« Global Warming Update | Main | Debate stream of consciousness 2.0 »

Debate stream of consciousness

Shorter debate, in case you didn't watch and don't have time to read the transcript:

  • Bush: (Long pause. Figure out what to say.) My opponent flip-flops. I won't. I'm so determined to be consistent that I'm going to repeat the same one-liner over and over and over again. That's how you win the war.

  • Kerry: I don't flip flop. My opponent makes all the wrong decisions. Even though I called them wrong, I'm going to make exactly the same ones, except they're going to work when I do them, because I'm not my opponent. Oh, and I served in Vietnam. That's how I'm going to win the war.

Okay, now that the substance is out of the way, let's play pundit, and bring out random thoughts that I had as I watched the debate.

  1. This format wasn't as bad as the media was making it out to be. It wasn't quite as rigid, and it was far more interactive than it might have been. Although the two candidates didn't address each other directly, they came close to doing so. Not Lincoln-Douglass, but not mere independent press conferences, either.
  2. The debate was actually somewhat substantive. I don't want to go overboard in praising it, but there was relatively little sniping, ad hominem, or name calling. They discussed several important issues.
  3. It seems even more substantive if you read the transcript rather than watch the debate.
  4. My wife looked at me strangely when I said it during the debate, but I found it amusing that the two candidates presented the clearest, most direct, least spun, most substantive argument on a topic -- bilateral vs. multilateral negotiations with North Korea -- that isn't going to affect a single vote in November. (Or perhaps that's why it was so substantive.)
  5. Both candidates worked extra hard to overcome the negative public stereotypes about themselves. Kerry wasn't exactly concise or down to earth, but he didn't act overly condescendingly and wasn't overly long-winded. Bush wasn't articulate, but he did seem to have command over some facts.
  6. It seemed that Bush was playing this debate extremely conservatively. He had one repeated joke/jab at Kerry that he used, but he never tried to put Kerry away. He was content to play defense. Perhaps the most recent polls have made him overconfident.
  7. How long did it take Bush to learn to pronounce "Kwasniewski"? He got that right, but couldn't pronounce "mullah"?
  8. Bush botched some questions, as to be expected from someone as inarticulate as he is, but he clearly had the stronger argument on some key points. Leaving aside the fact that Kerry is delusional if he thinks he can get more international help, Bush was right to point out that Kerry is doubly insane if he thinks he can say that this was the wrong war, that it has made everything worse, and then try to enlist others to join in.
  9. Kerry made not one substantive point about his plans for the future in Iraq. He said he had a plan. Claimed it was on his website. But not even one concrete idea. ("Get allies involved" doesn't count.)
  10. If Kerry thinks Iraq was badly planned, or was the "wrong war," fine. But the reason had better be something more than "we could have spent the money on prescription drugs."
  11. Federalism is deader than Francisco Franco. Why would the U.S. government be concerned with firehouses in the United States? I can't imagine something which is more quintessentially a responsibility of local government.
  12. Why does Kerry think Bush should have guarded Iraq's nuclear facilities if there were no WMD or WMD programs?
  13. Kerry's "outsourcing" joke was stupid the first time. Even stupider the second.
  14. What the hell was Bush babbling about with the International Criminal Court treaty? How was that even relevant? Bush had the perfect opportunity for a valid zinger here and dropped the ball: Kerry thinks Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terror, but he thinks global warming does. Instead, Bush rambled about the ICC, in such a way that nobody except political junkies would understand what he was referring to.
  15. Kerry flip flops during the debate. During one paragraph of the debate. He thinks unilateral action against Iran is bad, but he thinks unilateral action against North Korea is good.
  16. Kerry thinks that Iraq didn't pose a threat to us, but he thinks Darfur does? It may be a tragedy, but how exactly is it an imminent threat?
  17. For some inexplicable reason, Bush decided to show off his knowledge by discussing things like "the AQ Khan network" without explaining what it was. How many debate viewers have the foggiest idea what that referred to?

Ultimately, I have to say that Kerry probably won this debate. Not on substance, but on the things that seem to matter to those that score these things. There were no Bush gaffes (though there were some uncomfortably-long pauses), and no Kerry home runs, but Kerry is the challenger here, and it was his task to show people who don't know who he is that he can be presidential. Or at least presidentialish. By showing up, going toe-to-toe with the president, and not doing or saying anything obviously stupid, he accomplished that goal. Bush isn't going to win the election on his past record; his strategy for winning the election is to paint Kerry as a risky unknown who can't be trusted to be strong and keep the country safe. At least superficially, Kerry was able to project the image that he could be strong, confident, and sincere. If people think that of him, he probably wins.

I doubt this one debate will sway many people -- I suspect that those who are still undecided this late in the game are probably not the people watching debates anyway -- but nonetheless, it's a point in Kerry's column, I think. (At least stylistically; I think Kerry was his usual self, substantively. If he knows what his vision is for the future, he's doing a damn good job of hiding it from us.)

We shall see.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments (3)


Why does Kerry think Bush should have guarded Iraq's nuclear facilities if there were no WMD or WMD programs?

Well, even the material from nuclear power facilities can be used in a dirty bomb. Not to mention random people going in there and looting isn't a safe idea. I mean, why are there always concerns about guarding our nuclear power plants here?

There were no Bush gaffes

"The enemy understands a free Iraq will be a major defeat in their ideology of hatred. That's why they're fighting so vociferously."

"Vociferously" might be an odd word choice, but is hardly a "gaffe."


Yes, it's an "odd word choice" in that it makes pretty much no sense in that context.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 1, 2004 6:49 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Global Warming Update.

The next post in this blog is Debate stream of consciousness 2.0.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.31