Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Quick rap

The short of it is that it proved more interesting than I thought it would be. Kerry did better than I thought he would. But Kerry did not surprise. He seemed to be himself and predictable, although was a bit nervous at the start. Everything he said he had said before, and was able to deflect some of Bush’s attacks. Bush seemed to me to be a bit more feisty than I expected, maybe even more annoyed than he should have been. He even seemed ill at ease at times.

Perhaps Kerry’s greatest virtue was that he emphasized that Iraq was a mistake and Bush didn’t respond directly to his characterizations. But this is now a dangerous position for Kerry because he seems more than ever to be an anti-war candidate. This may revivify his base, but will not get him elected president. Interestingly Kerry never mentioned Vietnam (I think), although he made at least two references to his experience in war. It seems to me that Bush could have come back with greater force. It was interesting to note that Kerry used JFK and Reagan and the elder Bush (and Powell) to try to buttress his positions. Poor attempts, and the fact that he thought he needed to appeal to such authority is not to his advantage. But he couldn’t, in the end, overcome the "multilateral" tone he always has and his "global test" remark was revealing and Bush took advantage of it. It should noted that Kerry endorsed (in his way) pre-emptive war. I liked Bush’s emphasis on the connection between our strategic interests and freedom, and his closing remarks were effective. In all, Kerry may have helped himself by showing he had a grasp of policy, but his inconsistencies did not dissappear. He also showed that his persona is limited and not especially appealing. In the end, it was at best a draw for Kerry. Although Kerry may have done himself some good, it will no effect on the race (or the polls).

Discussions - 6 Comments

Yes, you and I will still vote for Bush, but even from this admirably partisan site, it is clear that this was a Kerry victory, that Bush looked like a cornered squirrel, and that this will give some if not the BIG MO to the Kerry folks.

I’m beginning to notice differences in opinion between those who watched the debate and those who listened to the debate on the radio (like myself). I was extremely surprised to wake up this morning and hear newscasters declaring Kerry the clear winner.

The president’s ’problem’ with repetition was obvious, but there was not point where I would I would have said the president was nervous or uneasy. I thought he did very well and my friends and I decided that the President, not John Kerry, won the debate.

This was a pretty good debate substanitively for both sides. Kerry didn’t win this because he needed to really establish himself and quite frankly he didn’t do that in this debate. Criticizing the president’s policies and then offering nothing in return or being very vague just won’t do it for the average voter.

Each side is going to say they were the winner and objectively I think it was a draw. People know about the President, he has been the President for 4 years. People don’t know about Kerry and last night he just offered another version of himself. A Democrat is going to say it was a great performance by Kerry and a terrible performance by Bush and a Republican is going to say it was a great performance by Bush and a terrible performance by Kerry. There is a lot of spinning going on but I think the average undecided is still in the same place after the debate as they were before the debate.

I’ve also read some spin about comparisons to the 2000 debates. This isn’t 2000 for a couple of reasons. First, in 2000 we had no incumbent running, you had to relatively unknowns to the voters. Yeah, yeah I know Gore was VP for 8 years but he was running away from Clinton and frankly nobody cares about VP’s. Second, most of the voters are adults and they understand that right now, the world is a serious place because we have 3000 dead New Yorkers and there are really terrible people who are trying to kill us. This isn’t 1992, 1996 or 2000 when the Cold War was over and we could focus things other than national security concerns. During the Cold War (the last era when adults ran the show), the voters were acting like adults because the security of the nation was on the line.

I disagree that partisan lenses or spin will determine who one thinks won the debates. Kerry did a better job in the debate is true, but that’s not really the important issue. He needed to destroy Bush’s stance or offer a substantively different position - he did neither. I’ll concede that Kerry
bested Bush last evening in terms of debating techniques, but that he did not convince me, or I believe the American people, to vote for him.

Kerry was much smoother but he also came across as academic, not presidential. I think he probably turned off many people by being beside Bush, who was honest and down to earth. Bush had emotion in his responses, unlike a lecture like tone from Kerry.

Kerry did mention Vietnam by name at least once during the debate. It was just before the question about was the war a mistake.

"I believe that when you know something’s going wrong, you make it right. That’s what I learned in Vietnam. When I came back from that war I saw that it was wrong. Some people don’t like the fact that I stood up to say no, but I did. And that’s what I did with that vote. And I’m going to lead those troops to victory. "

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