Friday, October 01, 2004

Debate on the Debate: Last night had to be the best presidential debate I've ever seen. That's probably because the candidates actually had something important to talk about and a message to convey. There were clear differences about a major problem that has to be addressed in the next term.

Polls indicate that Kerry is the perceived winner. I agree, simply because he was able to hold his own quite well as the challenger. Undecideds who are tuning into the campaign for the first time were probably very impressed by their first meeting of Kerry.

We can also dispense with both stereotypes about Bush being a moron and a figurehead and Kerry being a long-winded, flip-flopping bore. Bush sounded intelligent and knowledgeable. He intentionally kept dropping names of foreign leaders to show that he has a grasp at what's going on around the world. And he even used several SAT words, including "vociferously". He did make up the word "trans-shipment", but we can let that slide.

And Kerry was clear, concise, and resolute. From what I recall, his red light never started blinking to tell him he had gone over his time limit. He had a strong message, and he delivered it clearly.

The candidates had a few aesthetic faults. On the split screen, Bush looked flustered at times, and Kerry had the problem of nodding while Bush was criticizing him.

Bush kept repeating certain phrases, which is usually a good way to drive a point home. But he kept saying that the War on Terrorism is "hard work". It's good to remind people that we can't defeat terrorism, overthrow dictatorships, and create democracies over a weekend. But repeating how hard the work is sounds like Bush is whining and might not be up for the job.

Bush also kept criticizing Kerry for saying that the war in Iraq was "the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time". Bush said that so much that some people might associate that phrase with the war itself. On the other hand, one CNN pundit (I think it was Wolf) after the debate repeated that phrase and attributed it to Kerry. Although Kerry has been saying that repeatedly on the campaign trail, he never actually said it during the debate.

Now, I agree with Bush on the foreign affairs issue, so on a substantive level, naturally, I think Bush carried the day. He did a good job ripping on Kerry for wanting to gauge a "global test" before committing troops to war. Bush countered that we fight when we need to protect this nation.

Bush should have jumped on Kerry's insistence on "global summits". The terrorists have declared war on us. Bush wants to fight an offensive battle, and Kerry wants to conduct meetings.

Also, I'm tired of Kerry saying that the war in Iraq cost billions of dollars when the money could have been used for domestic programs and health care. We're at war, and that war will cost money. If the war were Kerry's number-one priority, he wouldn't be making such inane arguments.

And although Kerry stayed somewhat consistent during the debate, he still has to make up for his constant wavering on the campaign trail. And Bush delivered the best line of the night, pointing out that Kerry is trying to have it both ways, openly mocking the decision to invade Iraq and claiming he can magically get more allies to join us in the fight:

So what's the message going to be: "Please join us in Iraq. We're a grand diversion. Join us for a war that is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time?"
We've still got a lot of campaigning to do. It's going to be interesting.


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