Bush v. Kerry: Round One
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised
by last nights debate. I was certain that Kerry would lose the debate, and Bush would appear confident and steadfast. For whatever reason, it was exactly the opposite. Kerry appeared magnanimous, confident and certain of his positions and their validity. Bush by contrast looked tired, irritated and out of it. There seemed to be a great deal of unconfidence
on the part of the President, as if he himself
didn't believe in his policies.
Every time Kerry would fire off a criticism, Bush would respond hastily, as if he trying to convince himself that Kerry was wrong. Kerry by contrast handled each criticism by the president with a sense of ease, as if he found the cringing creature across from him amusing and of no threat. I couldn't believe it. Furthermore, Bush spoke ineloquently and unintelligibly. He repeated the same old slogans several times, as if he didn't have the intellect to do anything other than mouth lines written for him. Kerry by contrast repeatedly reformulated the same points, highlighting his own speaking abilities.
What makes the whole spectacle so amusing (and so revealing of our President's own ineptitude) was that Kerry won in spite of
his own platform. Bush had several opportune moments to criticize the Senator's remarks; but instead of exuding confidence and charging, Bush dug in and looked desperate to defend himself against the attacks of John Kerry. Most polls that have come out have labeled Kerry the winner.
Also interesting, I watched a few progams post-debate, and was struck by Bush's supporters. They all declared that Bush was completely victorious in the debate. At best, they admitted that Kerry looked good. But they all stressed that Kerry kept flip-flopping, and seemed extremely agitated. I'm no fan of Kerry, who certainly has made ambiguous statements in the media. But last night Kerry was polished, poised and completely confident in his assertions. The democratic commentators, by contrast, appeared serene and bemused by their counterparts. For them, it was enough to point to the angry, irritated and unconfident Bush, and contrast him with Kerry.
All in all, I think this is a terrible
blow for Bush; he had the chance to end John Kerry last night and instead at best
tied his contender. And this was on Bush's
strongest turf. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next three debates. Vice President Cheney will probably defeat Senator Edwards, but the next two presidential debates are up in the air. If Bush doesn't come out in force, he risks losing the presidency. The undecided voters are the decisive factor here.
As a postscript, I thought that Andrew Sullivan's
blog gave an excellent study of the debate. Here's a brief segment from it:
KERRY'S MANNER: It was, as I hoped, an enlightening debate. No, it didn't include any real logical breakthrough and on the issues, I found myself agreeing more with Bush than Kerry. But from the very beginning, Kerry achieved something important. In tone and bearing, he seemed calm, authoritative, and, yes, presidential. I watched the C-SPAN version on a split screen, and in that context, it was particularly striking. In stark contrast to the Bush-Gore debates, it was Bush who was grimacing, furrowing his brow, almost rolling his eyes and at the very beginning, looking snippy and peevish. He seemed defensive throughout and because his record was front and center - and Kerry's long record in the Senate almost unmentioned - he was actually on the defense. He seemed physically smaller and more mobile than Kerry - and more emotionally alive. Their voices were contrasts too. I can see now for the first time why Kerry has a good reputation as a debater. It wasn't, I think, because he debated well. In fact, he debated poorly. He failed time and again to go in for obvious kills, failed to do what he really should have done, which is skewer Bush's conduct of the war, not his decision to launch it in the first place. But his tone was strong, clear, unwavering. And in some ways, this was critical to undermining Bush's constant assertion that Kerry is weak, vague and inconstant. In fact, Kerry didn't have to prove logically that this was the case (which would be hard to do); he undermined it merely by his tone and manner. For many people, who have only heard of Kerry from Bush ads or sound-bites or from droning campaign speeches, it will be the first time that Kerry seems strong. In the simple, symbolic man-versus-man contrast, Kerry often seemed bigger. That strikes me as a big deal.
POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 7:11 AM