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2 October 2004

Debate quick thoughts

It’s not like the debate was going to influence my vote very much, if at all.  but I have a few thoughts.

In Mather House, the other
government tutor and I sponsored a debate-watching event.  Our
students, unsurprisingly, tend to line up pro-Kerry, but we were all
willing to laugh at the various gaffes of each of the candidates, so it
wasn’t like we laughed only at Bush.  We just ended up laughing at
him more.

What surprised me was how badly Bush did.  I had read lots of the spin put out by both sides, and more importantly, I read James Fallows’ piece in The Atlantic (a periodical one can hardly claim leans solidly left or right).  (Semi-disclaimer:  Fallows is from my hometown of Redlands,
and people of my grandparents’ generation still refer to him as “Jimmy”
Fallows.)  And I was a debater myself in an earlier incarnation of
my academic life.

I have to admit that I actually felt sorry for Bush as he blundered and
froze his way through the debate.  It impressed me that his staff
must not have prepared him for the encounter beyond telling him that,
of course, he’d do well.  It wasn’t that he was ineloquent; it was
that he had a phrase (“hard work”) and a lot of stares and that was
about it.  I was expecting much more after his performance in the
1994 Texas and 2000 Presidential debates.

And I read this morning that his spinners tried to set the bar low.

“I don’t want to say somebody is the winner or somebody is the loser
tonight,” said George P. Bush, the president’s nephew, and he went on
to set a fairly low bar for his uncle. “I think his main objective,
apart from not falling on the ground on the stage, which he didn’t do
tonight, was to say, look, here are my positions, and talk directly to
the voters.”

But you don’t really get the luxury of low expectations after nearly
four years.  People come to expect something of you if you want
the job again.  And even with the bar that low, Bush still didn’t
meet it.  We know he works hard, that he regards any change of
course as problematic (he implied but did not state that Kerry’s
election would prove harmful to national security), and that he thinks
that iraq is the key to the war on terror and that we’re winning
it.  But we knew all that.  What we didn’t get is why he
thinks this.  But from a man who said that the best part about
being president was that you didn’t have to justify yourself, that’s
hardly a surprise.

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4 Responses to “Debate quick thoughts”

  1. Rainey Says:

    This debate highlighted why all the pre-debate negotiations were far more critical than we guessed. After all, was it not that that podium (the dimensions of which were carefully scripted give Bush stature that he lacks) that prevented him from collapsing into a fetal position?

  2. Mark Wallace Says:

    You mean you’re not going to be playing debate bingo ( with your students? aw, an opportunity missed.. all that’s missing is the big marker pens, a few empty pint glasses, and a pie and chips supper

  3. Industrial Guy Says:

    The podium was bad as was the lighting. The next debate should be more interesting as it will focus on dosmestic issues.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    The vice-presidential debate last night was much better. Now those two guys know how to debate.