I’m not going to bother apologizing for doing what every other blogger is doing, I’m just going to come right out and mention a few things about the presidential debate.

Actually, that sentence ends up doing what it says it isn’t going to do. That’s not as easy as it looks.

So if you look at all of the various online polls, every single one of them (except for some fucked-up place in Oklahoma) has Kerry winning the debate by a landslide. Now, online polls are about as accurate as the thermometer I made out of a gum wrapper for 3rd grade science class, which was able to tell “hot” and “cold.” But sometimes that’s enough.

I tried watching the debate tonight as a Republican. For minutes at a time, I would transport myself into another body who desperately wanted Bush to win, just to see how I felt about “my guy.” It’s a little like watching Dook play basketball and being impressed; sickening, but worth trying as a Buddhist exercise.

I gave Kerry no benefit of the doubt, sat back, and really tried to create this alternate personality. And suddenly I realized I was getting embarrassed and feeling sorry for the President. Clearly, when Lehrer asked him 2-minute questions, he barely had enough to say for 90 seconds. When he would begin his answers with these long, blank stares into existential nothingness, I craved for him to get his act together. By the time he said “Don’t forget Poland!” I began to sweat.

Indeed, when laid bare, it felt like his Iraq policy was so ill-thought-out that my alternative-reality Republican self was in panic mode. After a while, it was too painful, and I just went back to rooting for Kerry again. George Bush continued to look like a character deserving of a long, long break. Obviously, pretending to be the leader of America has been excruciatingly hard. Nobody could fake that role for four years and not be exhausted – people on Broadway usually quit after two.

Tessa thought that Kerry should have painted the picture of “nuclear proliferation” more clearly, invoking the image of an American town flattened by a terrorist bomb. Initially, so did I, but then I realized how brilliant Kerry was being: if he had been remotely scary, he could have only driven voters to Bush. His reservation worked wonders.

Kerry exuded confidence and never searched for words. And most brilliantly, he didn’t react with hostility to Bush’s monk-like recitation of the “flip-flop-mixed-messages” incantation – in fact, Kerry didn’t react at all. It was as if this bugaboo had no staying power when Kerry was actually in the room. Who knows if that will continue to be true, but Bush’s attacks were like submarine torpedoes: they don’t explode if the enemy is too close.

Perhaps it’s just a case of the Wizard of Oz; there’s only so long this Administration could have hid Bush’s true nature. Perhaps when you polish a turd long enough, some event will lay bare the truth of the turd. Could it possibly be that Kerry is just smarter and more qualified to be President? I’m not trying to be Pollyanna, but is it remotely possible that we just reached a point where the lies and spin fell away and the two men were revealed for what they were?

Do I think millions of voters were swayed by this debate? No. Did anybody in Texas, California, Alabama or New York change their mind? No. Did the crucial 3,824 voters in Florida suddenly understand they could vote for John Kerry as President? Yes.


Chopes wanted me to model my Bush is a Punk-Ass Chimp T-shirt, but then got all self-aware

0 thoughts on “touché!

  1. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Chopes is so stinkin’ cute!
    Let me offer some encouragement to you: I watched the debate as a past supporter of Bush. Part of me wanted to root for him, since I voted for him in 2000. I really wanted to see him make some good points and clarify the whole Iraq situation. Over the course of the debate, I cringed, felt embarrassed, hoped he would stand straight and stop hunching over, wished he would stop making that smirk/crooked smile/sour grapes look of his, etc.
    I also watched Kerry with a critical eye, looking for reasons NOT to like him. Nonetheless, it was Kerry’s night to shine. He was wonderful! He was sharp, poised, and well-spoken. What bothers me the most is that Bush is so inarticulate! It brought out my old Democratic/liberal resentment of the wealthy. For all of Bush’s wealth, advantage, Ivy League education, he is average at best. Reminds me of all the people I have known who went to the best schools and got the best jobs NOT because of their efforts or talents, but because they are born of the class of Americans to whom everything is handed on a platter. Anyway, I wanted to see him rise above his “to the manor born” stigma and WORK for my vote. He didn’t. He embarrassed me. I am more articulate than our President. That bothers me. I am going to vote for Kerry because he earned it. He is from the same socioeconomic class of Americans as Bush (from the same college, for God’s sake! And yes, that bothers me too! Do you have to be from the Ivy League to succeed in America???), but he is smart, and talented, and I don’t cringe with embarrassment when he speaks.

  2. Piglet

    That was brilliant. Ian, you realy ought to crosspost these political entries to daily kos.
    I spent the debate playing Bingo, with the squares having things like, “Bush smirks”, “September 11”, “Libya”, “terrorist killers” and “Nukkular”. It wasn’t a drinking game, but I couldn’t really risk getting superdrunk on a weeknight.
    Consider the Reagan-Carter debate that put Reagan over the top by convincing the viewers that Ron realy wasn’t a raving nazi after all. This one was Kerry’s “Reagan debate”. The GOP has been painting him everywhere they can as some kind of wimp who’d beg the UN for permission before defending the country from attack. By presenting himself as a strong tough leader, Kerry is hopefully getting Americans to rethink that hatchet job they did. (Really, next time, try viewing the debate from the perspective of a terrorist and ask yourself if Kerry is someone you’d want to mess with)

  3. Annie

    WOW–whoa–holy motherogod and a star-spangled banner! I am still positively stunned and almost disbelieving at how complete, how uninterrupted, how graceful and effortless Kerry’s slam-dunk of B**h’s head into an Iraq-sized toilet actually was. Incredible! I dared not hope for such, but it has in fact really happened!
    I actually listened to those portentous commentators who warned that B**h was a “world-class debator” (whaaaaa…??) and felt real, stomach-churning fear as the debate commenced with a lackluster first-question performance for both. Could B**h do it? Could he actually maintain the affable-coach routine on the world stage with 30 children being bombed to smithereens in Iraq only hours before?
    He, in fact, could not. He had no routine. He was lost, senseless, naked, and, I must admit, pitiful. I have to say I shared Ian’s feeling of excruciating embarrassment for him. Even though I have never had such a desperate desire for someone to fail, when I actually witnessed him failing so miserably I could not stop several waves of unbearable sympathy for the man. I agree with Ian that I felt I could see in Bush’s eye a desire to give it up, to shuffle off the coil of responsibility he thought he could shoulder and pass it over to someone who IS a statesman, who DOES think about and understand these issues beyond sports analogies, who CAN win the trust and respect of leaders and countries who could never again be won over by B**h.
    In fact, I began to strongly suspect that B**h had been sedated before the debate. His lack of focus was that dramatic. I wonder if we’ll ever know…
    In any case, Kerry won, and he won big. And this morning I’ve got a smile as wide as Wisconsin.

  4. oliver

    True, true. But did you notice Kerry’s voice quavered a bit in the very beginning? I mean, this was just a debate. Is it possible this man’s a pansy? I want a president who is able to stand up in front of billions and before the judgment of future historians and act stupid without shame. This is a matter of national pride. I’m afraid W might be the only man for the job.

  5. kent

    “Mexed Missages” indeed. And when Bush started talking about “Moo Lahs in Iran” I knew that he was in the weeds, and about to roll down the embankment.

  6. CL

    I just look at the Post, and it has article after article giving the debate to Kerry. It’s kind of weird. Did it change ownership?

  7. kent smith

    Very nice “showcasing” of the Punk-Ass Chimp shirt!!
    I need to send you a matching button for Chopes to wear….
    At the very least, Kerry got a National forum in which to speak…for once….

  8. Pete Stanley

    I was working at the time, I had the debate on the radio, and I couldn’t pay close attention. Did anyone else hear Kerry say he wanted to give nuclear fuel to Iran? He didn’t say that, right? Please tell me he didn’t say that.