The Kobayashi Maru strategyDaniel Radosh
In accordance with blogger/pundit/barfly ordinance 719-j/22, here is my unsolicited advice to John Kerry for the debates: Break the rules.
Kerry needs to do something dramatic to turn this thing around, and this just might work. According to the memorandum of understanding, the candidates are not permitted to ask one another direct questions. That means Bush won't be prepared for Kerry to do so, and that's exactly why Kerry ought to. It doesn't really matter what the question is. Anything tough that Leher won't ask, that Bush would rather avoid, and that Americans care about will do (which leaves a lot of options).
Keep in mind that while we all know about these rules, the vast majorty of Americans who will be watching the debate have never heard of them and will interpret Bush's response completely differently from how the wonks do. Best case scenario for Kerry: Bush gets that stunned look (c.f., "what was your biggest mistake?") and stammers out a protest that Kerry isn't allowed to do that, that he's not playing fair, and then refuses to answer. Even if viewers pick up, and Leher explains, that this is indeed the rule, viewers hearing about it for the first time are likely to find it a stupid rule, and not see what the big deal is about being asked a question during a debate. Bush, who has staked everything on his confidence, will look like a pussy. The clip of Kerry confidently asking a serious question of great import to Americans and Bush wimpering about arcane rules of import only to Beltway elites will be played over and over again until November 2nd, with Kerry winning converts each time.