Saturday, October 09, 2004
I like this style of debate better. While I doubt that five people in that audience truly were undecided, the questions were fresh, and the candidates weren't sure what to expect. Which, I think, gives you an even better look at what a candidate is like.
So, who won? I'd have to say Kerry. Not necessarily on "points" (in which case it's closer to a draw, though Kerry's Supreme Court answer was masterful, while Bush's was close to incoherent.)
No, the reason Kerry won is because he further dissolved the Bush campaign's image of him as a dangerous and vacilating man.
The Bush campaign has made that the centerpiece of their effort. And with good reason, since there isn't a whole hell of a lot Bush has done that he can brag about. But now, in two debates, Kerry has punctured that caricature. He's come across as a responsible Senator who has a plan and (gasp!) convictions. His answer on the tax question, where he looked right into the camera, was on a par with the best of Reagan and Clinton.
And Bush? He was bouncing out of his seat. His voice was near shouting once or twice. He talked over Kerry and Charles Gibson at one point is his desire to rebut. His answer on stem cell research was ignorant. But what bothered me was this quote:
I don't seen how you can lead this country in a time of war, in a time of uncertainty, if you change your mind because of politics.
Oh, really? I have a suggestion, Mr. President. Crack open a book on the history of World War Two sometime, the most massive conflict the United States has ever been involved in. The entire time, minds were being changed. If they weren't, we'd have invaded Europe in 1943 and been slaughtered. And here's a saying you'd do well to remember, George: "No plan survives contact with the enemy."
In other words, nothing will go how you expected it, and you have to adapt to that certainty. In Iraq, Bush has most definitely not done that. We've seen the results. And from his comments last night, he has learned nothing from the experience.
So Kerry did what he had to do: not screw up and reassure the American people. His lead in the polls should continue, if not increase by a point.
Oh, and Bush's timber crack? Turns out he did own a piece of a timber company. Oops!
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