October 1, 2004

buzz buzz

I have nothing substantive to add to the post-debate analysis. Like most observers, I thought Kerry won on both style and substance, but whether it will help in the polls will depend on the next 48 hours of spin (which is not what this is; you know me and my history with JK better than that).

So here's something trivial (and I haven't checked all the blogs yet, so forgive me if someone else has made this point already). The flashing lights that Bush insisted on backfired on him. They helped keep Kerry disciplined, and kept tripping up Bush. Bush frequently was unable to get his thoughts formed -- or even his words out -- for several seconds at the beginning of his answer. He repeatedly hit his stride just as the green light went on, forcing him to speed up, which only emphasized the impression that he was frantic compared with Kerry's calm demeanor.

Not that there wasn't some stuff Kerry couldn't have done better. He bailed out of a question about what he'd do to improve homeland security to go back to Iraq. He should have really laid out -- even more than he did -- the security lapses on the homefront and how he'd fix them. Also, he only talked once about the situation in Iraq right now. He should have responded to Bush's "it's hard work" mantra by spelling out exactly why Bush was the wrong man to do that work. Stylistically, I also think Kerry should have asked for more one minute extensions. Bush did repeatedly, even when he had nothing new to add, and I thought it showed a willingness to engage and a determination to set the record straight from his POV (though I'm sure someone's trying to spin it as defensiveness). Kerry, on the other hand, let slide Bush charges that he could have legitimately asked for more time to answer. Overall, though, I was quite pleased.

One thing that will have no bearing on the who-won question, but that bugged the shit out of me was Bush's repeated claim that Kerry changes his "core values" what he "believes in his heart of hearts." Kerry was too busy parrying the question of his shifting positions to make this point, but how is one's position on Iraq be a matter of core values? Most Americans have changed how they feel about Iraq. Suppose Kerry has done a complete reversal. First he believed America was safer taking out Saddam Hussein, now he doesn't. The core value is making America safer. Whether it's done by invading or by not invading is merely a tactic. I know what Bush is getting at -- he believes in freedom -- but one can have that as a core value and change one's mind about how best to achieve it.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Actually I had a different feeling about the lights for Bush (at least for the first part of the "debate"). I thought the he must have trained with the lights in mind. When he was given any amount of time to respond, he would stumble with his elocution as he is wont to do, but once the green light went on, he changed his presentation. He tried to look directly into the camera forcefully, implemented some sort of gesture, then spewed some sort of a soundbite statement. The purpose to delay his response to limit any possible mistakes, then stick to the campaign rhetoric.

I thought that they must have figured that most people, especially his supporters, would ignore the previous stumbling and just be impressed by his forceful rendering of the soundbite. I actually thought he must have rehearsed it. Green light, GO!

They absolutely irritated me! I watched them, waited for them, and was hoping that the red lights would start blinking, so later on we could have that loud sound interrupting them. I thought it was the worst debate in history, it was so borring.

What irritated me more than the lights was that they darkened the crowd and we couldn't have a split screen of Barbara Bush. OOOhhh, she's a hottie... Sorry, Radosh, but that's how my mind works.

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