Friday, October 1 2004
THE GREAT DEBATE:
I don't think there is any question that John Kerry helped himself with his performance tonight. Just how much, and how much it may matter in the polls is a different story altogether.

Nevertheless, as a practical matter Kerry not only survived this debate and avoided being knocked out of the race tonight by President Bush, he'll probably emerge in the coming days with a reenergized base and a few undecideds in his column. The early spin among the punditry seems to be quite favorable for Kerry, and you don't have to be a black-helicopter wingnut to know that the MSM has everything they need to start churning out Kerry comeback stories from now through the end of the week.

Debates are such a strange ritual of style triumphing over substance. I mean, I'm sure John Kerry passed a certain bar tonight with many people because of his looks, his demeanor, and his articulateness - even though to my mind he really didn't articulate anything very substantive. It's like taking a used car and giving it a new muffler and paint job so it looks and sounds different than you remember. But if you pop the hood you'll see it's still running on the same old engine.

Many people are talking about Kerry's "global test" remark in response to Jim Lehrer's question about the doctrine of preemption. It certainly was a gaffe - or perhaps more of a Freudian slip - and it may come back to bite him, though I wouldn't hold your breath hoping the press focuses on it.

For my money, this exchange was the most damning part of the entire debate for Kerry:

KERRY: Well, you know, when I talked about the $87 billion, I made a mistake in how I talk about the war. But the president made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse?

I believe that when you know something's going wrong, you make it right. That's what I learned in Vietnam. When I came back from that war I saw that it was wrong. Some people don't like the fact that I stood up to say no, but I did. And that's what I did with that vote. And I'm going to lead those troops to victory.

LEHRER: All right, new question. Two minutes, Senator Kerry.

Speaking of Vietnam, you spoke to Congress in 1971, after you came back from Vietnam, and you said, quote, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

LEHRER: Are Americans now dying in Iraq for a mistake?

KERRY: No, and they don't have to, providing we have the leadership that we put -- that I'm offering.

You do not have to have a PhD in logic to notice the egregious contradiction here. If your view is that invading Iraq was a mistake and U.S. soldiers are dying in Iraq (which they are) then our brave troops are, in fact, dying for a mistake.

As for President Bush, his performance struck me as a bit disappointing. He was disciplined (other people call it repetitive), spoke with conviction and didn't make any big mistakes. Still, he's clearly much better at making his case on the stump, and I thought he missed a lot of opportunties.

Tonight was not the only time over the last couple years I've found myself wishing for Tony Blair to act as a stand in for the President and defend the war in Iraq. Blair would have thrashed Kerry so viciously they'd still be vacuuming up pieces of him off the red carpet right now.

In the final analysis, Bush had the stronger case based on facts and substance and Kerry had the better performance from a stylistic perspective. How this may affect the polls over the coming days is anyone's guess.- T. Bevan 12:35 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend | Comments

 

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