is as simple as that whether he wants to get indignant about it on TV or not.

FILED UNDER: General
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Jay L Gischer says:

    It’s not just a garden variety lie, such as “tax cuts will pay for themselves”, either. It’s a lie about the foundational democratic process of this country.

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  2. @Jay L Gischer: Indeed.

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  3. Kurtz says:

    There is no need to have “two sides” to debate an issue if one side has nothing but allegations and dissembling and the other side has solid facts. If one side is perpetuating a lie, letting the “two sides” debate truth as if both sides have an equally valid position is just a way to perpetuate the lie itself.

    One of my first posts here concerned this very thing, but in different terms. “Right to an opinion” has become every opinion is valid and cannot be wrong. And verified facts have been reduced to just someone’s opinion.

    The thing is, this isn’t even pomo–it’s an adolescent version of it. But that’s become almost everything in culture now, political or otherwise.

    Perpetual youth. The 45 year old divorced dude who gets an earring used to be the butt of jokes; now he’s the avatar for the intellectual skills of the average American. As a personal aesthetic, fine. But once that infects the intellect, this is what we get.

    7
  4. Mister Bluster says:

    Watch Rand Paul choke on a hamberder.

  5. gevin shaw says:

    This is not about this election and addressing the lie case by case gets us nowhere. Time and again, election after election, the evidence shows that it’s a lie.

    It isn’t about winning a single election. The voter-fraud lie was started by Reagan. It has been used since then to undermine faith in elections in order to implement procedures to protect elections from a problem that doesn’t exist. It’s all about the voter suppression.

    It is a long-term campaign. It has been successful.

    20
  6. gVOR08 says:

    @gevin shaw: And it’s about using the Stolen Election myth to justify aggressive vote suppression for years to come.

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  7. Kathy says:

    This is like O.J. looking for the “real killers.”

    5
  8. Franklin says:

    I feel like making a confession now. I once voted for this idiot’s dad. Lord, have mercy.

    2
  9. DrDaveT says:

    We have at least reached a sort of turning point when ordinary media folk like GS are willing to actually label a lie a lie. It will take a while for that to have the required effect, but it’s a necessary step.

    9
  10. Gustopher says:

    I think someone needs to set up a gofundme to get Rand Paul’s neighbor a gun.

    Ok, just joking there, but what is to be done with people in power who deliberately lie and try to bring down the country?

    Can democracy work when the leaders of one of two parties has given up on the notion of democracy? Or when there is a concerted effort to mislead the populace? There’s not even a marketplace of ideas, it’s a marketplace of images.

    What’s worse is that while these people want power, they neither want to do anything with it, nor do they just delegate to career officials and just let things happen and then take credit for it. There’s a pandemic, and they’ve done a terrible job with it, and they’re opposed to the notion of anyone doing a better job. If it was just “Joe Biden is a radical socialist to the left of Bernie Sanders, we’re cutting taxes and installing Real American troglodytes on the courts” and then stay out of the way on everything else, Trump would have won a second term, we would have about half the dead, and vaccination would be going better. Install a few cronies to get some kickbacks “coordinating” and just being a pass-through if you have to corrupt everything.

    What the hell motivates someone to go out of their way to do a bad job?

    This is just like Trump’s amazing business skills that underperform an index fund.

    I can see blowing off global warming — you’re rich, and you’re old, so you’ll be dead before it gets too bad and wealth will protect your kids, and there’s wealth to be made now which will protect your kids more. But, wealth doesn’t offer as much protection from a virus — as Herman Cain would attest to if he weren’t dead — and it’s not like the cleaning staff are going to be magically unable to spread it to the people in the mansion who matter.

    What the actual fuck?

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  11. Scott F. says:

    There is no way around it: Paul is a liar because he is perpetuating belief in a lie. It is as simple as that whether he wants to get indignant about it on TV or not.

    Yet, Rand Paul keeps getting booked on the Sunday shows while dozens of honest politicians don’t. Paul should be denied precious airtime until he is able to actually feel ashamed when his fraudulence and mendacity is made so obvious when he is competently interviewed.

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  12. ImProPer says:

    Watching the video, makes me wonder about Mr. Stephanopoulos, and his integrity. Rand Paul, no need to wonder, he is totally devoid of anything that might resemble it. Why not simply remind him that when someone brings forth an accusation against an entity, the accuser is supposed to put forth evidence, as the onus is on them to prove their case. If our society constantly launched into a “debate” every time a whimsical accusation got made, it would become totally dysfunctional. Both Paul and Stephanopoulos know this, but a broad segment of their audience doesn’t. Calling Paul and the other lowlifes of his party “liars”, only makes them appear stronger to their followers.
    I would like to see a journalist encourage these crooks to present their case to the audience, give them the same rope, that the Federal Courts gave. Totally different outcomes, Rudy in court with sweat and hair dye running down his stupid looking face vs. Rand all self-assured with his baseless drivel,”debating” Stephanopoulos. A win, win for both of them, and their sponsors, but further loss for our democracy.

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  13. Ken_L says:

    @Gustopher:

    Can democracy work when the leaders of one of two parties has given up on the notion of democracy?

    Not when they also flout the norms of behavior on which democracy depends. Countless situations throughout history have demonstrated that if one political movement abandons democratic norms, it has every chance of benefiting from it unless other movements do likewise. For example, the only way many authoritarian governments have been brought down was by mass direct action; an outcome which many people would applaud but the means were thoroughly undemocratic.

    A commitment to the rule of law is fundamental to democratic governance. No matter how convinced they might be that they have the right of a matter, democratic norms require political leaders to accept the decisions of courts. Trump himself seemed to acknowledge this when he predicted that Amy Barrett would be the tie-breaking vote that ruled he won the election. When it didn’t turn out that way, he decided he was going to claim victory no matter what the courts said. We’ve only just begun to see how that defiance of a fundamental democratic norm is going to affect the future of US governance.

    3
  14. Ken_L says:

    @ImProPer: “I would like to see a journalist encourage these crooks to present their case to the audience.”

    Unfortunately, almost half the audience would already “know” the case was rubbish, and almost half would already “know” it was compelling. We live in an age when the political narrative comes first. “Evidence” is evaluated according to how well it conforms to the predetermined narrative. If it doesn’t, it’s obviously “fake news”.

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  15. Joe says:

    Indeed, the big lie in right-wing circles at the moment is that the evidence exists, it just hasn’t been heard. Paul is directly perpetuating that lie in this appearance.

    Of course, in actual court, the fraud wasn’t even alleged and you don’t get to present evidence on issues you don’t allege.

    3
  16. Kingdaddy says:

    Especially given the existential threat to democracy that now exists, it would not be out of bounds to say, “If you can’t produce any evidence, right now, we are not going to book you for future appearances.” I’d love to have that rule apply to other matters that are not existential threats, but undermining faith in democracy would be a start. Next, climate change.

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  17. @Kingdaddy: Indeed. It is telling that Paul thinks is it ABC’s job to let him come on, say whatever he wants, and have them provide “the other side” and then pretend like the two are co-equal.

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  18. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    It is telling that Paul thinks is it ABC’s job to let him come on, say whatever he wants, and have them provide “the other side” and then pretend like the two are co-equal.

    In Paul’s defense (I cannot believe I just wrote that), that was how Journalism operated for most of the late 20th century and into the 21st.

    And while there has been a move away from “both-sides” as objectivity, the reality remains that in practice, not much has changed (demonstrated by how often these folks are welcomed back on the Sunday morning and other news programs).

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  19. @mattbernius: Sure–I get why he thinks that. But I also think that he is purposefully trying to exploit that fact.

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  20. @mattbernius: Also, there’s a reason I stopped watching these show years ago 😉

    5
  21. gVOR08 says:

    I forget which blogger used to track the Sunday morning shows, tallying up GOP, D, and independent guests. Through R and D administrations it always ran more heavily GOP. Now that Ds have the presidency and both houses of Congress it will somehow still be necessary to host more GOPs. I suppose Ds are boring, what with their policies being popular and reality based. DC really is hardwired for Republicans. How crazy do they have to get to no longer be the daddy party?

    5
  22. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But I also think that he is purposefully trying to exploit that fact.

    No question he is doing that. Just as other bad-faith actors (both individual politicians and institutions like Heartland and other “institutes”) have been doing for years.

    But, at some point, it is a case of hating the player rather than the game. The ground rules have been set by the programs and actors have, as they tend to do, optimized their performance for said rules.

    Until the producers of these shows (and also editors of editorial pages) take action to change the ruleset, you cannot expect that the behavior of individual actors is going to change.

    4
  23. ImProPer says:

    @Ken_L:

    “Unfortunately, almost half the audience would already “know” the case was rubbish, and almost half would already “know” it was compelling.”

    Agreed, and to use a broad brush, we are in the dark ages redux. A secular priestly class, with the help of modern media has risen up spectacularly in this new age of manichean politics. The past cure for this was the Enlightenment, not a grand triumph of good vs. evil. If our democracy is going to be viable in the future, getting people to think for themselves is a key component. Allowing the likes of Mr. Paul, and his ilk, a spotlight to “debate” baseless claims, rather than prosecute them with evidence, is not conductive to rational thought, only more entrenchment.
    Stephanopoulos surely knows this, but his bottom line is maintaining a status quo, not necessarily enlightening anyone. The biggest crisis that we are facing, is the lack of public pundits that are willing to make their audiences think outside their echo chambers, as it is not immediately lucrative.

  24. Michael Cain says:

    Just an observation that Sen. Paul and most of the others are very good at never using the word “investigate.” It’s always “debate.” That’s convenient, since they can debate hypotheticals and solutions to problems that may or may not exist. Investigations end up with inconvenient things like facts.

    For the most part, election procedures are matters handled by the individual states. Of the six states where widespread fraud has been alleged, Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature in five. TTBOMK, Georgia is the only one debating procedures. AIUI, the argument being made there isn’t that there was fraud, but that procedures should be consistent always and everywhere: both mail and in-person voters should have to show photo id, there should be a state standard for how signature comparisons are made, etc.

  25. gVOR08 says:

    Standard tactic for them. On AGW and evolution we must reach the controversy. Although there is no controversy amongst the experts, only the smoke they themselves throw out.

    Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Unless the guys who want you to believe there’s a fire own a smoke machine. And they own the biggest.

    3
  26. ptfe says:

    @mattbernius: The Game being devoid of actual intention to be a public good is exactly why we got Selena Zito’s rural gas station nonsense after Trump was elected, but we’re never going to see the same about Biden’s Philadelphia. I mean, who wants to hear from struggling inner city Black families when we could find out what struggling white truckers think?

    The dichotomy is made even more obvious by the partisan divide between the fact-based world and the opinion-based world. Facts should dictate policy, but opinions drive news cycles, which in turn dictates policy.

    On one hand we have people who live in reality, where the facts back up most of their legislative goals and argument/discussion is rooted in that universe. You don’t need to interview The Man On The Street about climate change, because it’s fact-based, so you interview experts in those facts to interpret the consequences. It should be a no-brainer: all evidence points to a largely anthropogenic climate change, so we should be constructing policies to deal with it.

    On the other hand, you have people who live entirely by their opinions – if “facts” don’t match their opinions, the facts must be wrong. You can’t interview experts about opinions of randos, you can only interview The Man On The Street. Over here, anything goes. I just saw snow, so climate change is fake!

    Republicans and Republicanism have come to represent the pure opinion side. Decades of evidence against trickle-down economics and tax cuts and mass deregulation? Just plug your ears and say, “It’s common sense!” As a result, mainstream outlets – who try to appeal to The Man On The Street – give the GOP a pass as folky and neighborly and just asking questions. How else would you still bring the eyeballs of that guy down three houses down who “has black friends and totally isn’t racist” but still has concerns about “those people” moving in? Just normal folks asking questions!

    You interview Rand Paul as a proxy for The Man On The Street: just a normal guy asking questions. You’re not even trying for factual analysis, and you’d rather he brings some friction because it’s good TV.

    2
  27. ImProPer says:

    @mattbernius:

    “And while there has been a move away from “both-sides” as objectivity, the reality remains that in practice, not much has changed”

    Unfortunately, given the the enormous amount of power, and profit, echo chamber politics are providing the players, I’m not optimistic about change coming anytime soon (certainly not from them). One of the things I will give the practioners of good vs evil politics my begrudging respect is their bipartisan attack on the concept of both-siderism. This has lured many an objective thinker into taking a stand in their perpetual fray.

    “Until the producers of these shows (and also editors of editorial pages) take action to change the ruleset, you cannot expect that the behavior of individual actors is going to change.”

    Agree 100%. The only thing keeping them back of course is the old profit motive. The only solution, seemingly undesirable by, forgive me, but “both sides”, teaching people how to think rather than what to think.

  28. @mattbernius: I agree 100%

    1
  29. gVOR08 says:

    @ptfe:

    Republicans and Republicanism have come to represent the pure opinion side. Decades of evidence against trickle-down economics and tax cuts and mass deregulation?

    When speaking of Republicans we must distinguish between, as Dr. T puts it, party in electorate and party in government. The party in government, sponsored by large corporations and wealthy individuals, will be hurt economically if we cut fossil fuel use, implement rational tax policy, or regulate sensibly. The party in electorate, the rubes, may be taken in by the fake news, the party in government aren’t blind to facts, they just know facts will lead to policy they don’t want.

    (This has to be footnoted that they come to believe their own BS. As we move from the generation that lied to FOX to the generation that FOX lied to, some of the pols and other professionals actually believe their nonsense. The gun lady from CO and the Q Anon lady from wherever believe. Cruz, Hawley, McConnell, etc. are lying. Rand? Who knows, he seems to have enough loose screws to partly believe.)

    1
  30. gVOR08 says:

    Over at LGM Paul Campos disects Jonathan Turley’s pathetic effort to cancel Campos and Loomis. (All this RW concern about cancel culture being projection.) Serendipitously, in the course of it he quotes Harry Frankfurt’s On Bullshit. Seems apt here.

    The fact about himself that the liar hides is that he is attempting to lead us away from a correct apprehension of reality; we are not to know that he wants us to believe something he supposes to be false. The fact about himself that the bullshitter hides, on the other hand, is that the truth-values of his statements are of no central interest to him; what we are not to understand is that his intention is neither to report the truth nor to conceal it. This does not mean that his speech is anarchically impulsive, but that the motive guiding and controlling it is unconcerned with how the things about which he speaks truly are.

    Most people, and dictionaries, define lie as knowingly saying something untrue. And the supposedly liberal MSM echo that in defense of their bothsides failure to call out untruths. As a consequentialist, I find this irritating. Rand Paul said things that are untrue. We know he has done so regularly in the past and will continue to do so. Whatever his motives and state of knowledge, he must be treated as a serial liar. As we should all Republicans without twisting ourselves into knots over what’s in their hearts.

    2
  31. ken_L says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    “If you can’t produce any evidence, right now, we are not going to book you for future appearances.”

    The problem is that Trump Republicans claim they have massive evidence of voter fraud. Look at these hundreds of affidavits! Look at the videos! Listen to the “experts” explaining all the statistical impossibilities in the results!

    The “evidence” of course is a giant Gish Gallop, and like all Gish Gallops, it would take 10 times longer to analyze and rebut every lie and misrepresentation and flawed assumption than it did to make the claims. Most journalists are poorly equipped for the task; if they took it on the audience would find it tediously confusing; and inevitably they would be perceived as nothing but apologists for the Democratic Party.

    2
  32. dazedandconfused says:

    @Michael Cain:

    Reminds of Karl Rove. Paraphrased from memory: “If you can get people talking about the wrong thing it doesn’t matter who wins the debate.” A particularly rank form of BS.

    We must hope the lessoned in this election is unchecked BS leads to lying, lying leads to Big Lies, and Big Lies are dangerous.

    1
  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @ImProPer: If we teach people how to think rather than what to think, we’ll end up needing to have credible policy in order to persuade people that we’re right. You may want to rethink your position.

    On the other hand, my experience was that teaching people to think at all was daunting enough without getting into the critical thinking arena. And I enjoyed teaching methods to develop critical thinking skills and practice. But as one of my former students reminded me a while back, “most of the people taking your classes didn’t get you at all.”

    2
  34. dazedandconfused says:

    Egads! “…lesson learned…”

    Miss that edit button..

  35. Matt says:

    @Michael Cain:

    both mail and in-person voters should have to show photo id

    Tell me what state doesn’t require a photo ID or SSN to register to vote?

    1
  36. ImProPer says:

    @ptfe:

    “I mean, who wants to hear from struggling inner city Black families when we could find out what struggling white truckers think?”

    Two demographics that would certainly benefit one another with mutual cooperation. However mutual exclusivity, is today’s divide and conquer, and many of Today’s liberals seem to of forgotten that modern macroeconomics need not be a zero sum game.
    (Conservatives, never seemed to have known this.)

    “Facts should dictate policy,”

    I like your overall arguments, but would disagree. Ideally facts should help shape informed opinions, and then informed opinions help shape policy. Case in point, climate change is a fact, and mankind is certainly a large factor in this. Another fact, the utilization of hydrocarbons has led to a massive population explosion, and are up to today, needed to keep such a large amount of people alive, and healthy. Hence the need of informed opinion in shaping our policy concerning them.

    ” but opinions drive news cycles, which in turn dictates policy.”

    Totally agree, and unfortunately the trend is that only outrageous opinions are driving the “news” much.

  37. ImProPer says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    “If we teach people how to think rather than what to think, we’ll end up needing to have credible policy in order to persuade people that we’re right. You may want to rethink your position.”

    Touche, lol.

    “On the other hand, my experience was that teaching people to think at all was daunting enough without getting into the critical thinking arena. And I enjoyed teaching methods to develop critical thinking skills and practice. But as one of my former students reminded me a while back, “most of the people taking your classes didn’t get you at all.”

    Thanks for sharing this, even though it puts a hole in my simple, and elegant solution to our current political malaise. :•)

  38. Ken_L says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: “The best answers to the assignment question will not agree or disagree with the proposition, but argue that ‘it depends’ …”

    “Uh Dr Ken which pages of the textbook have the answer?”

  39. de stijl says:

    Paul, like many others confuse 1st Amendment free speech with freedom from from consequences.

    Cruz, Hawley, Cawthorn, Boebert, Green.

    Yes, you can say anything fool thing you want. If it is deemed foolish and actionable by the general public, that has jack shit to do with the 1st. Public approbation is decidedly different than government.

    You were a public jack-ass. Skate to the box.

    Mark me, they call us “snowflakes”.

    Josh Hawley is not being silenced. The “cancel culture” bs is a canard. Dude had a front page editorial at NY Post.

    Your thin-skinned failure to endure criticism for your own actions is not my problem, and not a 1st Amendment issue. Deal. Actions have consequences.

    Cruz is beyond pathetic. Trump dissed him and his family directly. Lied. Cruz licked up to him anyway at the end. Whipped cur.

    For a party espousing personal responsibility, I see a shit load of false self-victimization claims. Boo freakin’ hoo.

    1
  40. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Ken_L: Sadly, and particularly on policy and morality questions, “that depends” may well be the right answer. What’s your goal? Then, what’s your real goal (the one you’re trying to disguise) [btw, this one is the job of your opposition, but you need to be aware that they’re looking for it]? How does what you advocate reach your goal better than something else? Why is your goal better than the others out there? Why should I embrace your goal?

    And then the challenge: limit your presentation to 3000 words of smoothly flowing prose. Fun stuff!!! 😀

    1