September 30, 2004

A Draw? (Updated)

As far as the first presidential debate goes, I’m sure most of the blogosphere is on the fisking and fact-checking details right now. The left side will go after George W. and the right side will take on John Kerry. I'll let them handle it.

I had something else in mind.

The most annoying thing about the 2000 debates between Bush and Gore is that both candidates dodged so many questions. They almost acted as if the "moderator" didn't exist except to prompt them to spit out their own pre-rehearsed mini-speeches. So this time I decided to keep score. I wanted to know who answers and who dodges the most questions. I gave 2 points for answering, 1 point for half answering, and I subtracted a point for a dodge.

I hate to say this because I know it isn't exciting was a draw. (You should have tried another angle going into this – ed. Yeah, yeah.) Both of them did pretty well, actually. Each candidate only dodged one question, and each answered most of them completely. I didn't give them points for the quality of their answers. I just didn't want anyone getting away with blowing off the moderator Jim Lehrer as if he didn't exist.

Bush's answers were better than Kerry's, I think. But I also tend to agree with Bush's foreign policy more than Kerry’s.

Still, I thought Kerry did the best he could with what he had to work with. I thought he handled himself very well, about as good as he possibly could have. I scoffed and rolled my eyes a few times, and I'm sure Kerry's supporters did the same thing to Bush. (Actually, I'll bet there was plenty of screaming in people's living rooms tonight.)

Anyway, I have to say that both candidates performed a lot better than I expected - which isn't saying much, but there you go. I can't get excited about either of them, but I find it impossible to hate them.

The questions, though. Come on, Lehrer. Ask something tough once in a while.

Here's what I wanted to hear:

Mr. President, why do you insist Saudi Arabia is an ally in the war on terror when the government spends billions of dollars building mosques and madrassas all over the world in order to export their fanatical Wahhabi ideology?

Senator Kerry, what do you think about Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 911?

Mr. President, why did the commanders in Afghanistan rely on local warlords instead of the United States military in the battle of Tora Bora?

Senator Kerry, what do you think of the fact that only a few days ago the governments of France and Germany announced they will not send troops to Iraq even if you are elected president?

Mr. President, what do you think is the biggest mistake you have made while in office?

Mr. Kerry, why did you dismiss allies like Britain, Australia, and Poland as parts of “trumped-up, so-called coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought and the extorted”?

UPDATE: Dean Esmay says in my comments section:
I will say that in all honesty I'm LESS frightened of a Kerry Presidency than I was 24 hours ago. He managed to convince me that he probably won't completely screw up. Although I still find his record troublingly inconsistent, I must grant that the life of a Senator is full of such things.
Yeah, I agree with that. But I've already tried to talk myself into voting for Kerry in my last Tech Central Station article. I can't say I was able to turn myself into a Kerry supporter, but I did manage to convince myself that if he wins it will be okay. If Bush wins we'll be okay, too. Neither of them are any great shakes, but we just didn't have the option of voting for John McCain or Harold Ford or Rudy Giuliani or Barak Obama this time around. One of these guys will hafta do. And one of 'em will.

UPDATE: Joe Katzman says both candidates suck and the world will suffer for it.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 30, 2004 10:52 PM

So, Michael, you want John Kerry to comment on a film that is so important that you haven't even bothered to see it?

Thank god for Jim Lehrer!

Posted by: Mork at September 30, 2004 11:01 PM

Pretty right on there, Michael. I'd quibble with you on one point--the administration has answered at least in part in the past on the Saudis and the visible reforms they're making--but you're right that it would have been a fine question anyway.

I think they intentionally pick Lehrer every year because he's such a pussycat, unfortunately. Although I'm not sure who a better choice would be. Neither candidate wants a guy who's going to rip into him, you know? And while that may seem cowardly, it's free speech and all--neither candidate is required to show up for these things at all if he doesn't want to, and why would he voluntarily walk into a meatgrinder?

Yadda yadda. Here's a reminder I'll give you that I've given everyone else: In 2000 everyone was convinced that Gore had won the first debate right after it was over, on style and substance and everything, but three days later almost everyone agreed that Gore had made a horse's ass of himself.

This was a pretty substantive debate and I frankly thought both candidates acquitted themselves well, but the real test isn't how any of us feel in the immediate aftermath, but how most undecided/leaning voters think about it when they get up in the morning, and what they think after they've chewed on it a while. Monday will tell the tale.

I'd guess there are no dramatic swings here. Part of me says Kerry got the most benefit since he came off better here than he usually does. But on the substance it's not much more than "I'd do what Bush is doing only better" and "I'll try harder to win allies." Yeah, okay. We all knew that. Did he seal up the questions about his own reliability? Did Bush still leave some people feeling insecure about him?

Like I said. Immediate reactions mean far less than how people are seeing it after they've had a day or two to chew on it.

I will say that in all honesty I'm LESS frightened of a Kerry Presidency than I was 24 hours ago. He managed to convince me that he probably won't completely screw up. Although I still find his record troublingly inconsistent, I must grant that the life of a Senator is full of such things.

Posted by: Dean Esmay at September 30, 2004 11:03 PM

Mork: I haven't read The Turner Diaries either. I know enough about what's in them, thanks. I imagine Michael feels the same way. Enough responsible commenters on the left, right, and center have deconstructed that film to know what it is--and why John Kerry should answer for it given that Moore was granted celebrity status at Kerry's convention and given what we know about what that film's doing to morale, and how it's being used now as a terrorist recruitment film.

Kerry ought to answer. He probably never will. Sad.

Posted by: Dean Esmay at September 30, 2004 11:05 PM

I suppose that in addition to asking Senator Kerry a question he's already been asked about a partisan, hackish movie (to which he responded something like "I haven't seen it and have no intention of seeing it") you'd want to ask President Bush why he actually appeared on the radio show of a partisan hack who dismissed Abu Ghraib as a "fraternity prank" and who is equally or more guilty than Moore of disseminating lies and poisoning the well of modern discourse, right? Are these things actually that important?

Posted by: John at September 30, 2004 11:11 PM

Bush's pursed lips and scowling were fun to see. I especially enjoyed the parts where he simply stopped speaking, lost, unable to fill up two minutes with the platitudes they armed him with. This man leads the most powerful country on earth? I wouldn't hire him on a bet.

Posted by: Mithras at September 30, 2004 11:41 PM

With respect, Dean, that's bullshit. If you haven't seen F9/11, then your opinion on it isn't worth a pinch of shit, in my view.

And I mean, for goodness' sake, the content of the movie is no more extreme or unfair than material that appears on the pages of mainstream newspapers and magazines every day of the week ... let alone what you and I read on the web every day.

The crux of the reaction to it is that it's a movie that is skillfully constructed to have a particular emotional impact - in other words that it's effective. But to condemn it for that is like saying that no-one should listen to an eloquent speech because they might be overly influenced by the quality of the rhetoric.

Posted by: Mork at September 30, 2004 11:46 PM

MJK - I've long thought that Harold Ford should be running for national office - he may not do as well as a HRClinton in the primary, but I suspect he'd fare a heck of a lot better in the national contest.

John - I dont recall Limbaugh given marquee billing from the RNC or at the GOP convention.

Posted by: bains at October 1, 2004 12:21 AM

A Draw? Really. Is there some kind of alternate reality where you guys saw a competant performance from President Bush?

I saw a man out of his depth, in trouble, poorly briefed and looking at times bewildered.

I saw Kerry stand up and be strong, calm and Presidential.

I had some concerns about Kerry, now I have fewer. I had legions of concerns about another four years of Bush, now I have galaxies of concerns - one primary one would be after four years he looks used up and tired.



Posted by: Neil W at October 1, 2004 02:28 AM


I agree on your q's that should have been asked/answered. Could add a few of my own; probably everyone could.

But there's one other point. Imagine Bush saying this, now, based on Kerry's statement during the debat:

"Mr. Kerry wants to send nuclear material to Iran, just because they say 'trust us.' These are the same people who held Americans hostage when Jimmy Carter was president. I repeat: the same people! And no, I don't agree with Mr. Kerry that we should trust them with nuclear material. Do you?"

Hard to see Kerry surviving.

Posted by: ras at October 1, 2004 02:35 AM

Kerry's answers were delivered with a poise and confidence that must have heartened his supporters. He is clearly more suited to the peculiar artifice of this type of "debate".

But the substance of his responses was muddled and weak. He did insult our allies. He repeatedly claimed to have a "plan" that he never outlined ( unless, of course, "I'll do it better" qualifies as a plan). He said that he would allow Iran to have "nuclear fuel" see if it could be trusted with it?! And although he gave the "correct" response to Lehrer's question about the pre-emptive use of force, there was nothing in his other responses that indicated that he would use that power in the WoT .

Bush appeared tired. Several of his pauses were too long by a beat or two. He tended to fall back on a few canned phrases in the course of his answers. He said "moooolahs" - bfd.

Bottom line for this "security mom"? John Kerry still equals Neville Chamberlain in my mind. If there was any chance that my vote could have been changed from Bush to Kerry - and I'll admit that the prospects were slim - this debate eliminated it.

Posted by: Priscilla at October 1, 2004 03:55 AM

Btw, I thought Lehrer was terrible.

Posted by: Priscilla at October 1, 2004 04:02 AM

Sigh -- I decided to write my own quick review (at 5 am) before reading you. And I thought it was a draw, too.

Very significantly, like you I don't think Kerry can do any better. I DO think Bush could have done better.

I think there's an increasingly important "free rider" problem in the world. Since the other nations know the US will do some of the dirty police work -- they increasingly feel that they don't have to.

Kerry's global table answer is much weaker, in reality, than Bush tried to show. The failure of the UN to declare Sudan a genocide could have been Bush's opportunity to call Kerry on it, a bit.

I, too, am certain that AFTER terrorists get and use nukes, Kerry will really try to stomp them. I just don't believe he'll be effective at stopping them from getting nukes, with all his talk, more talk, and even more talk before the "last resort".

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at October 1, 2004 04:51 AM

Jeff Jarvis ( has an interesting swing voter take on it in two diary-esque posts, the last one for 9/30 and the first one for 10/1. He describes his own reaction which is to LOSE certainty about Kerry and, Michael, it mirrors a lot of your thinking.

Posted by: Undertoad at October 1, 2004 05:13 AM

Two words. "Global test" That is going to come back and haunt Kerry.

Posted by: Eric Blair at October 1, 2004 06:04 AM

I was astonished by how similar last night's debate was to the 2000 debates. Kerry/Gore, so polished and forceful. Bush, so fumbling but sincere.

What is the obvious implication?

Posted by: c at October 1, 2004 06:11 AM


If you believe we'll be "OK" with either Bush or Kerry, then how can the prospect of a second Bush term with it's likely 4 Supreme Court appointments (that could tip the balance of the court in a way that I know you would not want to see)not tip the scales for you and lead you to vote for Kerry?

I understand how other liberal warhawks who've become single issue fundamentalists on Iraq can choose to accept the rest of the conservative Bush package in order to get their war on, but in your case I don't understand how you can still be on the fence.

BTW, I was personally very surprised by how badly Bush did in this debate. He may have managed a draw on your "dodge" measure, but he was, by any other measure, creamed by Senator Kerry in this one. Had Bush won this one, nobody would have cared about the other two. But now Kerry has a chance to gain even more from the next two.

My guess is that Bush is pissed at Rove for agreeing to that third one...

Posted by: Brian Linse at October 1, 2004 06:23 AM

Michael Re: Poland, here's a quote from Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski:

"They deceived us about the weapons of mass destruction, that's true. We were taken for a ride."

He's not talking about Saddam, by the way.

Posted by: Randy Paul at October 1, 2004 06:45 AM

My question is, how did Kerry distinguish himself over any random person picked from the audience in the substance of his answers?

They could've pulled anyone off the street, handed him Kerry's talking points, and I still wouldn't have much more reason to vote for Kerry than Random Guy - there was nothing Kerry said that told me specifically he knew what was specifically necessary to be a good president, and a better president, than Bush.

No specifics. No details. Only "I could do better" or "I would have made different choices." What better? what choices? Tell us! Prove it. Prove your ideas are better - convince us by giving details!

There were no details. Again, anyone could've stood there and said the same things, and come out with the same results as Kerry.

Posted by: Barry at October 1, 2004 06:45 AM


This was a substantive debate; much more than I had expected.

Kerry won on style. It's the substance within the 'world test', nuclear policy, and the conflict between Iraq/unilateral bad and North Korea/unilateral good that will come back to haunt him.

Substance will win this election. It won the last one, too.

Posted by: TmjUtah at October 1, 2004 07:10 AM

Michael -- wrt feeling better about a Kerry presidency based on what he said on one night -- if he could just take a position and stick to his guns for more than two hours a lot of people would feel a lot better about the prospect of a Kerry presidency.

I find it amusing that people equate eloquence with competence. There are some that believe that being able to argue a point is more important than the facts or merits of the issue itself, and there are some that are more interested in results than being able to talk.

I'm not saying Bush can walk on water and do no wrong. I am saying that to call him incompetent because he didn't do what you think he should have done is a narcissistic criticism. (e.g. Kerry thinks like me, so he is Right, Bush is doing things I diagree with, so he is Incompetent)

I hire technical people. Really good technical people tend to not interview well. Does this mean they are stupid and incompetent?


If you haven't seen F9/11, then your opinion on it isn't worth a pinch of shit, in my view.

... and if you've never done drugs, how dare you have an opinion about drug policy, and if you've never had an abortion, how dare you have an opinion about abortion, and if you've never been raped, how dare you have an opinion about rape, and if you've never served in the military, how dare you have an opinion about the military, and if you've never been president, how dare you have an opinion about the presidency, and if you've never ...

Posted by: bkw at October 1, 2004 07:13 AM

Kerry is a fantastic debater, he's been doing since Jr. High for crissakes.

But Kerry loses on substance because of 1) his illogic on N. Korea, and 2) because he dodged for most of the 90 minutes whenever the topic was on Iraq.

He twisted, sidestepped, diverted and outright lied to cover for and excuse his indecision on Iraq.

For instance, Bush stated that Kerry can't lead on Iraq because he's constantly contradicting himself and sending the wrong messages to our allies, our troops, the Iraqis, and our enemies. Kerry's response? That he, Kerry, made a "mistake" in "communicating his position" on Iraq, but that Bush made a mistake in invading Iraq.

That was a clear dodge, and it went on for the entire debate. Of course, he's a great speaker, and the innatentive might be deceived. But Kerry didn't make a "mistake" in "communicating" his position. His "mistake" is his constant indecision and blowing in the wind re Iraq. And thus it went for the entire debate.

Kerry loses on substance hands down. His pandering alone disqualifies him from the presidency.

Posted by: David at October 1, 2004 07:15 AM


Perhaps you recall Limbaugh being named an honorary republican by the newly republican congress back in '94 despite a history of inflammatory sexist and racist remarks? I would think that, along with interviewing the president recently and interviewing Cheney and others high up in the administration repeatedly (plus he was at their convention again this year iirc) would be a marquee billing equal to that of a former president inviting him to sit in his box, no? Kerry had nothing to do with that. I don't have a problem with people criticizing the Democrats for that move. It's just that assuming that the Republicans are any better when it comes to avoiding their odious but popular punditry is laughable.

Posted by: John at October 1, 2004 07:33 AM

Tmjutah, you write "world test." John Kerry did not say "world test" during the debate.

Factcheck. We're always right.

Posted by: FactCheck at October 1, 2004 08:04 AM


at least you spelled your own name right this time.

Posted by: David at October 1, 2004 08:20 AM

By any fair measure, Kerry did better than expected,. As Tina Brown said, he had turned into the Dukakis on stilts over the past several month -- a total turkey of a campaigner. So to some extent, he has benefited from low expectations. But he looked and talked like a human being, and like a plausible commander in chief.

Bush did about as well as expected. He repeated himself a lot, although some of those points he repeated were strong ones. Particularly his question about how Kerry could effectively prosecute a difficult war in Iraq that he has been all over the map on. Kerry should have either said "good war, bad occupation" OR "the war wasn't necessary, but making sure that Iraq ends up with a stable and representative goverment now that we did what we did is absolutely in our vital national interest."

Michael, one point in Kerry's favor regarding his belittling of those countries who did choose to step up to the plate with us in Iraq: what those leaders who joined with us really need right now is not an American President who praises them, but rather an American President that their constituents can tolerate. (I apologize if you've made this point before, I recall that you might have.)

As you know, the war is incredibly unpopular in Britian, even the Tories are becoming more anti-war. Unfairly or not, Bush is a lightning rod for their discontent. I think likely that the goodwill they have for President not-Bush will override any anger at Kerry's snide rhetoric about their nation's earlier sacrifices (remember, they tend to AGREE with him that the war was unnecessary.)

David, I don't think Kerry's answer on North Korea was illogical. He said he's in favor of simultaneous multilateral and bilateral talks. If I'm not mistaken, that's the same position held by the other countries invited to the multilateral conference Bush has convened. (In any case, the idea might be smart or dumb, but it's not illogical. The multilateral idea isn't bad at all, I think, but it's not exactly making a lot of progress by itself.)

Posted by: Markus Rose at October 1, 2004 08:25 AM

MJT: I like your questions that Lehrer should have asked. What struck me was Kerry's comment that he will give Iran nuclear fuel to call their bluff and see if they actually build a nuclear weapon...and when/if they do? Then what?!

Even my strong Kerry-supporting friend was astounded at that one. She ended up in despair over Kerry's inability to clearly articulate a position on any of the issues. That and the constant references to Vietnam had us both cringing.

One thought that occurred to me during the debates with reference to Vietnam: Kerry can't stop mentioning it because ever since his service and testimony to Congress he's based his entire political persona on Vietnam. If he gives up on it now, he will have nothing (or believes he will have nothing) to stand on as a national politician. I toss this out there as a working hypothesis. What do you guys think?

Posted by: BeckyJ at October 1, 2004 08:31 AM

Factcheck -

"But if and when you do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."

Your correction is noted and appreciated. Senator Kerry said global, and my quote was inaccurate. I will make the correction on my blog, too.

Still, there's nothing in the constitution about "thou shalt not act in defense of the nation without the blessing of the french, the Germans, and selected Amazon basin tribes", so Kerry still doesn't belong anywhere near the oval office.

scuttles of to update his blog entry...

Posted by: TmjUtah at October 1, 2004 08:42 AM

Scuttles OFF. Jeez....

Posted by: TmjUtah at October 1, 2004 08:43 AM

Hi Michael. I am in Russia at present just internet cafeing to see what is going on back home but this sentence of yours

"Senator Kerry, what do you think about Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 911?"

Gives me a nice opening to post an article I read in the St Petersburg time the other day here.

Found the link online I read the paper version.

Moore Film Draws Thin Audience

Here are my favourite parts.

The premiere at Dom Kino in St. Petersburg showed to a half-empty theater while an early showing Thursday at one Moscow theater drew a feeble four people.

Russia's rich tradition of "agit-prop" cinema seems to have left today's filmgoers cold, with a film addressing contemporary political issues struggling to find an audience.
"I fell asleep halfway through," a user named Slava wrote on "It is ordinary 'black PR' for zombified people who can't think on their own."

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at October 1, 2004 08:47 AM

The multilateral idea isn't bad at all, I think, but it's not exactly making a lot of progress by itself.)


how/why does Kerry insist on multilateralism in Iraq, but calls for unilateralism in N. Korea?

Yes, it is illogical; because it means all the political capital invested to wrest N. Korea of it's nukes will come from our bank account; So why should China stick around if they know we're going to take all the political hits while they receive the benefits? It's illogical.

Posted by: David at October 1, 2004 08:49 AM

ps. Markus, Iran is a good test on what will happen in N. Korea. Nobody will get involved in Iran as long as they know the U.S. will. Why should they? We take the political hits, while they receive the benefits. They know we're going to do it anyway.

Posted by: David at October 1, 2004 08:51 AM

A word about "global test". Every nation has the right to act in self-defense without having to ask for permission, but there are reprecussions to acting without accountability. This is especially true in cases like Iraq, where world opinion was largely against the action, and it turned out that self-defense was actually a pretty weak reason for the invasion.

The consequences of ignoring world opinion are that you end up funding the whole bill yourselves, both in terms of money and blood. You are also in a weaker future position, where allies would be useful or necessary.

It's like defending yourself. Yes, if your life is threatened, you defend yourself. But there are laws about what is and is not permitted in doing so. If you choose the shoot a person on your doorstep because you feel they are about to break in, and then discover that it was the Avon lady, then you need to face the consequences of that action.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 1, 2004 09:10 AM

David, that's my "free rider" issue -- and the US might be preparing to use Israeli bombs to do the dirty work in Iran.

A good challenge for the global table that Kerry was talking about is Sudan -- how many have to die before Kerry calls for action w/o UN blessing?

Oh, I forgot -- where silver tongued Clinton failed to get UN support in Bosnia, Kerry is promising he'll get it ... (for where, exactly?)

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at October 1, 2004 09:18 AM

"The consequences of ignoring world opinion are that you end up funding the whole bill yourselves, both in terms of money and blood. You are also in a weaker future position, where allies would be useful or necessary."

It is too bad that our allies don't feel interested in doing anything about Iran, Iraq, North Korea and the Sudan. Either the US deals with the rogues or no one does. I would love a choice where the international community wants to help, but that isn't this reality.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at October 1, 2004 09:19 AM

Seb: It is too bad that our allies don't feel interested in doing anything about Iran, Iraq, North Korea and the Sudan.

Actually, we are.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 1, 2004 09:22 AM

I found the debates sad, really. Bush looked like a petulent child through most of it and Kerry looked like the Professor from "Re-Animartor" (before the bat wings got attached to his head).

Kerry spewed talking points, Bush spewed talking points. Kerry never really showed a good PLAN for Iraq, Bush has yet to show a good PLAN for Iraq.

It is disheartening to know that in the most free country in the world, most people don't have the choice of a real leader, only two partisan hacks.

But I did have one question for Tom Grey.

You said "I just don't believe he'll be effective at stopping them from getting nukes"

I think you were refering to Iran, but the question could have been asked of N Korea some weeks ago. Bush was unable to stop them from getting Nukes, why are you so stunned at the idea that Kerry would be just as impotent when facing Iran? What makes you think Bush will do any better in Iran, than he did in N. Korea?

I mean these as serious questions.

As for the Iranians, I'm not really sure about Kerry's position... but I think it may go something like:

We cannot trust Iranians to make their own nuclear fuel, because we believe they will use those same plants to enrich plutonium/uranium into weapons grade materials.

The Iranians claim they NEED Nuclear Power.

(Now here is the part I'm not sure about)

I think Kerry wants to give them power grade nuclear materials, in exchange for them not having ANY sort of enrichment... they could simply getthe final product for their reactors. Then they have no excuse for refining materials on their own.

I'm not sure of the wisdom of such a move... but Bush hasn't articulated anything better.

All in all, I have to say that Kerry was a much better debator than I had expected, Bush was much worse (he looked damn good in his Gubenatorial debates in Texas). I was unimpressed with both.

For me it will still come down to what I decide about the past four years. I still have not been convienced that Bush has really proven his qualifications as President. I disagree with a lot of his policies, I disagree with his response to States Rights issues, I disagree with his willingness to sign the assult weapons ban (and am for once proud that Congress let that stinking dog die).

I don't like the situation in Iraq. I don't like the fact that WE Americans are tied now, to all of the speeches and 'examples' of proof about WMD's which we now know didn't exist. I'm unhappy that no one planned for a major insurgency, even though the likelyhood of one was terribly high.

I'm unhappy with the lack of communication from the White House.

I don't like the ideals of leftist 'liberalism', but I don't like the ideals of Christian conservatives... so thats a wash for me.

It scares me that either of these people may put Judges on the bench.

So, I still have to decide:

1. Will Kerry be any worse than Bush?

I haven't seen any evidence that he would be worse (no evidence that he'd be any better either).

2. Will Bush drastically improve his style of presidency over the next four years?

I have seen no evidence that he will even admit to mistakes in the past four, let alone fix the mistakes over the next four.

Maybe the next two debates will help, but I doubt it.

Posted by: ratatosk at October 1, 2004 09:30 AM

Actually, we are.

Blair is, God bless his soul for it. But he's doing it against the will of the likes of you. He won't last much longer in office, thanks to your ilk. Now you want the credit for the work he's done.

Posted by: David at October 1, 2004 09:30 AM

Regarding the comment that Bush must be pissed off at Rove for agreeing to a third debate....

Any perception that Kerry won this is largely due to the lowered expectations caused by his inept campaigning up until now. I'm thinking that Bush will be the "underdog" - at least debate-wise - going into the next two, and now the low expectation thing may work for him.

Plus, I always thought that the Bush campaign's "objection" to the townhall format was a ruse. He'll be more comfortable and confident than Kerry in that situation, and I think that it will show.

Posted by: Priscilla at October 1, 2004 09:35 AM


Kerry won this debate on style. But on substance, it wasn't even close. John Kerry is offering the same failed policies of national weakness and apeasement as Jimmy Carter.

Well, you can put sugar on shit but you still have shit. Once people scrape away the thin layer of Kerry dust, they'll see that Kerry is serving up the same stinking, steaming pile of failed policies that have always failed so miserably in the past.

He wants bilateral talks in NK, where we pay tribute and NK gives hollow promises. He then wants to apply EXACTLY the same model to Iran. He Promises to deliver the French cavalry to rescue us in Iraq. What concessions is he going to offer them? They've already announced that the condition for talks is to put our surrender on the table and that Zarqawi will sit across the table. He says he will hunt down Bin Laden in Afghanistan. Is there any evidence that Bin Laden is even in Afghanistan? If he is in Pakistan, is Kerry going to invade? Yeah, right.

On homeland security, he sells people the false hope that he can fortify every bridge, tunnel, office tower, power plant, chemical plant, dam, port and school in the country?

Last night, we saw the real John Kerry for the first time. He is a pacifist, blame America first appeaser. He will outsource our national security to the UN. He is just like Jimmy Carter and he will be an even greater disaster than Carter was.

In order to achieve our national security goals, America has to have a credible threat of force. Does anyone actually believe that John Kerry will be viewed by our enemies as a threat to use force? Get real. Our enemies will no longer fear us and our allies will no longer trust us. Bin Laden said America was weak. Electing John Kerry will prove him right.

Flawed as George Bush is, I'll take him over an imminent threat like John Kerry.

Posted by: HA at October 1, 2004 09:36 AM


You need to get out more. The President is a figurehead and isn't going to destroy America (no matter which one is in office). Carter was a dufus, but we survived just fine. Four years was enough for the voters to fail him. Thats how things work... if Kerry wins, we'll deal with him for four years. If he sucks, we'll fire him and bring on a new President. We'll still be America, there will still be Apple Pie and the Stars and Stripes will still fly.

Fearmongering is unbecoming of you.


Posted by: D Clyde at October 1, 2004 09:42 AM

Neil W: A Draw? Really. Is there some kind of alternate reality where you guys saw a competant performance from President Bush?

Bush is a horrible public speaker. He always has been. It's embarassing.

I know you're English, maybe you don't see him all that often. We're used to it and have already factored it in.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 1, 2004 09:42 AM


The President is a figurehead

Huh? The Queen of England is a figurehead. The President has real power and a great amount of discretion in applying it. Or not applying it.

Posted by: HA at October 1, 2004 09:58 AM

Tosk: if Kerry wins, we'll deal with him for four years. If he sucks, we'll fire him and bring on a new President. We'll still be America, there will still be Apple Pie and the Stars and Stripes will still fly.

Yep. George Orwell made a similar point. But he made it better. (No offense.)

In whatever shape England emerges from the war it will be deeply tinged with the characteristics that I have spoken of earlier. The intellectuals who hope to see it Russianized or Germanized will be disappointed. The gentleness, the hypocrisy, the thoughtlessness, the reverence for law and the hatred of uniforms will remain, along with the suet puddings and the misty skies. It needs some very great disaster, such as prolonged subjugation by a foreign enemy, to destroy a national culture. The Stock Exchange will be pulled down, the horse plough will give way to the tractor, the country houses will be turned into children's holiday camps, the Eton and Harrow match will be forgotten, but England will still be England, an everlasting animal stretching into the future and the past, and, like all living things, having the power to change out of recognition and yet remain the same.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 1, 2004 10:05 AM

UPDATE: Joe Katzman says both candidates suck and the world will suffer for it.

I agree that they do suck for the reasons Katzman gives; but Kerry obviously sucks a lot more.

Posted by: David at October 1, 2004 10:07 AM


That Orwell quote isn't exactly reassuring.

Posted by: HA at October 1, 2004 10:07 AM


He wrote it in 1941, the middle of World War II. It was reassuring for its time.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 1, 2004 10:15 AM

Tree rat,

You need to get out of that computer room, stop reading Robert Anton Wilson and Madame Blavatsky.

Figurehead? What planet are you living on?

Posted by: Eric Blair at October 1, 2004 10:22 AM


No offense indeed! I am a mere scribbler compared to Mr. Orwell ;-)

And I think he says it quite succiently... thanks for the quote :)

Posted by: D Clyde at October 1, 2004 10:28 AM

The debate was good but I think the swim suit competition will show who the really attractive candidate is.

Posted by: DEUCE at October 1, 2004 11:27 AM


I don't want to see either of them in speedos.


Posted by: D Clyde at October 1, 2004 11:45 AM

Kerry was poised, focused and presidential. Bush was twitchy, rambling and, amazingly, at times pleading. Consensus: Kerry=Champ/Bush=Chimp.

Two big gaffes for Bush:

1) when Kerry stated that 90% of all cargo is unchecked Bush actually said, "I'd like to know how he thinks he's going to pay for that". Bush's point, apparently, is "too bad for you middle America, tax cuts to the wealthy are more important than your safety"

2) when Bush said "the enemy attacked us", and Kerry responded, "Saddam Hussein didn't attack us. Osama bin Ladin attacked us and AlQueda attacked us". Bush responded, petulantly, "I know Osama bin Ladin attacked us! I know that", and then went right on talking about Saddam. I'm beginning to think Bush is unhealthily obsessed with Saddam Hussein.

It was just no contest. Any swing voter out there would have seen Bush looking weak, and Kerry looking presidential.

Posted by: Mara at October 1, 2004 11:47 AM


OT, but does that computer room you're sequestered in look anything like this?

Posted by: jdwill at October 1, 2004 12:29 PM


ROFL, no but that does look like my old mentor's basement!

I personally am not sequestered in a computer room... I'm stuck in cubicle land.

Posted by: D Clyde at October 1, 2004 12:37 PM

For whatever it's worth, I've got a some links on my blog to some pretty good after-debate commentary, gleaned after a few hours of surfing. Also, my own thoughts on last night's debate and the upcoming VP debate. Short story, I switched it off after 25 minutes due to the annoyance factor.

Posted by: Matteo at October 1, 2004 01:43 PM


Bush was twitchy, rambling and, amazingly, at times pleading. Consensus: Kerry=Champ/Bush=Chimp.

You're gonna vote against Bush based on body language, and HE'S the chimp? It's pretty pathetic that the Democrats talking points are based on body language.

I'd like to hear any Democrat explain how we are going to win this war with Jimmy Carter's foreign policy.

You guys were all pumped up after the Democratic convention too. We know how that worked out. Now you are excited about Kerry's debate performance, but that bubble will burst faster than the Hindenburg as Kerry's actual policy proposals are dissected like a frog in a dish.

Posted by: HA at October 1, 2004 02:10 PM

You're gonna vote against Bush based on body language, and HE'S the chimp?

No. I'm not voting against Bush. I'm voting FOR Kerry.

Bush's record over the last 3 1/2 years is reason enough to vote for Kerry. I'll be very relieved to see the end of Bush. He appeared weak and angry last night, and his answers were pathetic.

Posted by: Mara at October 1, 2004 03:04 PM


No. I'm not voting against Bush. I'm voting FOR Kerry.
Bush's record over the last 3 1/2 years is reason enough to vote for Kerry.

That construction is oddly reminiscent of voting for something before voting against it....

Posted by: Mark Poling at October 1, 2004 03:18 PM

HA's choice of words, not mine. Again, I'm not voting against Bush, I'm voting FOR Kerry.

Posted by: Mara at October 1, 2004 03:24 PM

Could you give me a reason why you're voting for Kerry that doesn't reference Bush in some way, Mara?

Just asking.

Posted by: Mark Poling at October 1, 2004 03:36 PM


Bush's record over the last 3 1/2 years is reason enough to vote for Kerry.

Kerry's 20 year congressional record spent trying to gut our military and intelligence services and undermine Reagan's Cold War policy are reason enough to vote for the chimp.

Posted by: HA at October 1, 2004 06:23 PM

Blogs are truly leading edge. Here it is October, and I've finally found somebody who claims to be voting FOR Kerry, vice against Bush.

We live in truly wonderous times.

I don't know the poker term...well, I did many years ago, but apparently there's all sorts of new slang these days...but in the game of poker, sometimes you get a winning hand on the deal. Four Aces is nice, and say a seven or eight kicker. You aren't going to be beat. If your opponents are people familiar with your style of play they are going to watch your every move; mediocre players ALWAYS telegraph some signal of the strength of their hand. If you slip up and let the natives know they have spears and you are carrying the rifle, they'll bolt. You can't let that happen.

The object of the game is to eliminate the opposition - to take all the chips on the table. I love to be the third or fourth man in a five man game with everyone in the pot. If you hold the hammer you can follow the bets around once, tremulously lay down that one card in a manner that tells the gang "he's stretching - he's either bluffing or just drawing to a crap hand because the pot is going to bump at least once"... and they'll stay in, too, because that pot is worth a fight.

Bush tossed a that seven last night by showing up for the debate. And John Kerry, sitting directly left of the president, slid chips in the amount of Jimmy Carter on defense, subservience to the U.N.(or Sierra Leone) on U.S. foreign policy, and incoherent on North Korea right into the pot.

Kerry persists in thinking that sounding good or looking good means something in this game. Any poker player will tell you that it's the cards on the table that determine the winner.

Bush spent all day today watching Kerry realize what he'd put in the pot last night. And he knows that Kerry didn't draw squat to those deuces.

Kerry does, too. So does the MSM; so do the people that bet for a living. Check out IEM and Tradesports.

I predict that Edwards will fall into the script for "Alice's Restraunt" (the part about the pysche interview) during his debate with vice president Cheney. I am going to tape it so I can get a vidcap of the spittle flying out of the senator's mouth as he screams "KILL, KILL, KILL" in front of a national TV audience. Of all the things that Kerry did right last night, stylistically, attempting to out-Sgt. Rock Bush wasn't one of them.

Posted by: TmjUtah at October 1, 2004 07:49 PM

The most fascinating thing about watching people try to spin the debate in Bush's favor is the incredibly ornate analogies. Long detailed treatises on in-field home runs and season batting averages. Knowing pronouncements about leading in sets as opposed to leading the match. Annotated comparisons to parliamentary debating procedure (which is the weirdest comparison by far). And now, this very helpful memoir-like point-by-point on poker betting, which I appreciate and will hopefully put to good use.

Such fascinating and innovative metaphors...
and all so painfully irrelevant.

Watch the video of the debate again and find any segment -- ANY segment -- that suggests to you that the man who is currently our president is up to the job. Find it. Tell me about it. If I somehow missed it, I really want to know about it.

Because at one time I thought Bush would muddle through and we'd be more or less okay. But now, after watching him grapple with complex issues under pressure, I'm genuinely frightened....

Posted by: bitter mastermind at October 1, 2004 10:41 PM

bitter -

George Bush isn't going to ask for a U.N. permission slip to execute the responsibilities of his office.

He isn't going to walk away from Iraq.

And he's emphatically not going to let up on either Iran or Korea.

We've had four years to make a beginning. Too much is invested to allow an east coast lib and his moribund band of incompetent hacks to screw it up, thanks.

Short enough for you?

Posted by: TmjUtah at October 1, 2004 10:48 PM

"George Bush isn't going to ask for a U.N. permission slip to execute the responsibilities of his office.

"He isn't going to walk away from Iraq."

Actually, I figured that was what his 2-minute silence was about. Bush is planning to walk away from iraq.

Kerry said he'd keep the troops in iraq for 4 years if he had to.

And Bush couldn't think of anything to say about that which wouldn't really really embarrass himself later if he won.

Posted by: J Thomas at October 2, 2004 12:08 AM

To the guy who has long thought that Harold Ford should be running for national office:

I know of only two national offices that an American can run for, and the Constitution says you have to be 35 years old to do so. Ford doesn't turn 35 until May of 2005.

Posted by: mdl at October 2, 2004 01:35 AM

Before this becomes a GOP talking point:

It is not incoherent to push for bilateral talks with NKorea, while insisting that the US take a more multilateral approach to foreign policy in general. Members (China, SK) of the multilateral talks on NKorea themselves are trying to get the US to open up bilateral talks with NKorea in order to move the whole process forward, and such talks are supposed to happen within a multilateral "framework" or parallel to the multilateral negotiations. Both approaches thus are not mutually exclusive, but I guess there is a bit of "nuance" needed to understand that.

Posted by: novakant at October 2, 2004 03:47 AM

novakant -

We had bilateral negotiations in the 1990's. We got an Agreed Framework. That resulted in the North Koreans immediately violating the agreement by building hardened research and manufacturing facilities for weapons development. When the North decided they were ready, they abandoned the pretense of compliance and went about their business. It wasn't a Bush presidency that goaded them into action - the Agreed Framework was trash before the ink was dry on it.

The agreement looked great on paper. All the papers said so, and the Clinton administration loudest of all. Peace in Our Time on the peninsuela and all that. The CIA and DoD screamed bloody murder, but they aren't appropriately 'nuanced', are they?

For your viewing enjoyment, go here.

Nations should negotiate honestly for their interests. The issue before the Clinton administration was a desire to get something signed that would look good in front of a Nobel panel. The North wanted aid and elbow room to continue its nuke program. Coinciding interests...except that only one nation was honestly represented.

I believe Bush puts his duty first. Kerry? Kerry has demonstrated that his motive is the office, not the responsibilities attached to the office. We don't live in a world where we can afford that kind of mistake anymore.

There's nothing nuanced about bilateral negotiations. We have little or no leverage beyond pittance charity food deliveries left to influence the Norks. Better that the immediate neighbors of the Norks are right there; the North can tell us to take a hike at any time because our only options would be blockade or other military escalation. China, Japan, or South Korea can bring their economic ties and aid programs on the table.

John Kerry's foreign policy remains unchanged from the eighties. There's a reason the Democrats have lost congressional majorities and the white house, and hanging chads isn't it.

A pleasure to disagree, of course.

Oh, and I didn't force a convoluted or unbelievable scenario up there in my last post. I just sat down and tried to understand Bush's actions in the debate after watching him on the stump for the last several months. He could have done much better on style points than he did...but that might have kept Kerry from betting like he did.

Richards, Gore, and now Kerry. I detect a pattern.

A pleasure to disagree, of course.

Posted by: TmjUtah at October 2, 2004 08:39 AM

But wait, there's more...

I agree with Beldar.

Posted by: TmjUtah at October 2, 2004 08:48 AM

Kerry isn't talking about giving up multilateral talks. He's talking about having bilateral talks too. "If you give us what we want now, we won't call in China."

Of course, if the koreans decide that he's going to give them whatever they want and the bilateral talks break down, that's too bad but there isn't much wasted. We learn a little better just what they do want (as opposed to what's obvious to us that they ought to want) by listening to them before we say no. "We can't do that now, sorry. For all I know maybe China can persuade us to give you that."

Agreed we have to sometimes go with our BATNA. And that isn't always outright war, but sometimes it will be.

I think Clinton had too much of a need to get agreements. North korea is one example, israel is another. It's an awful thing to have no BATNA in mind. On the other hand, Reagan lost big by making his secret agreement about iranian hostages. Between that and Iran/Contra he was open to far too much blackmail.

I wrote more responding to Beldar. Thanks for the link.

Posted by: J Thomas at October 2, 2004 03:11 PM


"nuance" is one thing, lack of clarity is another. China and S. Korea aren't trying to get the U.S. to open bilateral talks; they are reluctantly agreeing to N. Korea's demands for bilateral talks because they know N. Korea has dug it's heels. Why should the Chinese mind bilateral talks; they get a free ride out of it.

China has the more leverage on N. Korea than any other country because they supply them with 90 percent of their imports; yet China refuses to use that leverage. Again, why should they.

In bilateral talks, when N. Korea extracts concessions, as with Clinton, those concessions will come from us, the U.S. And when the agreement is breached, as with Clinton, who is the breach against? Us, the U.S.

Posted by: David at October 2, 2004 03:40 PM

David, let's look at that. China gives NK 90% of their imports. Suppose china quit. Could the rest of the world make up the difference through NK seaports? If we wanted to? I guess maybe, but we wouldn't want to. NK is a rogue state that depends utterly on china. NK is china's junkyard dog. China could get NK to stop their nuke program, and does not.

Just exactly like israel is our rogue state and nobody but us would have any chance of stopping israel's nuclear program. The situations are quite parallel, though of course there are minor differences. What if russia or china insisted that israel's nuclear threat was out of hand and they wanted israel disarmed? Would we say it was nobody's business but ours? Or would we let them have bilateral talks with israel about it?

If china doesn't mind NK having nukes, what can we do? We can bribe NK to quit. We can bribe china to make NK quit. Or we can fight. We can fight NK which has a few nukes, if china doesn't mind. If china objects we can fight china.

It really doesn't look good, unless china goes along with us.

My wife just made a suggestion. She said, "We should tell israel, 'We've helped you so much with all these arabs, now it's time for you to take on north korea for us.'".

Sort of, 'my dog can beat your dog'. ;)

Posted by: J Thomas at October 3, 2004 06:10 AM

United Nations, New York, December 25. The peace and joy of the
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all the military forces of the world. Panic reigns in the hearts of
all the patriots of every persuasion.

Meanwhile, fears of universal disaster sank to an all-time low over the
-- Isaac Asimov

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Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
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In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
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