Friday, October 01, 2004

Debate Quick Hits

  • For the 2000 election, I felt that Gore had "won" the debate. Just purely from the "If I were judging a debate contest" viewpoint. To me it wasn't even close. But, public opinion seemed to find Bush more approachable, and Gore to be somewhat arrogant and even snippy. The 'sigh' seemed to hurt his image, making people wonder 'what kind of whiny baby is this?'
  • Last night it appeared a near draw to me, with Kerry looking more relaxed and possibly better prepared, and Bush sometimes looking like a deer caught in the headlights. However, I felt Bush had prepared good answers for some of the topics that Kerry was hoping would paint Bush in a bad light, specifically the issues of North Korea and 'walking away from treaties on the table.'
  • Where I thought Kerry did poorly (but which may not matter in the public eye) was in response to the question of what he would do with Iraq. He started by saying he had very specific things he would do, and he would list them for us. Then he talked about what he considered as mistakes Bush had made and ended with "I can do better." Which would be an 'F' in a debate, but probably played well to the public.
  • Kerry's biggest problem seems to be the 20 years in the Senate. 'SenateSpeak' requires you to say things that can be interpreted and re-interpreted as situations dictate. The problem with such a fluid view of what comes out of your mouth is that for the rest of us, it is easy to paint him as a flip-flopper. Glaring example last night: at one point he said Saddam was not a threat, at another he said he clearly was. You have to read the context of the answer to understand why it sounded fine either way. But, it is so easy to pull the soundbite that says "OK, which one is it?"
  • Bush doesn't speak SenateSpeak. This may hurt him, but I don't think so. When asked if he thought the lives being spent were 'worth it' he ultimately said "yes." SenateSpeak would not allow you to lay down a point that you can't retract. Bush doesn't care. If you disagree with him, vote him out. When asked about N. Korea, he simply stated that what he did was the right thing to do given the circumstances, and he was unapologetic. Kerry could only imply that he would have, again, convened some sort of coalition of some unnamed countries that are somehow more 'coalitionesque' than whoever Bush is dealing with, i.e., China.
  • The candidates' concepts of what a coalition consists of, are instructional. Bush says we have 30 nations involved, and we do have a coalition. Kerry says we don't have a coalition, or if we do, it is at best nominal and coerced and bribed. Apparently a Francophile, Kerry appears to feel that any coalition without France's support is illegitimate. That will not play well on the world stage, and Kerry may think he can bring people to the table, but that may be wishful thinking on his part. Kerry displays a certain naivete regarding what he can do on the world stage. As a senator, you may dabble in foreign policy, and your grand diversions with world leaders may seem successful, but in reality, you have no actionable clout; your only value is in how you may be curried for favorable votes in the senate. I think Kerry is over-impressed with himself in this area.
  • I am still left unclear on what Kerry will do about Iraq. If he was supposed to make that clear last night, he failed, notwithstanding his stentorian pronouncements that he will do better. He also made an odd statement regarding Bush's question of "how are you going to pay for all that" implying that it could all be paid for with the "tax cuts for the top 1%". That is an amazing statement, given that his programs have no budget attached at present. Anyone that thinks the 'tax cut for the top 1%' represents enough dollars to fund what Kerry was talking about is basically clueless. So, I'm left with, what is he planning to do, and how does he plan to pay for it?
  • Having said all that, I'd have to say Kerry came across well. I thought Bush could have done better. But I'm talking about style over substance. In the substance over style arena, Bush has an advantage simply because he can talk about what he has done. And he can talk about things that are being done, or being planned; Kerry only has a wish list at this stage. And when he says Bush is in the wrong place, etc., when what Kerry actually voted for and supported is in the public record, he is left with trying to state that if he were in Bush's position he would have done things differently. That is the problem with SenateSpeak.
  • And Kerry may have done things differently. He states that he believes in a global consortium, a consortium which apparently has no gravitas without the French. And he seems to believe strongly in the UN. But today, when many are questioning the relevancy of the UN and the oil for food scandal is in the light, his willingness to subject our country to the whim of the UN may not play well.
It will be interesting to see how the domestic debates come across. I have a gut feel that the Bush camp is spending more time on the domestic front, since that is where Bush 41 lost the election. And, the reality is that Bush's domestic agenda is surprisingly forward thinking and supportive of minorities and 'the common man'. We'll have to see how it plays out, and see what the polls are saying a week from now.


1 comment:

~Jen~ said...

I think that Bush is going to win the overall debate chess match. He likes to be the underdog. He excells when he is, to use one of my favorite Bushisms, "misunderestimated".

I think the big push from his camp is the next debate because, though I disagree with it, he is perceived as being weak on domestic issues.

Mark my words. He's going to nail it.

Have you seen the cnn poll info?

Kerry won on style points, but apparently he didn’t change many minds, so Bush won on substance as evidenced by the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.

Overall, 53 percent of Thursday's debate watchers interviewed said Kerry did the better job, compared with 37 percent who favored Bush.

Kerry's chief strength: 60 percent said he expressed himself more clearly than Bush did.

But 54 percent said Bush would be tougher as president, compared with 37 percent listed Kerry as tougher. And by a 48 percent to 41 percent margin, debate watchers said Bush was more likable.

Of those polled, 50 percent said Bush was more believable and 45 percent said they were more likely to believe Kerry.

More than six in 10 said that both candidates' criticisms of their opponents were fair.

On Iraq, 54 percent of debate watchers polled before Thursday's night's matchup said Bush would handle Iraq better than Kerry.

Did the debate change many minds? Not according to the poll.

After the debate, the same percentage of those interviewed -- 54 -- said Bush would be better on Iraq than Kerry.

The story was almost the same on who would be a better commander in chief -- 55 percent said Bush would be better before the debate, 54 percent said so after the debate.

Although Kerry made a better impression on some basic measures and may have been successful at re-introducing himself to voters, the poll showed he might not have changed many minds on Iraq and military matters.

Interesting stuff.