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