Friday, October 01, 2004

Debate # 1...

(Note: this commentary also appears on the website)

I watched what passed for a debate this evening between John F. Kerry and George W. Bush. I was seriously disappointed.For the benefit of GW, I have a piece of advice: wake the hell up! You gave the man a small window of opportunity to sneak back up on you, and that wasn't good. As for what went right, the repeated attempts (mostly successful!) of making Kerry dine on his own elocutions worked, until it began to sound repetitious. What I would have asked you to do better was to hammer home a very simple point -- ask for specifics.

On several occasions, Jim Lehrer asked Kerry to explain, specifically, just what his super-secret plans were in all areas of foreign endeavor. What we got were generalities, a few remarks about international treaties, lip service to the U.N. and some gobbledegook about North Korea, that was technically excellent, grade-A, political horse dung, but not one single, solitary iota of utterance that could reasonably pass for explanation. Next week, when kerry is asked for specifics, do NOT let him dance. A simple "Senator, I did not hear you answer the question", should suffice.

As for Kerry, one can easily see why he's sliding in the polls. What we got was another fine exhibition of soft shoe, stuffed to the rafters with lots of technical mumbo-jumbo and short of actual ideas and plans. I will say he looked much more lively than he's ever looked before, even with the fake tan removed, the phony chuckle and the manicure. He kept his Vietnam references to a minimum (referring to it three times by my count, but never by name).

Here are a few specific things I noticed during the debate that I think have some kind of meaning or are moments when Bush should have pounced on Kerry.

Specific thing #1: I noticed that Kerry is now doing the Clinton "thumb-pointing" thing, possibly a subliminal message. An attempt to remind his voters of the "good old days"?Specific thing #2: Kerry stated that he planned to add two more active duty Army divisions and double the number of special forces troops available. However, he did not state just where these soldiers were going to come from, and whether or not the military can actually train that many special forces.Specific thing#3: Kerry tied the unpopularity of the United States in some international circles to failure to adopt the Kyoto treaty and to join the International Criminal Court. Kerry called these things "Global Tests", which Bush deflected quite well (even ridiculing the phrase "Global test), but there was room to wield a sledgehammer here. Bush was correct in his statement that he would not allow Americans to be tried in international courts that were answerable to no one (the ICC), but passed up a golden opportunity on the mention of Kyoto. The Kyoto treaty was voted down in the United States Senate by a vote of 95-0. Bush should have asked Kerry what his vote was on this. Either Kerry voted against it or abstained from voting. Either way, Bush could have made hay by asking Kerry a direct question on where he stood on something that he claims is vital to gathering friends and influencing allies.

All-in-all, a bad night (but not fatal) for the President. He missed opportunities to give his opponent the kiss of death, and his flip-flop mantra, although truthful, began to sound tired. However, Kerry did not emerge from this confrontation appearing as an elder statesman of Churchillian statue either. It's clear that he still lives in the pre-9/11 fantasy world that liberals created for themselves, a world where everything in the world would be just like a Coke commercial if maybe we just weren't sooo American. Somehow, next week, Bush must expose ths fantasy world for what it is: a fantasy. And to do that he has to put Kerry on the spot everytime he opens his mouth by challenging the Senator to list specifics.

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