September 30, 2004

Not Quite Live

Green is drunk; Joyner isn't. Goldstein is having fun with Photoshop.

Bush and Kerry were both wearing bitchin' suits. And Lehrer did a nice job.

Kerry is more polished, as you might expect. Sometimes it's painful to watch Bush struggle to find a word. But it's more painful to watch Kerry selling his service in Vietnam, particularly in light of the scrutiny he's received for all the things that happened during that time—both in Southeast Asia and here in the States. (And how much rouge was he wearing, anyway?—or is all that color from the infamous fake tan? He managed to negate his height advantage with that.) Bringing that up several times within the same debate is tantamount to hooking.

One of the most dramatic moments was when Lehrer gave Bush the chance to comment on Kerry's character, and he didn't take the bait. Bush is making it clear that he doesn't want to make personal attacks, and he doesn't want this campaign to be about events that took place 30-35 years ago.

There seemed to be a role reversal of sorts going on: Kerry is acting dispassionate, and even tries to smile as the President hammers him. Bush, who often appears to be above the fray, was clearly annoyed as Kerry made his own points. I suspect this was a decision that Bush and his advisors made, and that the intention was to show how engaged his was. To underscore that he's a regular guy.

And, as I've said before, he is now the master of that smirk. He owns it; it doesn't own him like it used to. And he didn't hesitate to play up his real strength, which is the fact that he's doing the job of President now. At every turn he was willing to remind Kerry and everyone else that he's actually doing the work, making the tough choices, and so forth. That it's easy to Monday-morning quarterback the leader of the free world.

The debate was probably a draw, but I don't think it'll change many minds. Most of the people who watch these kinds of things are political junkies to begin with. And there is still the sizzle vs. steak question: what matters at the end of the day is how people will respond to the underlying message. Bush's messages: 1) the President needs to be steady, and not vascillate; 2) we need to stay the course, in Iraq and elsewhere. Kerry's message: George W. Bush has been fucking things up.

What I love though is that we had this debate in the first place. It's essential to Democracy that the President be required to defend his record in this way. And we're alone in doing it in this way, placing our leader on the spot to this degree.

Each guy held his own.

Posted by Attila at September 30, 2004 09:18 PM
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About Joy W. McCann: I've been interviewed for Le Monde and mentioned on Fox News. I once did a segment for CNN on "Women and Guns," and this blog is periodically featured on the New York Times' blog list. My writing here has been quoted in California Lawyer. I've appeared on The Glenn and Helen Show. Oh—and Tammy Bruce once bought me breakfast.
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