Friday, October 01, 2004

The First Debate
I follow politics more closely than the average American, and I never quite know how other people react to politicians or how they make their voting judgments. Therefore, it seems unlikely to me that other people will react the same way I did to the debates. That said, here is a brief summary of my impressions.

Overall, I thought no one made any huge mistakes, and therefore the thing was relatively close. I don't see how that debate could have dramatically alter things, although the partisans will try to swing it as such. The two minute format limited Kerry's responses and probably helped keep him focused. He spoke and presented himself well enough, and he didn't lick his lips like on Letterman. I have always found push to be an ineloquent and offputting speaker, but it has never seemed to hurt him in the past. He seemed a bit smoother and quicker than in the past and I noticed his new SAT words: denigrate, vociferous, rue. For style, I have to give a small edge to Kerry.

As for substance, Kerry was relatively clear. He continued with the old "I'll do it smarter" thing, which never worked for me, but maybe it will for the average voter. For Iraq, he mostly said he would bring in more allies, which I find to be naive (or a lie) but I don't know if most people recognize that. On North Korea and Iran, he sounded more hawkish than Bush by saying Bush had not done enough, but he didn't follow that to it's conclusion by saying he would do more (what? attack NK?). I would think his talk on NK and also endorsing preemptive strikes might make him seem tough enough for the job in middle America, but I wonder how that goes down with the Deaniacs. Do they really hate Bush that badly, or will this send them to Nader?

Bush was kind of what you expect. He argued we were safer without Saddam, he stands ready to make tough decisions, and he will put America's safety first. He was a bit more agile than in other appearances, countering some of Kerry's points about allies and bi-lateral talks with NK. In particular, when he objected to bi-lateral talks, he sounded Presidential, experienced, capable of strategery, and engaged.

For my taste, I preferred Bush on substance, but Kerry's promise to improve things in Iraq will sound good, if people believe he can deliver. Will people believe it? I don't know. So far, polls show they don't, but I think that many people are only just tuning in and Kerry really can present himself anew at this point. The older polls can be discounted, and it only starts to get interesting now. We shall see if other people saw the same debate that I did.

Kerry's Best: "I made a mistake in talking about the war; the President made a mistake in going to war. Which is worse?"

Kerry's Worst: "Before committing forces, I will use the 'global test.'"

Bush's Best: "Is he going to go to other countries and say 'I'd like for you to contribute forces to a grand distraction'?"

Bush's Worst: repeating himself a lot.

*quotes are from memory.

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