Assignment 2

Responsibilities of the First Negative
in a Policy Debate

Tasks of Your Constructive Speech

Tasks of Your Cross-Examination

Tasks of Your Summary/Rebuttal

First Negative Evaluation Form

Tasks of Your Constructive Speech

Test the Debate's Foundation

As first negative, you correct the affirmative's definitions and background information, refute the First Affirmative's points, summarize the negative's position, and begin the negative's case. In a sense, you test the foundation of the whole debate, laid by the first affirmative, to insure that your side can also build on it. Then you erect the first negative argument to counter the first affirmative argument.

Correct the Definitions

First, test the affirmative's definition of key terms in the propositons. They should at least be neutral and conventional. If the first affirmative defines them so as to put your side at a disadvantage, then you offer alternative definitions immediately. If you do not challenge "poison" definitions from the start, your case could die a slow, agonizing death.

For example, deep into our debate about legalizing euthanasia, the negative found itself in serious trouble because the affirmative had restricted definition of "euthanasia" to accepting living wills and passively allowing someone to die. The negative had prepared its case based on a broader and more common definition of actively ending someone's life. Their protest came too late; the first negative had not challenged the narrow definition in her constructive speech. This was an extreme case. You need not challenge nor modify definitions that do your case no harm.

Amplify the Background.

You may need to add missing information to the first affirmative's capsule history if it is important to your case. You may also have to elaborate on the general issues if something vital is omitted. Why -- from your viewpoint -- should this issue be debated? As with the definitions, however, do not waste precious time by quibbling with the first affirmative's explanation.

Refute the First Affirmative's Arguments

Once finished correcting definitions and background, you clash with the enemy. You refute the first affirmative's contentions, one by one, which will probably be about the need issue. Regardless, you can start by saying flatly that there is no need for the change advocated by the affirmative. "There is no need to replace all private autos in Manhattan with public transportation," for example. Or, you can say that although change is needed, it is certainly not the change advocated by the affirmative. Whatever your initial position, you then rebut each of the affirmative's arguments supporting the need for change indicated in the proposition.

During the first affirmative's speech, you and your partner should keep a chart. Outline the contentions and the evidence of your opponents and yourselves. Then use the chart to counter each affirmative contention, to attack their reasoning and evidence with your own. Do not rely on your memory. Finally, be brief in your refutation. Do not spend so much time tearing down their case as to leave you no time for building your case.

Preview the Negative's Case

Tell what you will cover and what the second negative will cover. You will handle one primary issue, probably the "no need" issue, and your partner the "bad plan" and the "no benefits" issues. To fix in your listeners' minds your position, tell them what you will tell them before you tell them. But, make it short.

Counter the Need Issue

If you assume the affirmative's uses the "stock issue" that change is needed, then you can counter with the "dynamic status quo" case. This case blunts their need argument by saying that repairs and adjustments are happening and that drastic measures are not required. You minimize existing problems and show that even those are being solved. "What pollution? Sure, we get some blowing across the Hudson River from New Jersey, but the carbon monoxide from automotive traffic in New York City in 1989 was reduced by 11% from 1988, according to the EPA in its 1990 regional report." (ficticious example).

Cite strong evidence, along with its source, to support every contention you make. Use its statistics sparingly and if possible personally. Though not as authoritative as research evidence, your own experiences carry weight with the audience. Much less so do the experiences of your neighbor in 7F, your Uncle Harry, or the bricklayer in Brisbane who made page 54 in a tabloid. But if desperate, use any credible evidence.

Tasks of Your Cross-Examination

Supply and Deliver "Setup" Questions

Set up the affirmative with questions before your constructive speech. Before the debate while you organize your case, prepare a list of short questions that advance your case. You then give your list to your partner for cross-examination of the first affirmative just before you speak. These questions will be about the arguments and evidence that you cover in your constructive speech. In other words, your partner delivers "setup" questions; you deliver the correct answers in your speech. If the opposition does not know the answers, then you snag it. If the opposition does know them, then it still admits to your strong points before the audience.

Later, with questions supplied by your partner and spontaneous ones inspired by the debate, you interrogate the second affirmative before your partner speaks.

Ask Short Questions

Confirm damaging facts and elicit damaging admissions with short questions answered by "yes" or "no," or a simple fact. Rather than ask a long question with several clauses, make each clause its own question. For example, "Of the 110 million Americans filing tax returns last year, what percent-age had incomes of over $100,000?" becomes "How many Americans filed tax returns last year?" and "What percentage of them made over $100,000?" Some of your short questions may be obvious and even trite, but they will keep the answerer on a leash.

Most importantly, you should know already what the answers should be. No surprises. By asking brief, related questions rather than long, compound ones, you set a tight rhythm--a staccato--that you control completely. If you invite long responses by asking long questions, you lose control and are the one inflicted. If you also ask 'why' or 'what' questions (open ended or essay questions), you again ask for long responses that you cannot anticipate and thus lose control.

Aim Each Question with a Purpose

In Argumentation & Debate (6th Edition, pp. 295-299), Austin Freeley gives three purposes for cross-examination: to clarify your opponent's arguments, to expose defects, and to advance your own position. In his analysis, he quotes from college debates. Notice that examiners cut off explanations with curt "thank you's."

1. Some portions of your opponent's speech may have been unclear, either by accident or design. Cross-examination affords an opportunity to clarify them.

Q: Your plan calls for placing a space station in orbit. What sort of an orbit will that be?
A: Geosynchronous. That way we will be able to...
Q: Thank you. That's what I wanted to know.
This brief exchange clarified the affirmative's plan. The negative now knows that the affirmative is going to use a high orbit that will be far more costly than a low orbit and will present many technical difficulties. With the now-clarified plan before them, the negative can begin to develop plan attacks specific to the type of orbit the affirmative is now committed to using in the plan.
2. If you know of a defect in your opponent's evidence, cross- examination gives you an excellent opportunity to expose it.

Q: You justify your plan for greater freedom for law-enforce- ment agencies by claiming that crime increased 16 percent last year?
A: Yes, and not only last year, it has been a steady trend.
Q: And the source of your evidence was?
A: The Boston Globe.
Q: And where did the Globe get its figures?
A: [Consulting card] From, er, let me see. From the FBI. Yes, from an FBI report.
Q: From the FBI report. Thank you, we'll come back to that later. Now...
In the next speech the negative will certainly emphasize the flaw in that evidence, that the FBI had warned against using statistics to make year-to-year comparisons.
3. Cross-examinations may be used to advance your position.

Q: You didn't respond to our argument that unemployment will persist, did you?
A: No. We'll give you that.

This brief exchange allowed the debater to emphasize that the other team had dropped an argument. The 'development of space' resolution provides another example.

Q: Our evidence says that industry will make billions in the space station, doesn't it?
A: Yes, but industry is reluctant to go into space.
Q: You mean industry is reluctant to make billions in profits?
A: No. They're reluctant because they're not certain that the space station will be built.
Q: Our plan mandates that the space station will be built, doesn't it?
A: Yes, but...
Q: And industry will certainly want those billions of profits, won't they?
A: Well, once it's built...
Q: Thank you.
Freeley goes on to show how cross-examination is used to blunt attacks. He says that we should avoid 'open-ended' questions, and that we should try to elicit brief responses, cutting off verbose responses with thank-you's, though not cutting off "a reasonable qualification." Among his injunctions for questioners are two that our debaters violate often:

Questioners should not develop arguments on the responses obtained during cross-examination. Cross-examination is a time for asking questions and getting responses. The significance of the response should be argued in the constructive speeches or in rebuttal.

[In short, don't moralize and don't argue till later.]

Questioners should never ask a question unless they already know the answer.

Control the Examination

You control the interrogation with short questions requiring short answers, mainly yes or no. By asking long questions or any "why" or "what" questions, you invite the answerer to launch into long responses damaging to your case. You also lose control. If you permit, your opponent will use your time to extend their arguments. Do not let that happen; interrupt overly long answers. Also, ask questions that put the negative on the defensive. Ask about facts that they cannot deny and that undermine their position. To ask about such facts, however, you must know the answer of every question you ask, as Williams says above.

Respond with Authority

Before you examine the second affirmative, you too will be examined after your constructive speech. How do you respond? Forthrightly and confidently, of course. With authority, not obediently. If your examiner lets you advance your case, then do so. If you are lobbed an open-ended question, then knock it out of the ballpark with a full argument reinforced with evidence. When asked for short answers, you can elaborate though you may be cut off.

Tasks of Your Rebuttal/Summary

Summarize the Negative Case

Review your side's arguments, evidence, and rebuttals. Obviously, you have time only to touch upon your main points and most important evidence. Express them so as to compel your audience to reject the proposition.

Avoid the New; Rephrase the Old

If you introduce anything new in your summation, then the first affirmative is entitled to rebut it in his or her summation, and you cannot counter. So, avoid new material but by all means rephrase your old arguments so that they are fresh. Express them so as to compel your audience to reject the proposition.

End with Instructions

Finally, save enough time at the end to close with explicit instructions. Tell your listeners exactly, emphatically what you want from them: to reject the proposition. Let those be your last and most important words.