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Thursday, September 30, 2004

Beldar's take on the first debate

Neither candidate screwed up.  Kerry needed a Bush screwup, a huge gaffe, to change the dynamics of the race, and it didn't happen.  Thus in the big picture, Bush won.  That's true regardless of whether you grade Bush with a "B" and Kerry a "B+" or vice versa.  Both candidates crossed the finish line standing; and I think that means Bush will win the election, regardless of how you may "score" this debate on "points" and in isolation.


Small pictures and impressions:

I think Sen. Kerry was at his very best tonight — much better than he was in any of the Democratic primary debates, and in the perfect, very formal and isolated-from-humanity environment to show off his strengths to their best advantage.  The format was one where the smartest kid in the class gets to show off, with nobody humming "Hail to the Chief" on a kazoo, and with none of the human interactions that make him look so robotic and inhuman.

Probably because of that, his mannerisms that annoy me the most were fairly muted.  But they could not be wholly extinguished.  Ask yourself this question:  Wouldn't it have been a huge home run for John Kerry if he could have gone through this entire debate with the self-discipline never to mention his Vietnam service?  To the extent that his combat service is going to favorably influence some subset of the voting public, hasn't he already gotten the full benefit of that history?  And yet, there he is — incapable of holding back the impulse to say, again and again, in effect, "Do you know who I am?  You realize, don't you, that I served in Vietnam?"  I don't know whether it's two percent or ten percent or thirty percent of the "undecided" or "swing" voters, but some percentage of those voters who are currently leaning Bush and might otherwise might have ended their viewing of this debate by saying, "Kerry's not so bad," were shaking their heads at every Vietnam allusion and muttering the word that I think will doom Kerry's chances for election:  "Phony."

Dubya was simply himself.  What is important — not shocking or surprising, but important — is how different today's Dubya is from the 2000 election version of himself; and of course, the transformation was 9/11.  In contrast to the candidate from 2000, this is a guy who has a very clear and consistent picture of what being the President is all about. 

He does not have, and never has had —  and has looked in the past (e.g., in 2000) at his worst when trying to pretend to have —  the Clintonian policy-wonk's command of subpoints and figures and verbal arguments with Roman numeral signposts going from III to III-A to III-A(4)(b)(vii).  When he makes successive supporting points, you can always count them on one hand and usually have a digit or two left over.  In fact, stylistically, I wish he would have transcended the format — not felt the need to keep talking until the yellow light flashed on — and repeated himself less.  (Man, what a contrast that would have been, because when Kerry speaks, you can see behind his eyes how he's doing a mental multitasking to plot how many more points he'll have time to score before the buzzer sounds.)


Final aside:  What a difference this debate was from any of the Gore-Bush debates of 2000, and from some of the run-up to this one!  Nobody's going to be writing tonight or tomorrow about anybody's audible sighs or invasions of personal space, or about Kerry's tan.  The Bush-is-a-chimp crowd are posting gleefully now about "moo-lahs" and "nukular," but that's an exercise of political masturbation for them at this point, a self-pleasing ritual they're bound to engage in that has no connection to the substance of anything that happened beyond the fact that Dubya showed up and spoke aloud for a while. 

For everyone else, this was a serious exercise appropriate to a nation at war, a nation from which 9/11 has banished, at moments like these, most of the frivolities that we had the luxury and innocence in which to engage ourselves back in 2000.  But I don't think this debate changed any votes that were already strongly intentioned, nor — despite what I think was an optimal performance, as good as Kerry's capable of giving, in the best possible format for him — do I think it is likely to have swayed many genuinely undecided folks in a different direction than they were already leaning.

Posted by Beldar at 10:37 PM in Global War on Terror, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Beldar's take on the first debate and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» First Debate Round-Up Favors Kerry from bLogicus

Tracked on Oct 1, 2004 3:51:40 AM

» Bush 1, Kerry 0 from La Shawn Barber's Corner

Tracked on Oct 1, 2004 5:31:17 AM

» The morning-after debate reaction from The Glittering Eye

Tracked on Oct 1, 2004 8:32:41 AM


(1) kerryisabozo made the following comment | Sep 30, 2004 10:47:13 PM | Permalink

Good assesment. Pretty much a draw, but in order to come out of the woods, Kerry need a "W" flub and he didn't get it.

(2) polyphon made the following comment | Sep 30, 2004 10:53:51 PM | Permalink

I was mainly interested in seeing the debates to take a good look at Kerry - his demeanor, his behavior, his attitude, etc. Frankly after so many weeks of the hammering away at Kerry I've been reading, I felt he was pretty much demonized and I was expecting to see a stark raving lunatic. I'm sure his handlers knew this and so told him he needed to hit this one out of the park to bring himself back into contention.

I tried to be objective and as moderate as I could be despite the many unfavorable things I already knew about Kerry and what I found was that Kerry didn't come off as much of a total psycho as I had imagined. He continued to score points while Bush had that "pause thing" going during his answers. Bush also had that awful sour expression during Kerry's answers which won't win him undecided voters (let's face it, this is a beauty contest). I think Bush did better at pounding home his main message. The more "nuanced" of us would say that Bush was a one-note Charlie, but a typical middle-American working-class man may have found that message easier to take. Overall I think Kerry came away with more from this debate that Bush did, but neither shot himself in the foot tonight. I think overall, Bush will give away points to Kerry with these series of debates as Bush doesn't string together words as well. If I were Bush's advisors, I would have skipped these debates as he would have won easily without them.

(3) arb made the following comment | Sep 30, 2004 11:01:12 PM | Permalink

I agree that Kerry was at his very best tonight. But tomorrow, President Bush will be the same man he was tonight, and Senator Kerry will be the man he was/is all of the time *except* for tonight.

And the voters will be watching.

(4) Randy Morrell made the following comment | Sep 30, 2004 11:06:06 PM | Permalink

Debate: Kerry did not win over the new Bush Democrats
Most polls show 9 to 15% of democrats currently favor President Bush. Senator Kerry had to win them over but failed to do so, no matter what the media spin on the minutae is.

The reason he did not is because of two very important mistakes:

1. President Bush pinned him to the wall on the "Global situations", which Kerry said whether or not he would start preemtive action. The President immediately kicked him in the shins by asking "What does the Senator mean by "Global situations", then when on to say he would protect America first and not worry about the rest of the world liked us or not.

2. The second mistake, and this may be greater: Kerry said we were wrong to be building Nuclear Bunker Buster bombs and he would immediately put a stop to it. Americans want us to have the newest and best weapons. This is his largest blunder.

After all the news media crowns Mr. Kerry, these two points will be salient.

The 9 to 15% of democrats have probably made up their mind to stick with the President and will not pay attention to the other debates.

(5) andrei made the following comment | Sep 30, 2004 11:12:49 PM | Permalink

Style goes to Kerry
Substance to Bush

Question does style trump substance?

I hope not!

(6) Jim Patrick made the following comment | Sep 30, 2004 11:22:45 PM | Permalink

This was not an appropriate debate for a country at war. We are at war. A real, honest to gosh WAR. On one side is the current commander and on the other side is someone who says we're in the wrong country.
This isn't a weenie Gulf1, Korea or VietNam "conflict". With deference to all my friends who fought in those, because battle is no different at the personal level. Cold is cold and shrapnel is shrapnel. But this war, not started by us, intends to defeat and destroy western civilization. Disregarding the ideologies, the enemy intends to make our nation(s) subservient to them and/or theirs.
Bush failed to make that case, both since the start of war and in the debate. Kerry framed the war in police-action terms which makes leaving at will, not entering until all the troops have silk socks, arresting binLadin, etc. more palatable. In realistic terms --and Kerry handed Bush the opening-- it's like not reponding to Pearl Harbor until 'all our troops had proper armor', which they actually got in '45-46.
War demands a response and Bush has done a decent job to date. Kerry intends to harden and shield the US: to lock the doors, bolt the windows, inspect visitors, and hope it doesn't happen again. Enormous differences that would have favored Bush but neither made clear.
In the end, I agree with your assessment that it swayed few undecideds.

(7) MaDr made the following comment | Sep 30, 2004 11:26:22 PM | Permalink

I think Kerry won this debate and he'll gain 2-3 points in the polls. Kerry successfully attacked not only during his rebutal period, but during his 2 min period. Bush for the most part was weakly counteracting and only in his rebutal period. Bush paused, mumbled, and slouched against the lecturn. He didn't win any points here. Kerry had the breadth and depth of the facts (even tho most were lies), so that looked impressive.

If you look at this from the eyes/ears of someone who's not aware of Kerry's positions or his flip-flopping, you'd have to give this debate to Bush. Try looking at it that way. I'm firmly in the Bush column, but I was able to.

(8) Birkel made the following comment | Sep 30, 2004 11:39:57 PM | Permalink


You said "(t)he more "nuanced" of us would say that Bush was a one-note Charlie, but a typical middle-American working-class man may have found that message easier to take."

That's exactly the type of sentence that loses middle America (or if you prefer--flyover states) for Dems. How condescending that sounds!

Otherwise, Kerry sounded great but his substance was for garbage. (That's me trying to meet Beldar exacting language standards. LOL) Seriously, it was incredible. Here's an example:

He said 40+ countries have weapons programs beyond what Iraq had. Goodness gracious!! He's including France (nukes) and Israel (nukes) and Russia (nukes) and India (nukes) AND ENGLAND (nukes). That's just remarkable. Was Kerry actually suggesting we should be more concerned about Tony Blair's nukes than Saddam Hussein's desire for nukes? If he won the debate it's only because people are too lazy to fact check him. The there was "Treblinka Square"-- Treblinka was a Nazi Concentration Camp-- when he meant Lubyankaya Square-- the home of the KGB. (hat tip: astuteblogger via Instapundit)

Before the blogs this nonsense would pass but not now. Kerry's looseness with the facts-- presented well-- will be exposed by tomorrow afternoon. Brit Hume will deliver the first blows tomorrow and the Sunday shows will deliver too if only because they won't be able to sidestep the avalanche of half truths.

(9) ginny made the following comment | Sep 30, 2004 11:42:42 PM | Permalink

This seemed the best place to make this comment and see Beldar's opinion: Tonight (Thursday, the debat night) Fresh Air on npr was interviewing Jon (or is it John?) Stewart from Comedy Central.

They listened to a clip of his interview with Clinton: the two of them discuss the Swift Boat Vets; they said that these were the same guys that "sleazed" McCain; they said that the charges had not been proved. Of course, all this was played for laughs. But the serious core of it remained standing - Clinton asserts, Stewart gives back a laugh line that reinforces Clinton's statement, and then the Fresh Air announcer (male, not Terri Gross) laughs.

(10) Terry Gain made the following comment | Sep 30, 2004 11:57:10 PM | Permalink

It wasn't even close. My 21 year old son and I both scored it: Bush 67 Kerry 33. First, let us get the facts out of the way. With access to the same intelligence Kerry voted for the same war. So what are his complaints?
1. Bush didn't go the the U. N. ( Answer: it is a lie that Bush did not go to the U, N.; he did; the U. N. was not interested. The reasons why the U. N. was not interested are clear to anyone who understands how the U. N. functions.
2.Bush failed to cobble together a true coalition of allies. ( Answer: whenever I hear this I lose what little respect I have for Kerry. This argument is an insult to our intelligence. France, Germany, Russia and China were not interested in the liberation of Iraq. If Christ himself had asked Chirac would have said no. Bush did not make this latter point, which is obvious, however he did a great job in making three points: complaining about who is involved in the coaliton shows disrespect for America's (true) allies; it demoralizes the troops; it sends the wrong message to Iraq. He might also have mentioned that it sends the wrong message to the terrorists i.e it encourages the enemy; this is not the first time Kerry has done that-apparently his 1/3 tour of duty did not teach him it is counter-productive to encourge the enemy.)
3. Bush didn't send enough troops. (Answer: thanks to Clinton, he sent what troops were available)
4. Things will be diferent if Kerry is President. Nations which have refused to send troops to date, will send troops if Kerrry is President. ( Answer: This is not merely a lie but the biggest lie that had been told in the the United States, including the many lies of Michael Moore, since Bubba said he did not have sex with that woman. When Holbrooke asked Germany if they would send troops the response was a gufffaw. France's position is the same. Kerry insults the intelligence of everyone when he suggests that more countries will send troops to Iraq if he is President.) In fact he will have trouble keeping the existing coalition intact. Who would want to follow Mr. Wobbly into battle?

I thought Dubya handled the character question beautifully: with humour, tact and grace. Dubya was the clear winner in substance and personality. Kerry did better than I thought he would, but I had very low expectations of him.

This is the impartial assessment of a Canadian lawyer.

Kindest personal regards,

Terry Gain ( Canadian lawyer for Bush )

(11) Beldar made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 12:01:28 AM | Permalink

Dan Drezner reports that "mooolahs" is actually correct. Heh.

(12) nybushie made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 12:03:35 AM | Permalink

Pounding on the flip-flop issue seems like a waste of time and sort of generic. People change their mind over time as events change. Now rnc.org is blasting Kerry for claiming he would never use the word "liar", which he has. Give me break this is all so stupid.

I'm disappointed more wasn't made of how absurdly liberal Kerry is. Even on the topic of defense, the topic of tonight's debate, nothing was even mentioned of Kerry's 20 years in the Senate of being to the left of Ted Kennedy and Barbara Boxer.

(13) nybushie made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 12:11:10 AM | Permalink

On the topic of defense, Kerry's voting record is clearly anti-Pentagon. That and the huge number of intelligence committee meetings he missed are good evidence that over the past 20 years, Kerry has simply not been concerned with the topic of defense.

With his obvious lack of interest, he should have resigned from the committee - stepped aside to let someone else more interested participate.

That is what Bush should have said tonight. Sheesh. Now its too late.

(14) George Purcell Jr. made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 12:28:05 AM | Permalink

Basically a draw, but I'd give it to Kerry on points.

But mark my words, there's gonna be an RNC ad with the "Global Test" line. And it is gonna hurt.

(15) Polaris made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 12:53:16 AM | Permalink


As I have been telling others elsewhere, it went alright. Bush was off his game and I wish he had done better. On technical points and style of the debate itself, Kerry was better. He simply was.

However, Kerry still loses. I note that the ABC flash poll had Kerry winning the debate but it had no impact on who they would vote for. I think that is going to be typical, and I think that Bush appealed to female voters better than Kerry did (subliminals such as a blue tie, looking into the camera, getting out briskly, ect).

The point is that Kerry needed either a home-run or a total Bush gaffe to get back in this race and hurt Bush's reputation as C-in-C. That did NOT HAPPEN.

I don't expect any movement in the polls either way.


(16) Patton made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 1:06:31 AM | Permalink

As I've opined elsewhere: "Both did a good job, neither embarrassed himself, and, like my hometown Houston Astros, all that's required is solid play going forward, and the debates will have no place in choosing our next president."

Now if only the 'Stros can seal the deal.

Too many baze-ball analogies, I know...

(17) Bushman made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 1:38:30 AM | Permalink

What will happen tomorrow is the MSM will beat their chests saying Kerry won and now it is a race. The DNC will come out with ads showing Bush's expressions from the split screen shots. The RNC will come out with ads showing Kerry's flip-flopping. I saw at least 5 major blunders by Kerry. His bi-lateral approach to N. Korea, his idea to donate nuclear materials to Iran for testing, his (it must have been seared) rememberance of being under the wrong square of the KGB lair, his idea to out-source the rebuilding of Iraq to countries that had no involvement, and lastly, his pre-emptive strike stance based on a worldwide concensus.

Kerry may have had the style tonight, but Bush certainly has the substance over the next few days.

(18) am made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 1:56:01 AM | Permalink

Nope, Kerry will do well out of that debate.

Because a lot of people don't really like Bush, but they don't trust Kerry due to his image of being a prevaricating, wordy waffler.

Kerry didn't come over that way at the debate and those people will feel more at ease in punishing Bush.

(19) polaris made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 2:26:23 AM | Permalink


More people watch the spin and the gaffes than the debate. Kerry made some terrible gaffes.

"A Global Test" for our security?!

Donating Nuclear Material to Iran?!? [Sure...let's give Iran Nukes like we did with North Korea.]

Criticising a multinational approach to the DPRK while endorsing it for Iraq?!

"I have never waffled?"

This are the sorts of zingers that are going to kill Kerry. Don't think the RNC isn't making ads with the best of them as we speak.

The debate itself was a political draw...but Kerry handed Bush way too much ammo.


(20) geezer made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 3:07:38 AM | Permalink

First: wife and I watched it on C-SPAN, with split-screen of both participants from start to finish.

Kerry seemed better with theatrics, Dubya seemed a bit repetitive; knowing what a congenital liar Kerry is, could point out most of his flaws, and gave Dubya the edge.

Second: watched it on FoxNews later, and what a difference with multi camera angles! Dubya was into it, and Kerry was, well... Kerry. A liar, manipulator, obfuscator-par-excellence, blah, blah, blah...

We gave Dubya even higher marks than before.

Bottom line: if you don't know Kerry, he won. If you know Kerry, Dubya won.

3 Nov 04: Dubya by 6%, maybe even a lot more.

(21) Mimi made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 5:18:06 AM | Permalink

From the debate transcript~

Kerry: "The only building that was guarded when the troops when (sic) into Baghdad was the oil ministry. We didn't guard the nuclear facilities."

So, Kerry is now admitting there WERE WMDs, right? Or at least programs to make them, right? If not, then why criticize the President for not guarding nuclear facilities that didn't exist?

(22) Polaris made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 6:25:47 AM | Permalink


I suggest you go over the the captain's quarter's blog. He has a link with Der Speigel (a center-left SPD German magazine). The foreign perspective seems to be that Bush in fact won the debate and was more presidential. I am not sure I buy it, but since it is from a foreign perspective regarding a "debate" on foreign policy, it has merit.

More to the point look at this:


Ignore the spin of the article and look at the numbers. First of all, Bush did about as well as he did in 2000 (perhaps a trace worse). Second of all, while hands down the respondandts thought that Kerry was the better debator, Kerry's internal favorability numbers on terror and Iraq did not improve outside the margin of error.

That's huge. Basically the respondants said, "Yes, Sen. Kerry, you won the debate, but we still don't believe you."

That's a draw politically at best and some would argue that it is a downright loss for Kerry. We'll see what the national polls say next week, but given this flash gallup poll, I don't think Kerry did nearly as well as the MSM is trying to say.


(23) Zachriel made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 6:45:27 AM | Permalink

Jim Patrick: "This isn't a weenie Gulf1, Korea or VietNam 'conflict'."

When those wars were fought, they were sold as being essential fights for the defense of America. Korea and Vietnam were fought to prevent the advance of communism in a global struggle which could end with the collapse of the Western Civilization, while the Gulf War was fought to enforce national sovereignty secured at such cost in two world wars. (Please note that the current conflict calls into question this basic international legal principle.)

Since the beginning of the Cold War, the world has been living under the threat of total nuclear annihilation, and the possible end of all human existence. The current conflict is quaint by comparision.

(24) ncoic6 made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 6:53:34 AM | Permalink

I must have watched a different debate.

I thought Kerry was clear, focused, and coherent. Bush was in la la land, a lot of the time. The visuals were downright alarming. Bush looked like the kid who had got caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and couldn't think quickly enough of a good excuse.

On substance, Bush butchered whatever good comebacks he should have made.

No question that Kerry misstated a lot of things, but in this debate, there wasn't much of comeback.

When Bush resorted to his mantra of talking points, after a while, it got pretty stale and started to lose any effectiveness.

It pains me to say this.

(25) Polaris made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 7:06:47 AM | Permalink


No it doesn't pain you to say that. I strongly doubt it because that is the exact spin the DNC is trying to place on it as well as the more liberal members of the MSM (NYT for example).

However, do you see screaming headlines, "Kerry Wins! Bush Stumbles!"?

No. Because it didn't happen that way. In fact had it been as one-sided as you are implying that would indeed be the case.

As we speak, Kerry's statements are being shredded, especially his comments about Iraq, the DPRK, and "The Global Test". Other factual untruths (such as UBL being in Afghanistan) are coming out.

Was Kerry more articulate and did he win the "technical"/"style" part of the debate itself? Yes. I never said otherwise.

However, you need to read that Gallup Poll again. The audience didn't believe Kerry even though they gave his speaking style high marks. I think you are in for a suprise when the national polls come out on Monday. I really do.


(26) TmjUtah made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 8:06:01 AM | Permalink

World Test and the flashback to the nuclear freeze days will be what Kerry rues about this debate.

He won on style points; I put it Kerry A/C, Bush C-/A. About what I expected.

Bunker busters may be of limited utility. They also need to be on the shelf and ready to go.

I use an eight mm flare wrench once every couple of years. If I can't find it, I can't fix the brakes on a small family of Porsche cars. For that reason, that one wrench in my toolbox has a magnet glued to it and lives affixed to the underside of the top lid of the top box on my rollaway. If it gets lost the chance of me being able to find it without ordering one are nil. I've been through the process before.

The duty of a president is to prepare and execute the defense of this country. Whether or not it's easy or popular. I trust Bush to do the job, I don't trust Kerry. It's that simple.

(27) c made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 8:26:49 AM | Permalink

I was astonished by how similar last night's debate was to the 2000 debates. Kerry/Gore, so polished and forceful. Bush, so fumbling but sincere.

What is the obvious implication?

(28) Steve L. made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 8:36:21 AM | Permalink

I also wished that the President would have stopped talking at times. He made his point and didn't really need to hammer it home. For whatever reason, he felt compelled to use his entire time.

I do have to say that this was far and away my favorite part:

KERRY: We could have bilateral talks with Kim Jong Il. And we can get those weapons at the same time as we get China. Because China has an interest in the outcome, too.

LEHRER: Thirty seconds, Mr. President.

BUSH: You know my opinion on North Korea. I can't say it any more plainly.

(29) Dave made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 8:53:18 AM | Permalink

If we Americans were better informed and a little more involved in this election this would have been a big victory for Bush. But we aren't and it wasn't.

Far too many of us are apathetic. We are more concerned about whether our team wins the game this weekend or what it is that Ophra is espousing today. To the extent we acknowledge we're at war, we think it something distant and ill-defined. We do not feel personally threatened and do not percieve a threat to either our lives or our future.

I do not like being a pessimist but believe it will take something far worse than 9/11 to ultimately wake us from our apathy.

(30) ncoic6 made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 9:20:20 AM | Permalink


I truly hope that your take is correct and that I am wrong.

When I said that I was pained, that is what I felt because I truly wanted Bush to do far better than what I saw last night.

On substance, on what was actually put out during the debate, (and not what you and I know away from the debate) I thought that Kerry got away with a lot.

Jay Nordlinger at NRO had a similar reaction to the debate.


I think that we can disagree on our responses to the debate without questioning the sincerity of our reactions.


(31) TheSophist made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 9:25:47 AM | Permalink

Long time lurker; first comment:

I also have to give the debate to Kerry -- as expected. This man was president of the Yale Political Union, while Bush was head of his fraternity. (Having gone to Yale myself, I have a pretty good idea of what it takes to be head of the YPU). Kerry is a lawyer, and has been a Senator for 20 years; debates are his strength.

Having said that... there's one moment in the debate that no one has mentioned which I think will strike some Americans. I know it struck me deeply.

When Lehrer asked Bush the question about Kerry's character -- a loaded, dangerous question, and Bush called him on it -- I have to say that the generous way that Bush responded blew me away. Here's a man who's been sliming you for years; whose surrogates have called you everything from traitor to liar to stupid to deserter. Here's a man who has spent every minute up to that point in the debate making factually-shaky assertions and criticisms. If that were me, I would have lashed out and blasted the opponent.

Bush, on the other hand, displayed a level of grace that was really amazing. To compliment Kerry at THAT point in the debate (after having been clearly frustrated and angered) for his service both in the military and in the Senate, to compliment him for being a great father... wow.... Bush is a better man than I. People criticize him and fear him for his deeply held Christian beliefs -- but that one instance illustrated what it means to be a Christian.

I walked away from the debate thinking, "Kerry is a smart guy; Bush is a good man." Given that choice, I would pick the good man for President every time. Because the President can surround himself with the smartest people in the world; he can't get advisors on how to be a good person. I think a good percentage of the American people feel the same way about Bush.

If you look at the debate in the context of the entire campaign, the choice is between a really really smart guy who is very ambitious and constantly calculating, and a really good man who is determined to "do the right thing".


(32) jackson white made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 9:42:05 AM | Permalink

Kerry clearly won on style, but nothing changed as a result of last night's debate. In that sense, Bush probably won. On the other hand, he could have wrapped up the election and didn't, so that also could count as a Kerry win.

(33) MD made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 10:35:58 AM | Permalink

Immediately after the debate, I thought Kerry had "won." After I woke this morning, and thought about it for an hour or so, and before I had read any commentary, that impression had completely faded. I couldn't remember any position of Kerry's that left a coherent memory; it all a jumble of criticisms, complaints, whines, and wishful thinking. I simply have no idea what the man would actually DO. I wonder if anyone else had a similar experience. Even if I had been leaning toward Kerry, I would hesitate before voting for him. I don't know what he is, what he believes, what he intends to do, or when or how he intends to do it. Kerry strikes me as a "water-cooler" expert; he loves to talk about problems, but put him in the middle of one and he falls apart and becomes incoherent. He has no center.

Anyone agree with this? Remotely?

(34) Todd made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 10:48:37 AM | Permalink

My take on the debate is similar to those of others expressed here, so I won't make this long.

Bush is clearly not a very good public speaker, while Kerry is very articulate, polished and glib. So it's no surprise that Kerry would win on style. But Bush is still on the right side of the Iraq issue as far as a majority of Americans are concerned, and that's what will really count in the election.

In addition, I viewed the DNC tape of Bush's facial expressions and don't think it's much of a big deal. Although I thought the President behaved mildly Al Gore-like last night, I don't really see the big deal with his blinking his eyes or shaking his head a little. I'd have him tone it down in the next two debates, but I don't really think the DNC tape shows much of significance.

(35) chip made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 10:50:59 AM | Permalink

in re debates: Check out this cartoon www.coxandforkum.com/archives/2004_09.html
scroll down to September 08, 2004
Confronting Terrorism III

(36) MaDr made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 11:23:50 AM | Permalink


I disagree, partially. I felt last night that Kerry won, and felt the same this morning. I agree with your statement:

"I couldn't remember any position of Kerry's that left a coherent memory"

I tried to put myself in the position of an undecided voter or one which may still be swayed (back). I perceive these individuals as not really having paid attention to date. I further envision that a substantial percentage of these folks didn't pay "close" attention last night, ie caught the several intra-debate contradictions of Kerry. Having not paid much attention before, how could they possibly catch the contradictions from his pre-debate positions? I would guess that most of the individuals didn't know much about Kerry before last night and what they saw was a polished orator, seemingly with a grasp of both the depth and breadth of the issues.

So Kerry won the debate, but if the Bush team is skillful, many of Kerry's utterances will be turned against him.

Pass a global test
World conscience
Give nuclear fuel to the Iranians
Stop development of bunker busters
Bilateral talks with NK (excluding China)
We excluded some from reconstruction contracts
We didn't guard the Iraqi "nuclear" facilities
Etc, etc, etc

(37) James Walling made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 11:49:17 AM | Permalink


I had the same experience, last night I went to bed thinking Kerry had clearly won. This morning when I awoke, I started thinking about the debate and couldn't remember anything coherent about Kerry, only that he whined and attacked the President. I know where the President stands on the issues, but I am still in the dark about Kerry, except we would need to pass the "Global Test", and nuclear bunker-busters are bad for us.

(38) TmjUtah made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 11:51:33 AM | Permalink

This is a correction to my previous post.

I quoted "world test" when the correct term is "global test". Please forgive my sloppiness.

The substance of my post remains unchanged.

I agree with c (underscore) about the similarity to 2000. Gore channeled Ann Richards and every negative talking point under the sun. Bush talked about issues then, as he did last night.

(39) jackson white made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 11:54:23 AM | Permalink

I just finished the transcript of the debate, and I've changed my mind. Bush, who lost on style, won because Kerry has taken some radical, even incredible positions. I missed his remark that the United States should not develop nuclear weapons because it will encourage proliferation. What the???????? And there's a lot more here, too. This will not be a good weekend for the senator.

(40) Davod made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 12:36:04 PM | Permalink

Kerry is consistent. He has remained steadfast. In the 70s he advocated exactly the North’s (Vietnam) peace plan. He now advocates exactly the North’s (Korea) negotiation plan.

(41) Todd made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 12:47:27 PM | Permalink

The bottom line is that Democratic talking points will focus on the President's mannerisms during the debate, while Republican talking points will focus on what Kerry actually said. As Howard Fineman said last night, the Republicans would get 5 ads out of what Kerry said.

(42) MD made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 1:31:14 PM | Permalink

Thanks guys, I'm not totally alone. One more thing: I think the formal debate format helped Kerry; I think Bush will do better in the more informal townhall format.

(43) 84rules made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 1:46:37 PM | Permalink

Kerry needed a Bush gaffe but may have provided a big one himself. His comment about a "Global Test" was almost frightening to hear. Read about it at:

John Kerry's Global Test

(44) Bob X made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 1:57:32 PM | Permalink

Pottery Barn has said several times now that there is no Pottery Barn Rule: You break it you own it.

The Kerry guys are blasting this all over Cable TV News today.

(45) Polaris made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 2:02:02 PM | Permalink


The radio talkshows (and of course the blogs) are all over Kerry's statements, untruths, and incredible positions already. I expect that they will be highlighted in the News by the Sunday cycle. In fact given the discipline and skill of the RNC and BC04 campaign, I almost guarantee it...in fact I have heard that one GOP post-debate ad is already coming out.

I think ultimately Kerry may wind up regretting last night. We'll see.

Funny...the longer this goes on, the better I feel about Bush's performance...and I am not alone.


(46) jack risko made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 2:15:42 PM | Permalink

(47) MD made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 2:41:41 PM | Permalink

I have now read a lot of the commentary, and listened to some too, and it strikes me that the greater part of all the commentary is about Kerry, not Bush.

"Kerry survived"
"Kerry didn't lose"
"Kerry won"

and so forth.

But the more particular comments on Kerry seem damning, when they focus on what he actually said.

"global test"
"give nuclear fuel to Iran"
"Iraq was a collosal mistake, but our soldiers aren't dying for a mistake"
"I favor both bilateral and multilateral talks with the DPRK"
"I'll cancel the bunker buster"
"I'll call a summit"
"I'll send more troops to Iraq, and I'll withdraw troops from Iraq"
"I'll add two divisions to the army, but there will be no draft"

etc etc

Bush may have lost on style points, but, at least right now, it seems he'll win this war.

(48) MD made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 2:48:03 PM | Permalink

Just a thought: Admin officials -- Powell, Rumsfeld, etc -- will flood the Sunday morning talk shows to talk about "global tests," bunker busters, and the Iranian nuke program. What do you think? Good idea?

(49) Lanny made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 3:35:53 PM | Permalink


That's very acute observation. I was that surprised too because I expected a different answer less generous from Bush based on his facial expression the whole night.

(50) Shark made the following comment | Oct 1, 2004 4:29:52 PM | Permalink

I'm not so sure Kerry didn't hurt himself. He kept pushing that Iraq summit, which is not going to go over well, and he used the "global test" phrase. Not very good.

If this election is really about Iraq, post-debate poll numbers show Kerry is dead, because it seems he didn't convince the people he needed to that he would be better to fight the War on Terror

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