CNN Trump 2.0 — The Non-Debate America Wants, Needs and Deserves

Mark Goulston
3 min readMay 14, 2023


You can’t solve a transformational problem with transactional solutions

This conundrum was on full display in the recent Town Hall Meeting in New Hampshire with former President Trump and CNN’s Kaitlin Collins in front of a mainly Republican audience.

The overriding reaction afterwards has been that it was not constructive and a missed opportunity.

That is because America has devolved from merely having transactional myopia (a.k.a. win, next game, win again) to transactional deafness and blindness and an aversion to losing that is chilling.

I am a medical doctor, but I am not a surgeon.

However, when I am called upon to do conflict resolution I tell my clients before we proceed that I am creating a surgical field, that I will not allow any bullying, complaining, stonewalling or egos (including my own) to contaminate.

With conflict I believe a resolution can be had if people talk to and better yet with each other or me, but will stall as soon as either person talks over, at, down or stonewalls each other or me.

Furthermore at the first sign of any party distracting from this surgical field I will call a timeout and have the other person go take a break. I will then take the contaminating party aside and find out what they’re so agitated or upset about and do my best to talk them down from Defcon 1 to Defcon 5 before we proceed.

How does this apply to CNN Trump and in addition to the media speaking to any Presidential candidate?

America and Americans want, need and deserve to know how declared Presidential candidates would describe the following challenges (the order of which can be changed and/or additions/deletions made) and then propose a solution or at least a direction to take in beginning to solve them.

  1. Economy including jobs
  2. Immigration
  3. Pro-life and Pro-abortion laws and rights
  4. Ukraine Russia war
  5. Technology and rise of AI
  6. Homelessness
  7. Fentanyl, drug, mental health and suicide crisis
  8. Gun violence
  9. China and North Korea
  10. Inequalities in the justice system including policing

Instead of a debate format, each candidate should be interviewed separately and away from each other. That is because we want to hear each of their answers untainted by being reactive, dismissive or blaming the other that so often happens in a debate.

We don’t want to hear either person saying how the other person is wrong or stupid. Instead, we want to hear each of them clearly explain how they view the challenges and their solutions to them free of diatribes toward each other.

Each candidate will be given in advance a list of these challenges on Americans’ minds.

In addition, we will tell them that people will be listening for answers that make sense, feel right and seem realistically doable. We will also advise them that listeners and viewers will be listening for whether that candidate comes off as credible, authentic and truly believing what they are saying rather than taking the conversation in an irrelevant direction or saying something that is overly partisan and not addressing what would be on all Americans’ minds. That is because if elected President, they will be serving all Americans.

We will also tell each candidate before they answer, that if they go off track — i.e. distract from their answer and solution to the challenge they are addressing — the interviewer will tell them to get back to it. And if they don’t, the interviewer will firmly say, “I need to stop you because you are not addressing the challenge which was …… and if you prefer to not respond directly to that, that is fine. We’ll just go on to the next, because we have many challenges for you to address.”

If we eliminate a debate format, offer the candidates a list of the challenges to address and provide doable solutions to and then invite them to make the case for their answers, this will best serve what America needs, wants and deserves to know and maybe even help us transform and evolve into the great country we can still become.



Mark Goulston

Dr. Goulston is the world's #1 listening coach and author of "Just Listen" which became the top book on listening in the world