LULU by John Linton Roberson (c) 2012.
I Didn't Write That!
30 September 2004
  Round One To Kerry Round One To Kerry

"By not allowing himself to be reduced to tears, the president was a big winner tonight."
Rob Cordry, The Daily Show

Ohhh...I'm feeling much better tonight.

It's true, as Jon Stewart remarked, that the two sides of the debate seemed like competing campaign speeches--which indeed they are--but there was quite a distinct difference between the impressions formed by either candidate's performance this evening. This was aided by the networks, apparently, doing what I thought they were only doing on pundit-free, raw C-Span, on which I was watching. I feared if I watched any other source I would hear pundits mumbling color commentary all the way through.

When I watch presidential debates, the only one allowed to talk over the candidates with spontaneous commentary is me, dammit. I do tend to get over-excited and shout at the screen--I'm told this is very amusing to observe, assuming one isn't interested in paying very close attention to the debate. The presidential debates are to me what the Super Bowl is to others, but I only get to see it once every four years.

So I opted for the closest thing I could get to a raw feed, but as it turned out this was a joke--it turns out Fox News was handling the cameras and distributing the feeds. Tonight's debate was purely on foreign policy, and going in, the media poodles seemed to have thought for reasons passing understanding that Bush would have the advantage. That seems to assume Bush has any foreign policy successes beyond "we're makin' progress" to declare.

On C-Span the debate was split-screen. There apparently are 32 pages of rules worked out between the campaigns, and it seems that split screen was against said rules, which no network signed onto. Some also had to do with podium height--specifically that they be exactly equal. The split screen, however, would appear from the first long two-shot seen at the beginning to only emphasize a salient fact: Bush looks short and puny and Kerry looks tall and presidential. They attempted to rectify this in the split screen by lining up the tops of their heads, which only made Bush look shorter and more hunched. They say that height alone is usually enough to decide a presidential race.

So glamour points go to Kerry, not just for that, or for not raising his voice even once while Bush did a number of times(more about that in a bit) but for a later moment where Bush attempted to get chummy, saying that he wanted to "put a leash on" his daughters. Both had a nice little laugh about that, followed by the only moment they smiled at the same time--making Bush's attempt at looking charming backfire. Bush really didn't want us to see these alongside one another. Kerry had a nice, very white smile(almost sanded--you shouldn't look directly at it, it'll scar your retinas) while Bush came off looking every inch the chimp. One wonders how a man with a full mouth of teeth still manages every time he grins to look like the village idiot Gummy Jethro. A man who hides his teeth a lot when he smiles has something to hide in his mouth.

For Kerry's part as far as the substance of the debate, he did pretty much the least one should expect from a presidential candidate. Bullet point after bullet point, tightly organized and reasoned, finally articulating the difference between his view and Dubya's on Iraq, best summed up thusly:

KERRY: I have a plan to win the peace in Iraq. Bush went in without a plan, and worse, directed resources away from getting Bin Laden, the actual person that attacked us.

BUSH: Ben who?...My plan was fine, is fine, and it's going fine, and to say otherwise is insulting our great ally Poland and depress our fighting men and women, none of whose funerals I've attended but your brains will go all warm and fuzzy as I tell you a made-up story about a war widow I had a laugh with named Missy. What, I have to answer the question? (huff) Jeezus, is this boring. (sniff) Damn, I hope this itch on my cheek ain't another boil. Hell, is that thing on?


Bush clearly wasn't aware that the entire thing would be broadcast split-screen not just by dull ol' C-Span, but by most of the major networks--including Fox. If he had, he would certainly have been much more circumspect in his huffy reactions during Kerry's time, which were a fascinating sight throughout. One wonders if the networks picked this exact moment to fuck Bush. The punditsphere--even Fox--was very quick to give Kerry the victory, and surprised at Bush's terrible performance. Relentlessly throughout he displayed what several Hardball commentators referred to as a "monarchical" air.

He looked impatient, annoyed, a bit irritable at having to be at this debate at all and quite obviously looking upon it as a formality to be gotten through. Just like his disastrous press conference last spring, he robotically repeated the talking points till they all ran together, and seemed miffed when he actually had to elaborate, so repeated them more. And there was one implied excuse after another, on the basis that they're doing the best they can in the waronterruh, but it's "hard work." He said again and again it was "hard work," making you wonder when he'd accompany this with a "whew!" and a wiping of the brow, but this would have shown more obviously that he was sweating. He was going quite red in the forehead toward the end. And pundits quickly compared his "peevishness" to Gore's petulant, condescending 2000 sighs. In fact, Bush sighed a couple of times himself.

He looked desperate and got mad a few times, opening statements with great pissy huffs of impatient breath, as he often does when caught off-guard. Kerry had more than talking points to say. Bush didn't. But he did get a number of things across. He implied that he didn't particularly care about getting the troops home "just to get 'em home." He pretty much said that Hussein, not Bin Laden, was the great financier of terrorism. (Bin Laden does not do actions himself--he funds them like a venture capitalist. So this is a particularly telling confusion, if confusion it is) He chided Kerry for daring criticize his handling of the war, calling the war "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time"--in fact, repeating it so many times that one might start to take it as his own view if one didn't know better--and a "grand diversion," because it would lower troop morale. (One imagines getting killed for no reason lowers it even more) Apparently despite that Homeland Security is alarmingly incompetent, at least it's got a "lot of good people working hard." (Most of us would prefer a lot of efficient people working intelligently, but this is the century of lowered experctations) He also defended attacking Iraq rather than concentrating efforts on Bin Laden by saying "Bin Laden doesn't get to decide" who or when we attack.

That's right, Bush saw through Bin Laden's crafty attempt to divert us toward attacking and killing him by attacking our country, and Bush attacked Iraq instead just to show him who's boss.

About this, Kerry had a pretty good comeback, to the effect that attacking Iraq in response to 9/11 was akin to FDR declaring war on Mexico in response to Pearl Harbor. Another was in reference to the fact that the first and most important thing our armed forces secured in Iraq, long before we ever bothered with the government offices, utilities, or museums or what have you, was the oil. From this fact, Kerry said, one might get the impression, if one is an Iraqi, that "well, maybe they're just after our oil."

In his father's case we'd expect all the self-pity and petulance One finds that Bush has become far too used to the hermetic environments protected by loyalty oaths that his handlers have arranged across the US like something between birthday parties and cult meetings. He gets so surprisingly angry at any question he's unprepared for. And the next debate is purely about domestic policy, and on that front, Bush has nothing; he has predicated his entire identity as president on foreign policy, and he barely has anything there. But he has been as miserable a failure as can be imagined domestically. Already some supporters are deserting him.

And then there's Edwards vs. Cheney. Strap yourselves in.

Oh, and after the debate, the online donations to the Democratic Party suddenly started coming in at the rate of five per second.

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