Thursday, September 30, 2004

Who Won?

So who won this first debate? By several criteria, Kerry did. The question is, will it matter?
Criteria 1: Style.
Clearly, throughout the debate, Kerry looked more presidential than Bush, who looked often on the defensive and not in command of the issues. I was watching CNN, and they too often showed the split screen that apparently was "illegal". We can speculate on why the major networks violated this agreed-upon rule. But it was clear that Bush looked smug, pissed, upset, and simply unpresidential compared to the always composed Kerry (thankfully there were no "sighs" in this debate). Body language overall was in favor of Kerry. He was standing poised and confident throughout. Bush was leaning, slumped into the podium, almost too relaxed in talking about issues of great import. Kerry's height also helped him too...he seemed to stand above the podium more with his upper body, compared to Bush whose upper body seemed comparably smaller and less imposing. Is this a shallow read of style over substance? Yes, but unfortunately, American voters care much about these stylistic tidbits.
Criteria 2: Substance and Issues.
Kerry was clear, firm and knowledgeable about all the issues. He struck a good balance about saying what was wrong with the Bush regime and what he would do differently. As Phil has already pointed out, if the main attack on Kerry by Bush was portraying him as a flip-flopping, indecisive, indecipherable politician, Kerry showed to be a different candidate. Bush's strategy was to keep repeating the same message over and over: "mixed messages" send the "wrong" message to our troops and "enemies". He didn't seem as lucid about the issues. How will the voters interpret this? Will they prefer consistent messaging that Bush repeated? Or Kerry's more lucid approach?
Criteria 3: Punchlines.
Again, I give Kerry the edge here, though neither candidate said anything particularly memorable. Kerry's good lines included: "We didn't need that tax cut; America needed to be made safer" and "You can be certain, and be wrong". However, he missed MAJOR opportunities to attack Bush on the whole "Mission Accomplished" battleship stunt. At one point in the debate, Bush said, "I'll bring the troops home when the mission's accomplished". To which Kerry should have immediately responded in his rebuttal: "Mr. President, you said the mission was accomplished when you wore that flight suit. You misled us then, and you continue to do so. I know something about failed missions in wars, and I will only say the mission is accomplished when it really is."
Will it matter?
That's the biggest question of all. I think it will, regardless of what the polls will say. This was supposed to be Bush's biggest strength (foreign policy), and I think enough doubt was cast tonight to make a difference. On to Tuesday with the Cheney vs. Edwards match-up!

3 comments:

Palooka said...

You liberals can be sickenly dishonest.

The Mission Accomplished "stunt" is overplayed. Read Bush's speech, and pick out where he said the war was over. He said major combat operations (armies moving against armies) was over. The sign was a mistake, but to hinge you hopes on such a trivial thing is telling.

Hey, since you have your liberal blinders on.... How about these gaffes.

Kerry suggested WE GIVE Iran nuclear fuel. Great idea.

Within seconds Kerry declared Iraq "a mistake" and "not a mistake."

Kerry said we must pass a "global test" to take action to ensure our security.

Kerry came out against, in vintage liberal 80's style, against nuclear weapons development. Can't trust American with these weapons?

He provided a hell of a lot of material for further undermining his positions (or lack thereof).

Rothko said...

Sickenly?...I don't think that's a word...you'd be proud...I even went to the dictionary to look it up..it's not there...

I know it upsets you that Bush was a little crabby and looked less presidential next to his fellow Yalie..but as you were giving me pointers on debating yesterday...you might want to pass some of your fine notes on to Karen Hughes and Karl Rove...RULE #1 DON"T SLOUCH OVER THE PODIUM...he looked a little troll-ish (not a word)

As for the substance certainly not a gaffe free performance on either side but...Kerry scores points on the Iran statement just for sheer balls...and because it points out that Bush has done nothing to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power...ditto North Korea...You can't hate a brother because he's got a plan and you don't...

Hey, even Bush couldn't muster a defense for developing small bunker buster nuclear waepons...and be really honest here...do you think ...in a world full of terrorists that building and developing the technology for smaller nuclear weapons is really the best idea America has had lately?...I mean seriously...not bright...for lots of reasons we can get into later on...

And as for Iraq I liked the little bit about..."I may not have be expressed myself clearly but at least I didn't F*** it all up. Which is worse"...I expect that line will be pretty effective...

Bush had to debate HIS record tonight...and frankly it's not a great record and I think he's finally realizing that too...at least that's what I got from his "Oooh, John Kerry makes me so mad" face

Palooka said...

"I may not have be expressed myself clearly but at least I didn't F*** it all up. Which is worse"...

Actually he said Iraq was a mistake, and then he flip flopped seconds later. Really effective.

And the problem isn't that he was inarticulate, it is that he VOTED FOR THE WAR AND THEN ABANDONED THE TROOPS. That's the problem. His inarticulate moment was a result of that position, not the position itself. DUH!