Understanding Ted Cruz’s Jedi Debate Skills [running a kritik]

I shall practice to use this debate technique called running a kritik learning from the following quoted article.  I quote from an online article “Understanding Ted Cruz’s Jedi Debate Skills” by Betsy Woodruff on http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/10/30/understanding-ted-cruz-s-jedi-debate-skills.html:

Senator [Ted Cruz, in the third Republican presidential candidates debate on October 28, 2015 at the University of Colorado in Boulder] used a risky and controversial tactic used by high school debates champions the world over to deflate the moderator, win the crowd, and change the tenor of the evening.

The strategy he used is called running a kritik. Depending on what style of debate you’re doing and what league you’re in, kritiks can operate in a host of ways. The basic gist, though, is this: A kritik is an a priori argument, which means it has to be addressed before either side of the debate can move on to talk about anything else. The term “kritik” didn’t come into the common debate lexicon until the 90’s—long after Cruz’s days as a parliamentary debate champion were over. But the strategy existed and was fairly common during his time in academic debate.

Anyway, a debater who runs a kritik (or that style of argument) argues that the entire premise of the debate round is fundamentally flawed. For example, in 2013, two African-American college students—Ryan Walsh and Elijah Smith—won the Cross Examination Debate Association’s national championship in part by deliberately ignoring the tournament’s stated resolution and, according to The Atlantic, arguing instead that “the framework of collegiate debate has historically privileged straight, white, middle-class students.”

In other words, they argued that the entire terms and structure of the debate were unfair. Cruz took a similar approach last night about a third of the way into the CNBC debate. Quintanilla set him off by asking if his opposition to a deal House Republicans recently made to raise spending and avert government shutdowns until March of 2017 shows that the Senator was “not the kind of problem solver American voters want?”

At this point, Cruz could have answered the question on its merits, explaining as he’s done a million times already that Americans want someone who will fight to shrink the government, even if it means refusing to compromise with Democrats and risking shutdown. But that isn’t what Cruz did. Instead, he questioned the moral authority of Quintanilla to question him.

“You know, let me say something at the outset,” the senator replied. “The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media.”

The crowd cheered.

“This is not a cage match,” the senator continued, reiterating his criticism of CNBC’s management of the event. “And, you look at the questions—‘Donald Trump, are you a comic-book villain?’ ‘Ben Carson, can you do math?’ ‘John Kasich, will you insult two people over here?’ ‘Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign?’ ‘Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?’  

How about talking about the substantive issues the people care about?”

Quintanilla sputtered.”


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