Friday, October 01, 2004

Go Blue!

If Kerry's cheering for Ohio State wasn't enough to put Michigan in Bush's column, this should do it.
This article by The New Republic's Martin Peretz is about as honest a piece of journalism as I've seen. If you can read it without reassessing your own position on Iraq and the election - no matter what it is - you're missing out.
This was noted in Best of the Web yesterday, but in all the debate noise has been otherwise drowned out in the blogosphere. I herewith give you the Prime Minister of France, Jean-Pierre Raffarin: "The Iraqi insurgents are our best allies."
I found it particularly amusing last night to hear John Kerry say "I have never wavered in my life." This is a guy who recently said a restaurant that has no menu is "my kind of place, because you don't have to - you know, when they give you the menu, I'm always struggling: Ah, what do you want? He just gives you what he's got, right? And you don't have to worry, it's whatever he's cooked up that day. And I think that's the way it ought to work, for confused people like me who can't make up our minds."


I've never really been able to figure out why everyone thinks debates are so important. As a positive matter, their influence on eventual election outcomes seems negligible. Normatively, why should we base our electoral decisions on how candidates deliver 90 second answers to a reporter's questions? Nothing a president does, outside press conferences, involves "thinking on their feet." The role of the president is much more to do with setting priorities, assembling and listening to a group of expert advisors, deciding between often unpleasant alternatives, and then, sometimes, selling the chosen course to the public and the world. Thus, it seems to me, the conventions, unbearable as they may be, are a better place to look for good clues about a candidate's ability to serve as president than the debates.

Of course, the press scoffs at the conventions and plays up the importance of debates (and press conferences), but this is because the press gets to play a larger role in debates and press conferences and get led around by the candidates during the conventions.

That's by way of explaining why I only watched part of the debate, switching back from the Air Force - Navy football game. I've also been reading the usual suspects and watching some of the post debate spin. This probably means I'm in a state rather the opposite of Kaus's "laboratory-like purity". But it probably also means I'm more representative of your typical voter. So, here's my take.

It's quite obvious, as almost everyone's pointed out, that Kerry won in any traditional forensic sense. He was smoother, looked better, had more facts at his command (even if some were made up), and slammed Bush pretty well on important points. Meanwhile, Bush was, in fact, "repetitive and reactive." He also missed plenty of opportunities to go after Kerry on anything other than the flip flop mantra, and he particularly played into Kerry's plan by failing to mention Kerry's record in the Senate. (The Bushies may have learned the lesson of Reagan's first debate with Mondale, where he got lost in a forest of facts, a bit too well. A handful of well-placed attacks on things such as Kerry's vote to decrease intelligence spending after the first WTC bombing would have not only helped get him off the defensive, but would have blunted the dummy criticism.)

That said, the post-debate spin suggests that if the debate is going to have any effect on the election, it will be in Bush's favor. First, because Bush was so repetitive, he didn't make any big goofs that will haunt him. You can tell because the only attack the Dems are pushing is that Bush looked angry. If he'd said something really stupid, we'd be hearing about it.

On the other hand, the Bush team is nailing Kerry on a few specifics that will last more than a day or so. Most notably is the "global test" line. They'll also use the incredible assertion that the way to deal with Iran is to give them nuclear fuel, and probably the business about eliminating the nuclear bunker buster. I also think that his screw ups on the coalition (saying it's not what he'd call a "grand coalition" and especially forgetting Poland completely) are going to hurt. Kerry also, as many others (Including David Frum here) have pointed out, has boxed himself in so anything he says about Iraq conflicts with something he's said before, and so the Republicans are adding his statements from last night to the flip flopper ads (and perception) they'd already created.

The people have already told the pollsters that they agree with me that debates don't make much difference in how they'll vote. Even if Kerry gets a couple points in the short term in other polls, I predict that within a few days we'll see Bush's numbers creep back up as the images fade and the actual meaning of what Kerry said seeps in.

Monday, September 27, 2004

A Few Good Causes

Those of us who support the war should keep supporting the men and women fighting it for us. Here are a few links where we can do so.
Spirit of America. Clearinghouse for humanitarian projects in Iraq and Afghanistan.
VFW's Operation Uplink. Provides phone cards to troops and their families.

And who wouldn't support this?

Much Needed Debunking

Of the many disturbing things I noticed while I was in France this summer, the cultish worshipping of Che Guevara was one of the most disturbing. T-shirts were common, and nearly every vendor along the Seine had a good supply of posters and cards celebrating this totalitarian thug.

So this column by Slate's Paul Berman is more than welcome, it's a must read (especially if you're in France.

Wheels Up

I've been reading blogs since before they were bringing down Big Three networks. In fact, I was reading Instapundit before 9/11! (Although I'm sure that claim is now one of those made by many more people than possibly could have been there, rather like Woodstock.). Until now I've limited my active participation to the occassional email. The 60 Minutes debacle, or more accurately, the discussion the 60 Minutes debacle sparked, made me realize that the blogosphere depends, like democracy, on widespread participation from a diverse populace. So here I am, doing my little part.