Debate 3: Say Goodnight, Georgie
Debate 3: Say Goodnight, GeorgieTonight may have been America's farewell to Bush, He was certainly no better tonight than Friday, and on Friday, if you recall, he stunk. MSNBC's online poll already has Kerry as the victor by a whopping 85% at this writing.
Bush sounded, as some have remarked, like an abusive husband begging his sweetie to stay when she's not only halfway out the door, but the neighbors can see and hear from the hallway. (Just as some once said his father looked like every woman's first ex-husband) That was the look on his face, and though at the beginning of the debate, his voice was that arrogant Texas holler it was at the walkin' one on Friday, around the first third it dropped, realizing aggressiveness wasn't helping, and Bush tried to sound gentle, quiet, almost hurt that people think so ill of him. That must have been the intent.
But what it sounded like against Kerry's assuredness was in fact the timid, careful voice of a loser. It was a voice of contrition that promised many changes, that allowed mistakes of the past without acknowledging them. The very sound of contrition would imply awareness that at least people generally think he's fucked up. He offers the promise to us all that, given the chance, he'll be happy to convince them he's changed, though of course he says he was right and would do everything the same again given a second chance.
Dude, um...I don't think you're getting a second chance.
Kerry once again demonstrated his consistency from debate to debate, which is what we've really been getting to see--he's looked steady debate to debate, while Bush flails and flails, each time seeming to have only come with twenty minutes of material, and then after the first twenty minutes he starts to slouch and to scowl, or at least look tired in resisting the urge to do so. Tonight it looked at though Bush had been told--as the format was once again podiums, not Bush's friend because he can't wave his arms or pace to get rid of his nervous energy--to smile and crane his head every time he felt like scowling or felt tired or impatient. And he's still stuttering and still giving the deer-in-the-headlights look when caught off-guard by a question.
This wasn't good advice. It was the dancing-as-fast-as-I-can smile of denial so often seen on the faces of suburban housewives on uppers. It looked like a smile to conceal nervousness. And worse, it's incredibly crooked. I mean literally. But when he makes the effort to smile with both ends of his mouth, he looks, again, every bit the chimp. But you could tell under it all that he was quite frightened. His eyes looked startled. And Bush mistakes rigidity for consistency.
Where Kerry has been consistent in building an aggressive, but positive, attack on Bush and mapping out his policies through these three debates, Bush has merely been rigid, in his repetition of talking points even when they've been knocked down and reflexive--and often hilariously inaccurate--negative attacks on Kerry. After the incredibly bad performance in the first debate, the only real suspense through the second and third was whether he wouldn't fuck up again. It seemed accepted pretty quickly that if he did manage not to fuck up again, this in itself would be a victory.
I doubt if we keep presidents just because they manage not to look like complete idiots some of the time.
The opening of the debate was interesting. Kerry's wave to the audience was assured and easy, Bush's was narrow and nervous. And this time, they somehow managed to wear matching ties--red with gold dots. Only Bush's was not as deep a red as Kerry's, more of a fire-engine or emergency or Stop-sign sort of red. Probably not the best subconscious impression to leave if one is seeking re-election.
The framing of the podiums on C-Span again was interesting. They did everything they could to try to frame them equally, because in debate 1, also at podiums, Kerry filled the frame and Bush, given his lesser stature, looked shorter and more defensive, more hunkered down and, standing alongside Kerry, certainly not presidential. Bush's frame appeared to be mostly podium, Kerry's mostly, well, Kerry. This time they did their best but in the end, it just focused our attention on the details of Bush's face more(which is good, because his makeup was better than Kerry's; Kerry's face looked a bit tired and shiny, while Bush looked flushed, but the George should blush, shouldn't he?) , and worse, one's attention was drawn to the much greater length of Kerry's mike than Bush's, which tips you off both to a difference in all sorts of sizes.
Kerry scored many points on the job losses because Bush, whenever he was asked about them, tried to change the subject to education, even saying that the All Children Left Behind Act is a jobs program. Well, maybe 15-20 years from now, Bush, but what about right now? No answer each time it was brought up. Instead he reminds us that--horrors!--Kerry is from Massacussetts tried to claim that "Ted Kennedy is the conservative senator from Massachussetts" and that Kerry's politics were "far Left Bank," a clumsy way to imply that Kerry is a Francophile or...something, I'm not sure. And again "liberal," as though it packs the punch of "communist."
Again, George, the swing voters don't care; your base will vote for you no matter what, you idiot. Saying "liberal" doesn't score you points in your favor anymore, unless the best-seller lists are no indication where the country's swinging. Having as your only refutation of Kerry's promises that they're "empty" only makes us want to take a chance on the guy who hasn't broken any to us yet, unlike, say, Bush. Calling "pay as you go" "pay-go" doesn't help. And repeating "freedom's on the march" which he began doing at 8:07 pm CST just irritates us. And issuing a smug little snicker like you're expecting Karl Rove to give you a biscuit after you've managed to repeat a talking point really. Pisses. Us. Off.
Bush hasn't outlined any positive program of his own; he believes all his decisions have been the right ones. But they've led to disaster to all but Bush's most wealthy supporters. He really has no intention of changing course at all. This means to the average person that things are bad now--and most believe that--and therefore, they will be worse. He's not reassuring. Being unbearably smug wasn't what got Reagan votes--being reassuring was. Bush has read the attitude wrong. Admitting mistakes indicates to others that you now have the wisdom to not make them again. But he doesn't even give us that. "I'm sorry if some people think I'm wrong," Bush's attitude says. Problem is, those people are the American people. How can a man be overconfident and frightened at the same time?
And then he tells outright lies, which doesn't help him look less desperate. For instance, he denied his statement that he didn't worry too much about Osama Bin Laden, that he "isn't that important." Just issued a bald-faced denial. He also said Kerry didn't have anything to do with any health-care legislation. Also not true. Does no one tell him these things can be instantly checked these days? Throughout these debates I kept saying, out loud, is that all you've got? I keep thinking maybe Republican playbooks never change--it's just that, when they have the power to do so, they try to reshape the world into something in which they can operate. As you can see, that climate best suited to them is fear, deprivation, insecurity and paranoia. Like living in that?
Repeating talking points never made us believe anything. That was the illusion that Bush maintained for himself by the fear he kept us under for so long. Were we ever asked for our consent when Congress gave Bush the Patriot Act(which, as it happens, very few if any read first) or the authorization to attack Iraq? He has never really had to face the wrath of the American people. Unless he has a really good plan with Diebold regarding the voting machines, Bush is fucked.
And given that the polls are swinging away from Bush(Kerry now has the edge in Wisconsin and Republican bellwether state Ohio, which both have barnstormed very heavily), if they do have something like that planned, it will be obvious. Not that being obvious has stopped them before.