John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Donald Trump’s Tweets About Alicia Machado–and the Likely Result

Posted on October 3, 2016

(Also published in the WSJ)

Pressure can do funny things to people. As University of Chicago professor Sian Beilock wrote in her book “Choke”: “the story changes when we find ourselves under the gun. Pressure to perform well often attacks the prefrontal cortex–the very seed of the conscious processes.”

One way to avoid lapses in stressful situations is to practice, she suggests. “At least when it comes to training complex motor skills such as soccer dribbling or piano playing, practice alleviates some of the burden on the prefrontal cortex.” Practice creates muscle memory. It allows people to act, or react, quickly and on point.

It’s pretty clear that Donald Trump choked under pressure during the first debate: Had he prepared better for the encounter, he may have performed better.

Another recommendation to avoid freezing in stressful situations is to not dwell on past performance. Unfortunately for Mr. Trump, he can’t seem to put his failing performance behind him. This is Day Five of Alicia Machado as a story line in the presidential election contest. Put another way, about 10% of the time remaining until Election Day has been spent on an issue that is a net negative for Mr. Trump. He has doubled down on discussing his opponent’s most effective attacks rather than changing to subject to more favorable ground. He can’t let this go, and it is hurting his campaign.

People choking under pressure aren’t thinking clearly; they lash out, react impulsively, and fail to keep their emotions in check.

That sounds like Donald Trump around 3 a.m.

Among Ms. Bielock’s guidance is to keep one’s eyes on the outcome. If Mr. Trump can’t get his act together, the outcome here is easy to see: Hillary Clinton will win the White House.