Friday, October 01, 2004

I am not sure what I can add to what has already been said about last-night's debate. It was pretty obvious to both Republicans and Democrats alike that Kerry handily won the debate. His answers were clear, concise and to the point while Bush's were rambling and littered with campaign slogans that did nothing to actually explain his position; other than reinforce his assertion that he is "working hard".

In fact, at times I actually felt bad for Bush. His performance was so weak that I almost wished Lehrer would lob him a softball. It's not that the candidates were actually asked very difficult questions. There were basic, "what will you do in situation x," type questions. Kerry responded to the questions with, for the most part, detailed answers. Bush responded by reiterating campaign spot tag-lines or playing the "I am resolute" card. What was most disconcerting was when President Bush would stand there silent for 10+ seconds after a question was asked. He seemed out of his depth and out on a limb.

In 2000, Al Gore was crucified for his reactions to Bush's statements in the debates. In 2004, Bush has become Gore. His reactions (when I saw them, I watched on PBS which showed little of the reaction shot) were impatient and dismissive. It was as if he was annoyed at being called to the carpet.

Debates are intended to show a candidate's grasp of a set of issues as well as demonstrate his ability to handle the public pressure. Modern debates have become, for the most part, a lot of pagentry with a smattering of substance. Yet at this point in time, with the grave decisions that rest upon the President, the pagentry seems to have fallen aside and the voters are actually concerned with a candidates response to a question, rather than if they seem tough or juvenile.

The response today has been overwhelmingly in Kerry's favor in how he handled the debate. Certainly the Republican operatives have been working to soften the blow the Bush dealt himself, but even Tony Blankly of The Washington Times (a staunchly conservative paper) had to concede on this morning's Diane Rhem show that Kerry clearly won this debate.

There are a number of pundits across the country who are trying to play out the old campaign lines about John Kerry. Yet after last nights debate they seem hollow and unsubstantiated. Bush's pledge to lead on even in the face of failure should not reassure the people of this country, it should make us worry for the safety of our armed forces and civilians abroad and at home. Officials and military personnel who have long experience in foreign policy and military matters have all come out against the current handling of the war against terrorism. Some of them have even openly endorsed Kerry. While the endorsements may be nice for the Kerry campaign the fact that so many individuals with experience and expertise in these areas have come out publicly against the Bush administrations handling of foreign and domestic affairs should weigh heaily on those who believe that Bush has been an effective President.

There is a serious question facing American voters in November; more of the same, or a chance for change.

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