October 1, 2004
Last Thoughts on Debate #1
All right, now that I’ve been saturated in the radioactive glow of post-debate media analysis, a few more thoughts.
Also, do catch Tim’s comment on last night’s post, where he makes the point that Kerry actually got much better as the night went on, and Bush got worse. And other points of salty goodness.
Looking over the transcript of last night’s tête-à-tête lets me actually speak to the substance of what the two men said. It also confirmed a lot of what I thought the first time I was watching, while the rhetoric was flying by (or, in our President’s case, kind of lurching and shuffling by despondently).
Kerry has clearly been coached. Up the wazoo. According to some reports I’ve heard, the coaches used buzzers. I mean, dang. It came across, both in the fact that he did a great job, and in the fact that there are words he was obviously not allowed to say (see “lie,” “Vietnam,” below):
KERRY: First of all, he made the misjudgment of saying to America that he was going to build a true alliance, that he would exhaust the remedies of the United Nations and go through the inspections.
In fact, he first didn’t even want to do that. And it wasn’t until former Secretary of State Jim Baker and General Scowcroft and others pushed publicly and said you’ve got to go to the U.N., that the president finally changed his mind — his campaign has a word for that — and went to the United Nations.
He sho’ NUFF wasn’t allowed to say “flip-flop.”
But whatever circumlocutions he and his coaches devised to get around using those words, they worked. He got his message across.
As for Bush, I have to return again to what it seems was the crux of his offensive last night — No one who criticizes my mistakes is fit to fix them.
There’s just no logic in that formulation, no matter how you look at it. I mean, he’s saying, in effect, The only one that can get us out of this mess is the one that got us into it. That is insane.
Then this, another criticism of Kerry along the same lines: “I don’t think we want to get to how he’s going to pay for all these promises. It’s like a huge tax gap. Anyway, that’s for another debate.” In short, we can’t pay for homeland security investments because we don’t have the money. Who spent all that money? Who tax-cutted it away?
Even after 12 hours, my mind can’t begin to wrap itself around this logic. Bush admits, several times, that our strategies aren’t working, that we’re out of room in the budget (and the deficit). Out of one side of his mouth, he says that we’ve got a strong coalition of countries helping in Iraq. Out of the other, he says it’s impossible to amass a strong coalition of countries, especially if you’re sending “mixed messages.”
If the foreign policy debate was supposed to be President Bush’s strongest, I really, really don’t want to see the domestic policy debates. Especially if Senator Kerry’s staff has the good sense to reproduce some of the promises of 2000, back when phrases like “budget surplus” were still around, and ones like “nation-building” were strictly out of vogue.