Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 30, 2004
POLITICS: The Debater and the Chief

If you had any doubt that John Kerry is a tough, aggressive debater - in fact, a man who's at his best in debate - tonight should have removed any doubt. Kerry put in a fine point-scoring performance, getting off his shots at President Bush, avoiding his trademark rambling and getting away, actually, with quite a lot of statements that the president should have called him on, from fairy tales about buying body armor on the internet to the fundamental illusion that Kerry can change the opinions of allies who haven't helped out in Iraq. Bush, partly because he's not a great debater and partly because he carries the burden of his office (can't scorn the French if you might someday have to work with them), was unable to dismember the fundamental falsehood at the heart of Kerry's "plan" for Iraq.

But Bush also did what was probably necessary: he stood on the podium as Leader of the Free World. He made clear over and over the importance of being consistent, not sending "mixed messages." Yes, like Kerry, he had a few points he repeated endlessly, but he had to.

Bush's strongest performances were on two points: calling Kerry on his stream of insults aimed at the allies who HAVE helped us in Iraq, and making Kerry look like an idiot on North Korea, where Kerry was left sputtering about the need to have bilateral rather than multilateral talks without giving any reason other than that's not what Bush is doing.

Bottom line: Kerry is a better debater, and it showed. He's faster on his feet. But when Bush sets his feet, he doesn't budge. The voters will decide which is a more important qualification to lead in wartime.


Bush talked a lot about freedom, liberty. Kerry hardly did, except in Russia, but he did bring more emphasis to winning than in the past.

I hope this debate doesn't change much in the election; I think it may not. Bush started badly but held his ground after that, while Kerry was consistent throughout.

This summarizes one exchange: Kerry: "He's a liar." Bush: "I don't take that personally."

I liked how Bush repeatedly stressed staying on the offensive.

It was tacky how Kerry said "the president invaded Iraq." No, the United States and its allies did.

Kerry said Bush didn't work with our allies like Reagan did. Reagan, rolling over in his grave: "oh, now you support my foreign policy."

People who ripped Zell can shut up after Kerry called our troops "occupiers".

Kerry dodged Jim Lehrer rolling out his "last man to die for a mistake" line after Kerry called the war a "mistake"

Bush's turning point was when he called Kerry's attack on Bush for turning own UN help "totally absurd." Also, Kerry stepped in it when he started talking about yet another UN resolution and when he used the phrase "passes the global test" for preemptive action, and when he griped about us developing bunker-busting nukes to take on North Korea. Ill give Reagan the last word: "now that's the Kerry I remember."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:35 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Nice to see real issues finally on the table. From what I saw, Kerry did pretty well, especially since his performance was what people were really interested in (Bush was Bush, love him, hate him or somewhere in between).

There are good counter-arguments to Bush’s foreign policy. The problem I think, besides his blatant inconsistency, is that Kerry’s best arguments are about past mistakes like Tora Bora or some of the early reconstruction missteps, rather than about any clear alternatives in terms of future policy. It kind of makes him look like a backseat driver who doesn’t have any idea how to reach the destination.

Aside from more reliance on the UN and the French and Germans and more concessions to the Palestinians, none of which are that popular, it is hard to pin down the essence of what, if anything, Kerry’s “plan” is.

I still see the race as a 50/50 coin flip though.

Posted by: The Mad Hibernian at October 1, 2004 9:37 AM

Credit where credit is due, as if it means anything, I concur with The MH.

And while I agree its tough to discern what Kerry's "plan" is, I think its equally tough to have faith in Bush's "plan".

Posted by: C Giddy at October 1, 2004 10:36 AM

Nice points, MH. I'm reading this thread after commenting above and implying you're delusional, so I'll revise that here and now.

Kerry pointed out past mistakes by Bush, but actually stopped short on many instances where I expected him to really lay into Bush's execution of the War in Iraq. Whether that was because of Lehrer's moderation, Bush controlling his turf or a mistake (or conscious decision) by Kerry, neither one of them really dealt with the current situation in Iraq.

there were arguments about the lead-up and decision to invade and vagueries from both about the future (Kerry referenced his plan on his website, Bush offered "trust me, I'm already doing this"), but no "Plan" of substance from either one of them.

Posted by: Mr Furious at October 1, 2004 12:06 PM

Both candidates are vague about future tactics. But in Bush's case, we know his overriding philosophy, we know his record. The problems with the vagueness of Kerry's "plan" are that (1) he's using the future "plan" as a selling point (2) he's so inconsistent on what he would have done (and even on his description of the facts) that we can't have faith that he'll stick with it or that there's a coherent thought behind it, (3) most of the "plan" is, at least in its aspirations, exactly the same as what Bush says he plans to do, and (4) the major difference is a delusional belief in the sudden arrival of non-existent allies.

Posted by: The Crank at October 1, 2004 4:22 PM
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