Thursday, September 30, 2004

The First Debate

If Americans who tuned into last night's presidential debate were waiting for one of the candidates to catch the other in a fatal error, or leave him stammering, the event was obviously a draw. But if the question was whether Senator John Kerry would appear presidential, whether he could present his positions clearly and succinctly and keep President Bush on the defensive when it came to the critical issue of Iraq, Mr. Kerry delivered the goods.

George W. Bush is famous for fierce discipline when it comes to sticking to a carefully honed, simple message. Last night he reiterated this campaign message once again - that "the world is safer without Saddam Hussein" and that things are, on the whole, going well in Iraq. The confidence with which Mr. Bush has kept hammering home those points has clearly had an effect in the polls, encouraging wavering voters to believe that the president is the one who can best lead the country out of the morass he created.

But last night Mr. Bush sounded less convincing when he had to make his case in the face of Mr. Kerry's withering criticism, particularly his repeated insistence that the invasion had diverted attention from the true center of the war on terror in Afghanistan.

Mr. Kerry found the most effective line of argument when he told the audience that "Iraq was not even close to the center of the war on terror" and that the president had "rushed the war in Iraq without a plan to win the peace." It is the strongest and most sensible critique of the administration's actions. Of course, it left Mr. Kerry open to rejoinders by Mr. Bush that Mr. Kerry had sounded far more warlike about Iraq in his pre-campaign persona. That's a fair comment, and one the senator simply has to live with in this campaign. "As the politics changed, his position changed," Mr. Bush said.

But when Mr. Bush jabbed at the senator with a reminder about his infamous comment on voting for a war appropriation before he voted against it, Mr. Kerry had finally found an effective answer. While saying he had made a mistake in the way he had expressed himself, the senator added: "But the president made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse?"

Both men made errors that appeared to be mainly a matter of misspeaking under the pressure of the moment. But Mr. Kerry scored an important point when the president made a more significant slip and talked about the need to go to war because "the enemy attacked us." The person who sent planes smashing into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Mr. Kerry reminded the audience, was Osama bin Laden, who was operating from Afghanistan, not Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush, whose body and facial language sometimes seemed downright petulant, insisted, again and again, that by criticizing the way the war is being run, Mr. Kerry was sending "mixed signals" that threatened the success of the effort.

Before last night's debate, we worried that the long list of rules insisted on by both camps would create a stilted exchange of packaged sound bites. But this campaign was starved for real discussion and substance. Even a format controlled by handlers and spin doctors seemed like a breath of fresh air.

10 Comments:

Blogger giant1 said...

I am surprised no one has mentioned Bush's lack of insight on Iran's nuclear program. When Mr. Kerry mentioned sanctions Bush commented that sanctions are in place and intimating that they aren't working. He didn't seem to comprehend that sanctions by cooperating nations could "turn up the heat". The superficiality of his understanding is classicc Bush and did not bother me a lot.
However when he interrupted Sen Kerry to state that HE didn't impose the sanctions I had to wonder if he had the capability of conceiving any course of action other than a military incursion and to ask myself what has HE done to address the problem.

1:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At last I feel the tide has turned! While hacks and wogs debate the debate, we all have that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from KNOWING that "good" has delivered a body blow to "evil" (a word so loved by "them").

One statement I wanted Kerry to jump on was, " . . . what kind of message does that send to . . ."

It's time to take that bite and stuff it right back at them. Here's a start. It's ragged and unrefined, but I'm sure you can add/sharpen it.

(1) What kind of message does it send (to our troops/citizens/everyone when the world opinion poll that was taken shows thatn only TWO countries want Bush to be re-elected? (Poland and Phillippines).

(2) What kind of message does it send (to whomever) when the 911 Commission Report states enequivically that there were NO WMD in Iraq and there was NO CONNECTION between Saddam and 9/11 and yet V.P. Cheney still clings to the assertion there was.

(3) What kind of message does it send (to whomever) when federal agencies (CIA, NIC) say that Iraq is a mess and the best we can hope for is more chaos and the president says ".... they were guessing".

There's more. Much more. I'll leave it to you, dear reader, to ask other "What Kind of Message" questions.

7:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You ask what kind of message is being sent...first of all who cares about the world poll? I mean we have been the ones saving their butts over and over again...so really who cares....and another thing..CIA and NIC etc...well you know what..you have to be on the ground and seeing what kind of "mess" there really is going on...and until you or any of your ilk have been there..don't talk....me and my brethren have been on ground....and we see what kind of message is being sent..it is one of hope...and light at the end of the dark hallway.....I have a friend who was wounded over there...he would go back....no questions asked...I would go back again and again..if needed...Kerry...and all of his supporters...well you know what...learn what kind of message to send....not mixed...then talk...and as for Mr. Kerry..don't tell me about your "heroics" in Viet Nam...then come back and try to act all innocent..and put down fellow military...yes some bad things happened..but not all were bad...and just like today in Iraq...sure there were a few US soldiers doing stupid bad horrible things..but guess what...so have the enemy...Any body that thinks Kerry is the right choice and that he will bring us (military) help...what crack are you smoking....? you people are nuts...

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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9:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Bush's performance in the debate exemplified James Fallows's description of the "striking decline in his sentence-by-sentence speaking skills" over the past decade. (When George Meets John, The Atlantic, July/August). Fallows says that just a decade ago, Bush was an articulate debater, but now, consider in contrast the "informal Q&As he has tried to avoid, Bush's recent faltering performances, his unfortunate puzzled chimp expression when trying to answer questions, his stalling defensive pose when put on the spot, speaking more slowly and less gracefully." In a sobering, frightening, I think, response to this article, a physician has written a letter to the editor (October 2004 issue) saying that Bush's probem cannot be "a learning disability, a reading problem or dyslexia, because patients with these problems have always had them. Slowly developing cognitive deficits, as demonstrated so clearly by the President, can represent only one diagnosis, and that is 'presenile dementia'." In other words, he has an early form of a typical senile dementia, which will run the same course, to incapacitation and death, as Alzheimer's, but at an earlier age.
I checked out the physician, Joseph M. Price, M.D. of Carsonville, Michigan. He's listed as an internist and pediatrician. If Dr. Price is correct, this info should be made public a.s.a.p so people can be aware of his condition before the election, yes? It surely deserves looking into.

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The most important part of the debate centered on Mr. Kerry's willingness to speak directly with the legitimate government of Korea. Once the way is paved for reunification, peace on the Korean penisular is guaranteed. America must admit the terrible war crimes committed against the Korean people with poison gas and biological weapons, much like Mr. Kerry did with the Vietnam war criminals.

4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would you please explain the chemials etc that we used on the Koreans? Maybe you would like to explain the WMD of North Korea and China...as well as former Soviet Union...but not the US..we may have used CS gas....maybe Napalm...but never WMD...have you even been to Korea?

5:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your own American Korean war criminals admitted to their guilt when interviewed by Korean and Chinese soldiers in prisoner camps. John Kerry was man enough to admit his guilt and the guilt of the unrepentant Vietnam war criminals. John Kerry can lead America away from the adventures that support Mr Bush's capitalist masters such as Halliburton to peace in an internationally peaceful world.

7:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm lets see...the same people who were tortured by the chinese..and communist North Korea.....lets see how quick you say what the enemy wants after having your fingernails removed with pliers or starved, beaten...etc....and why should the mass be repenting over the acts of a few....the biggest thing that happened bad in Viet Nam was where our government let South Viet Nam down....and listened to all you idiots and pulled out of Vietnam before the work was over...hmmm where have I heard that before...oh yeah..lets pull soldiers out of Iraq before the work is done...just so we can have the same situation as Vietnam...yeah...that is a great idea...oh...wait a minute...may be we should just let the soldiers do their job...and be done with it...what a concept..finish the mission....

1:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They only spoke of torture after they came back to their own military leaders. America must abandon the invasion of Iraq and let those people determine their fate. Even now the people of the world admit that Mr. Hussien had no weapons to fight the power of America. Iraq had become a peaceful nation. You are following the lies of your military puppet masters.

3:00 PM  

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