Fear of Clowns

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."
- H. L. Mencken

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Kerry dominates in foreign policy/national security debate 

I watched the debate at a bar, appropriately, The Chatterbox Pub. The first thing I noticed was that Kerry was wearing a red tie and Bush a blue.

I had expected both candidates to do better, but hadn't expect Bush to totally bomb. I'll take it though. If what the pundits say is true: it what the debates look like, not what they sound like - Kerry all but has the election wrapped up on national security.

Kerry's confidently used his hands and body to immediately convey his message, Bush hesitated and looked like someone waking up in a strange hotel rummaging around for his keys (or teleprompter) on a strange podium. He blinked. He gazed gown. He asked meekly asked the moderator for a chance to rebut then gave a watery rebuttal. At one point, it appeared that he had written down part of his answer and read it as if he was trying to simulate a teleprompter.

A teleprompter couldn't have saved Bush anyway - the only thing that could have was a horrible Kerry performance. Kerry both effectively showed that Bush has been an ineffective leader and communicated his ideas sufficiently - although I think he could have done even better. Compared to Bush's worn out talking points about attacking when he sees a threat and staying on the offensive, Kerry's case was brilliant and wide ranging. This was a debate about three things,

Bush seemed to be playing a different ball game by concentrating on the oh so funny funny GOP concocted Kerry "flip-flops" on Iraq.

A second staple of Bush's answers was along the lines of, "I'm commander in chief, I have things under control". Saying he had things under control worked against him being that one of Kerry's themes was that Bush just wanted to give us "more of the same" and was living in a fantasy world - by leaning on his position of authority to prop himself up, Bush was actually reinforcing Kerry's message.

I was somewhat surprised that the name "Cuba" was not mentioned. Cuba is our neighbor and it's on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism - I would think it deserved at least one question.

Both candidates said a Democratic Iraq was good for Israel. That's not the message the Arab world needs to hear - one of the things many think is that we invaded Iraq to protect Israel. Even if true, that's not a good message to send. I think both candidates may have inflamed anti-American and anti-Israel passions by pandering to the Zionist vote. (added after watching debate a second time: I think Kerry misspoke when he said "It's important to Israel" - he didn't mention Iraqis and think he meant "Iraq" rather than "Israel" - still it belies the fact that he's worrying about the Zionist vote)

Kerry could have done better on the "What will you to differently in Iraq" question. He should have started the answer with 1,2,3,4,5 just as it's laid out on his website. Instead he started talking and after criticizing Bush and later got around to explaining two or three of the changes he would make.

There are too many parts of the parallel press conferences ("debate") I want to at least briefly comment on later, but will leave this post with two:

"Of course we're after Saddam Hussein -- I mean bin Laden." - George W. Bush

"I have no intention of wilting. I've never wilted in my life. And I've never wavered in my life. I know exactly what we need to do in Iraq, and my position has been consistent: Saddam Hussein is a threat. He needed to be disarmed. We needed to go to the U.N. The president needed the authority to use force in order to be able to get him to do something, because he never did it without the threat of force. But we didn't need to rush to war without a plan to win the peace." - John F. Kerry

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