Some Thoughts About The Debate

Overall a very good debate, and much more substantial than we’d been lead to expect. Some thoughts:

  • First three words out of Bush’s mouth, after the standard “Thank you for having me” boilerplate: “September the 11th …”
  • I thought Kerry did well, but Bush gave him a couple of slow pitches right over the plate that he completely missed. Bush: “You know, we have to be right 100 percent of the time. And the enemy only has to be right once to hurt us.” Surely Kerry could have used this opportunity to point out that, in the “be right” department, Bush is batting about a .143.
  • In his adherance to his talking points, Bush missed some opportunity to nail Kerry as well. When Kerry said “Humvees — 10,000 out of 12,000 Humvees that are over there [in Iraq] aren
  • 44 thoughts on “Some Thoughts About The Debate

    1. They made some throwaway comment on MSNBC about signing some agreement NOT to show reaction shots and how the major networks didn’t sign it. I guess C-Span and CNN didn’t either.

      My favorite lines (aside from “Don’t forget about Poland”) were:

      “I went to the U.N. myself. No one told me to go.”


      “Of course I know Osama bin Laden attacked us. I know that.”

    2. I was stunned throughout the entire debate. Florida is a long way from Ohio, so I couldn’t be there to enact my crazy plans in person and had to just watch passively. He did still say nukyular a couple of times. He stammered and stuttered and rebutted things said 2 or 3 years ago instead of addressing the issue brought before him now. Kerry definitely won that debate. Moreover, Jon Stewart won when talking to Rudy Guiliani afterward — classic TV moments. (be sure to catch the reruns today if you missed it last night!

    3. What happens on these things is one network gets to provide the video coverage and everyone takes their feed. FOX network ran the video – so everyone was showing the same thing – including the split-screens and the reaction shots. I’m surprised FOX did that as Bush camp specifically asked for “no reaction shots.”

      Another interesting bit: right before the debate, CNN’s Greenfield said something inane about how it would boil down to which guy would lean forward and control the room. Bush leaned through the entire debate while Kerry stood straight and tall.

      This was a mistake – it only emphasized the difference in heights. As well, in that camera shot from behind Bush – the leaning made him look stooped.

      I too noticed that testy little “No one had to tell me to go to the UN.” I think the key to getting Bush angry and petulent is bringing up dad. If Kerry hits him with comparisons to poppy and how poppy did it better I think W will lose it…thekeez

    4. Shrub fairly sputtered with glee “Poland! You forgot about Poland!”. He sounded so happy to *finally* have a “neener-neener” moment.

      I bet President Putin just loved the fact that Bush called him “Vlad-mur” instead of using his title OR pronouncing his name remotely correct.

      I fairly well cheered when NBC ‘polled’ the six undecided panelists from Ohio. I, too, cannot wait for the domestic policy debates. The Veep debate is next tuesday, IIRC.

      *sigh* I wish we had cable. I’d love to see the Daily Show on this.

    5. I fully agree that the camera was giving GWB the pump last night. All I could think of was: “He looks more like a ‘Newsweek’ cartoon of himself than a ‘Newsweek’ cartoon.” Squinty, pointy and prune-faced. Lip-pursing 311: instructor George W. Bush.

    6. My opinion is that Kerry clearly “won” the debate. I liked his answers better, he was more composed and looked more “presidential”. Kerry came across as more of a politician than Bush, which will appeal to some, and turn others off. The nice thing is, this debate allowed both candidates to articulate their positions as they perceive them, not as political pundits perceive them. I thought both candidates did well in communicating their vision in a clear manner. My read was:

      Kerry: Saddam Hussein was dangerous. The world is safer without him. However, the way in which the Bush administration got rid of him cost the U.S. more than it should have, in lives and dollars. I would do a better job at waging the war.

      Bush: Saddam Hussein was dangerous. The world is safer without him. Mr. Kerry would have wasted time building coalitions instead of removing him from power. I did what it took to get rid of him as quickly as possible. It is not as important for me to build coalitions than it is to get results quickly.

    7. I was trying my best to avoid the whole silly farce, but my hubby insisted on watching it. Honestly I think he was watching it like a NASCAR race hoping for a crash.

      I wanted avoid watching mostly because watching Shrub (I love that name, excellent call Misty I will be calling him that for the rest of his days. I look forward to avoiding the “Shrub Presidential Library in the future!) is physically painful. His stammering and searching for words makes me cringe. All that’s missing is the little cartoon thought bubble with a hamster on on wheel.

      I am looking forward to the domestic debate though, cringing and all. I want to see how Bush defends his insistence on lowering taxes when we’re in a deficit. I’m hoping it will be more real free response than scripted as this one managed to.

      Anyway, some of you may find this interesting. I check it daily and its been quite an eye opener.

    8. Was anyone else uncomfortable with the leader of the free world pausing for several seconds before answering? That was painful to watch.

    9. The best part of the split screen was that the rules of the debate said they both had to be portrayed at the same height, which the camera’s did by putting Bush’s side was just up higher than Kerry’s. Which made him seem a little like a kid in a booster chair.

    10. My take on it – Kerry was a better speaker and Shrub looked like a weasel.

      Also, Shrub made a comment about winning the Iraqi war quicker than they had planned. If that was the case, why is there still so much fighting (and more deaths occuring every month)?

    11. Bush is an incompetent, post-fratboy boob.
      Kerry is thoughtful, intelligent, and in the process of letting Bush destroy himself.

      There a very presidential man on that stage last night, and his name wasn’t George.

    12. Jeff:

      “What happens on these things is one network gets to provide the video coverage and everyone takes their feed. FOX network ran the video – so everyone was showing the same thing – including the split-screens and the reaction shots. I’m surprised FOX did that as Bush camp specifically asked for “no reaction shots.”…

      Is this really true? I watched C-span to avoid extraneous stuff, but I didn’t think to switch to other broadcasts to compare coverage. C-span held the same split-screen shot the entire time, with no other commentary or text crawl. I just assumed the other broadcasts would also add bits like both wives nodding and looking serene, stuff like that, which is why I went to C-span…

    13. maybe i was just being oblivious, but i watched it on PBS and i don’t remember there being split screens. there were some weird angle shots so that you could see bush way off to the side making his faces while kerry spoke, but as i remember it all the close-ups were solo.

    14. kerry’s comment about mistakes talking about the war v. mistakes invading iraq really bothered me. it seemed like he was implying that a) had he been president at the time, he would have done the same thing and b) he describes himself as a man of words, not action, which is somehow a good thing.

    15. I was waiting for the “there you go again” moment but nothing jumped out.

      One thing that stuck me was that both Bush and Kerry would answer a question and then notice that the little green light was still on so they would stretch out the answer for another 35 seconds.

      I would have to say that overall Kerry exceeded expectations so maybe you could say he “won” the debate but I really think that the substance goes to Bush. He can’t come out and say “screw France and the UN, they’re a bunch of self-serving bitches and we don’t take our orders from them”, but I think most Americans would love it if he would.

      Kerry: 1. I was in Vietnam 2. I will form coalitions and hold meetings 3. I think the Iraq war was wrong.

      Bush: 1. September 11th changed the world. 2. I don’t need France and the UN and the Sudan to tell me how to defend America. 3.Terrorists flooding into Iraq is better than terrorists flooding into America.

    16. Bush says that Bin Laden isn’t guiding how we defend the United States… That was a good line to point out Matt…

      But there was a better line to point out — it was the one where Bush said Bin Laden was “Contained”. Bin Laden has been in the 3rd world and was able to orchestrate the most deadly attacks on US soil ever… Don’t tell me you have him contained. Saddam Hussein was politically contained and didn’t have the allies or the wide-sweeping network that AL Qaeda has and Bush felt hte need to invade Iraq and dispose of Hussein… I find it a joke he considers Bin Laden “Contained” as well as an insult to everyone who lost someone on September 11th.

    17. I watched this with my mom, who follows politics the way a Raider fan follows football.

      I’m surprised nobody mentioned the moment that made us both go “Huh??”: When Bush essentially said that the reason we were having so many problems now with the insurgency is that we defeated them too quickly in the first place. I think he needs to reconsider his definition of “defeat.”

    18. For those without cable, Comedy Central provides snippets from The Daily Show on their website here, including last night’s analysis of the debates.

    19. The Washington Post was so kind as to put a Debate Referee in the transcript, calling “bullsh!t” (and citing sources) whenever necessary. And I hope they do it for the next thee debates (Tuesday’s Cheney-Edwards debate, and the two more Bush-Kerry debates). Because, truth be told, this is much more entertaining and probably more informative than the actual content of the debate. There’s a reason that I get my election-night coverage from Comedy Central.

      So, here’s the recap of last night’s debate:

      Bush tallied the first score, stretching the truth regarding voter registration in Afghanistan. Kerry followed up with a white lie about the cost of the war in Iraq, which Bush answered by immediately slamming home two fabrications regarding Iraq and the United Nations. After several minutes of fairly uneventful debate, Kerry fired in a creative shot regarding casualty figures in Iraq. Bush finished out the half by scoring twice more, once on a half-truth about Kerry’s vote for Iraq war funding. A couple minutes before the buzzer Bush slid in a minor falsehood about international participation in the Iraq invasion, and took a 3-point advantage into the half, leading 5-2.
      Kerry came out strong after halftime, with several minutes of solid play followed by a flurry of scoring. The opener was an irrelevant fib about the Pottery Barn, a shot Bush never saw coming. A few minutes later he scored two more markers, first a tall tale regarding Osama Bin Laden’s presence at the battle of Tora Bora, and then tying the match with a quick bit of wishful thinking regarding the effectiveness of UN sanctions against Iraq. Kerry surged to a 6-5 lead with under 10 minutes to go by inflating the amount of US spending on nuclear weapons research.
      Showing the unwavering resolve we’ve come to expect from a president, the Bush side responded quickly. He tied the match with an outright lie about anti-proliferation funding, and took the lead back, 7-6, by trumping-up the arrest of Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. Kerry lost steam at that point and Bush never looked back. He added an insurance omission about nuclear weapons talks with North Korea, and won the match going away with a final score of 8 to 6.
      The Democrats are hoping for a stronger performance out of John Edwards on Tuesday in the Vice Presidential debate, but they face tough competition in the very experienced Dick Cheney, who’s been making up convenient facts in the nation’s capital for nearly two decades. Kerry cited disappointment with his performance, insisting that we can expect a more solid effort in the future. “Competing at this level isn’t the same as a Senatorial debate,” Kerry explained. “Fabricating at the Presidential level is really the big time. I’ll be ready next time, you can be sure of that.”

    20. I think I have to agree with Al Franken; my favorite part of the debate was when Kerry talked about how George H.W. Bush refused to go into Baghdad because it would be disastrous, and then Kerry said, “I knew George Bush, I worked with George Bush, and you sir are no George Bush.”


    21. I’d just like to say that, while watching the debates, I turned to my fiance and said “I can’t wait to read what Mathew Baldwin has to say about this tomorrow.” :)

    22. 1. Both candidates stayed “on message” (i.e., they regurgitated the same tired, canned phrases) and didn’t veer into anything controversial, such as honesty.

      2. I liked how they made them look the same height, because, you know, I usually vote for the tallest dude.

      3. Did John Kerry mention that he served in Vietnam? I heard somewhere he served in that war.

      4. I’m so glad that Kerry didn’t use the L-Word. Because it just wouldn’t be right to call Bush a lying asshole for having misled us because he was misled by misleading intelligence about WMDs, Saddam’s connections to Al Kyda, or his imminent threat to us Merkins.

      5. That was real nice how they complimented each other’s daughters, but let’s face it — The President’s daughters are way hotter. (Note to Fox: Reality Series?)

      6. Chimpy sounds like a fourth-grader reading a book report.

      7. This was so exciting that I can’t wait for next week’s vice-presidential debate with Chipmunk Boy and The Evil Dick!

      Thank you, and may God continue to bless America.

    23. Watch watching with the ball and chain who noticed how Jr kept blinking as if he were getting feedback from a too loud hearing aid. She was wondering if they were feeding him lines. Which would make sense because a)he did not appear to make up any new English words and b) he seemed to stop now and again as if trying to think.. or maybe he was trying to understand the pretty words his advisors were telling him to say.

      I was hoping he would sound like even more of an idiot, but that did not seem to hurt himenough last time, so who knows. I don’t have a game cube, but if I goto Canada after the election, Matthew can have my cats

    24. My favorite Bush gaffe from the debate:

      You know, I think about Missy Johnson. She’s a fantastic lady I met in Charlotte, North Carolina. She and her son Brian, they came to see me. Her husband PJ got killed. He’d been in Afghanistan, went to Iraq.

      You know, it’s hard work to try to love her as best as I can, knowing full well that the decision I made caused her loved one to be in harm’s way.

      Sure sounded strange at the time.

    25. I have some questions regarding Kerry and Bush. I should know these answers, but unfortunately, I do not.

      Kerry: What has been his record as a senator for the last 20 years??? I have heard nothing from his campaign about his achievements. I have, of course, heard from the RNC that he has NO ACHIEVEMENTS. If he has accomplished some things…could I get a reliable source?

      Bush: When did he have troops go into Afghanistan? I know we waged the “War on Terror” long after September 11… but when did Bush actually become proactive by using the military in searching for the actual criminals/terrorists that committed this act? Once again, could I get a reliable source??

      Thank you.

    26. “Hamsterfucker?” Gawd.

      Score one for Kerry, which makes the score about 48 to 1. It won’t save his candidacy because, in the end, he is surrounded by the lunatic fringe of the Democratic party and most Americans won’t go for that. Prediction: Bush wins the next debate because it’s the “town meeting” format and he is more comfortable in that setting. Kerry will have to come down amongst the proletariat and besmirch his Senatorial tunic. The windbag will return.

      Bush does better when he’s not working from a script. I think he gets brainlock because he’s trying to remember what his handlers told him to say in response to certain questions. He oughta just let it rip and say what he thinks instead of searching his brain for whatever sound bite they worked up.

      He could try the “hamsterfucker” word, though.

    27. >And your wife replied, “Dude: two t’s in ‘Matthew’.”

      And then I was like “When did we get married?!” :) I’d like to chalk that Mathew thing up to a typo, since I don’t know anyone named Mathew.

    28. Ive come to the conclusion that the debates are essentially worthless. The win or loss isnt determined within the debate itslef (barring a major blunder.) but in the comments that can be taken out of context by the opponent after the fact. The speeches are dissected and anything misleading is fodder for campaign speeches the next day. The worst thing either (especially Kerry) can do is say…”blah blah blah”..”by that I mean”….because blah blah blah..(or worse..just blah..leaving out the blah,blah that makes the actual point).is what the other guy is going to hold up to make you look stupid. The more this happens..the more scripted it will get..the more useless it becomes as a forum.

    29. Kerry is surrounded by the “lunatic fringe” of the Democratic Party? If by that, you mean the people who think the road to success for the Democrats is to make them as much like the Republicans as possible, then, right on, dude.

    30. Absolutely hilarious! Your reactions were so true. I’ll have to send this page to my dad, who is sadly a Bush supporter. We’ve tried to no avail to draw him into the light. The best part was all Bush’s facial expressions in the split screens! God, I love watching him wriggle!

    31. GWB might have been stooped all during the debate, but he had a darn good reason to be. GWB spent the entire day before the debate helping people in florida who have been hit by the hurricanes. GWB was out with the people who have lost the most, I wonder what kerry was doing before the debate? sitting on his laurels resting up for the debate most likely. Also, GWB has not said anything about doing what he did because he does not want to have certain people try to say he was doing that as a political ploy to gain votes. I know all this because I happen to live in florida, I met GWB, he cried for the losses my entire region has suffered. all of my neighbors and I were already planning on voting for GWB and now there is nothing that could be said or done to persuade us different.

    32. Ploy to gain votes? Um, going to any area hit that hard is his JOB. If he were president, it would be Kerry’s job to be there too.

    33. I wouldn’t think that crying would be an effective way to prove your leadership abilities.

      On the other hand, if I had run this country the way he has, I’d probably be crying as well.

      I think it’s interesting how GWB has been taking John Kerry’s “world test” comments out of context – don’t worry George, he won’t make you take those tests you want the kids to take (and you might have a little trouble with), it’s just a LITMUS test – like you take in your POOL to see if it’s a good idea to add chemicals! THEN it’s up to you whether or not you do.

      If you take some of GWB’s comments out of context you could get the following: “I am … evil … Dick Cheney is … evil … I helped … Osama bin Laden … I continue to … help Osama bin Laden …” Hmmm.

    34. Florida got lucky in the sense that the hurricanes happened BEFORE the elections. Those terribly unfortunate folks will get as much federal aid as they can handle (and as Jason made clear above, the GOP will be sure to use it for all it’s worth).

      If the hurricanes had hit on November 3, Florida would have been out of luck. FEMA who?

    35. It really bugged me that Kerry kept looking at Jim Lehrer instead of at the cameras. I watched on PBS, so I missed the split screen, but they did show different angles. Almost every head-on shot of Kerry had him looking off-camera at either Lehrer or the Shrub. I’m surprised he wasn’t prepped to ignore the person actually asking the questions and look at the cameras. Shrub did a much better job of this, and thus looked more like he was was engaging the American people. I hope someone mentions this to Kerry before the next debate.

      In the second contest of a planned four, Democrats hoped that John Edwards, with his trial-lawyer background, would put up a better performance than partner John Kerry’s 2-point defeat last week. From the start though he was overmatched by Dick Cheney’s practice, creativity, and dogged determination to obscure whatever facts he needed in order to take this match.
      Within seconds of the opening bell, Cheney had already notched two scores on overstatements of Iraq and Saddam Hussein’s involvement with Al Qaeda. The second one was assisted rather nicely by former CIA director George Tenet’s overblown congressional testimony on the subject. Edwards tied the contest at two, but there was some discussion between officials on both scores. The first was a verbatim repeat of John Kerry’s twisting of Iraq casualty figures, and the second a carbon copy of Kerry’s speculation about Osama Bin Laden’s being at the battle of Tora Bora in Afghanistan. In the end, both tallies were allowed to stand.
      Cheney answered back with three quick scores, the first an outright lie about whether he suggested a connection between 9/11 and Iraq and the second a mis-statement of Senator Kerry’s “global test” remark from last week’s debate. His next goal also required an official review, as it was a duplicate of Bush’s debate-opening propaganda regarding Afghan voter registration. Both contestants stuck to that pattern throughout the bout, repeating not just last week’s tall tales, but also repeating lies and fabrications from earlier points in last night’s match. Like Edward’s earlier scores, this one was allowed to count, and the score stood at 5-2.
      Edwards repeated the tired shot about Tora Bora and followed that with an inflation of the cost of the Iraq war. Again, they were lines the crowd had heard before, but were enough to bring the Democratic challenger within a point at 5-4. Cheney’s aggressive response was an imaginative goal that involved exaggerating both casualties and financial aid from other countries in the Iraq conflict. He extended his lead by omitting details of Kerry and Edwards’ votes on the Iraq war, not just once, but on two consecutive questions.
      With Cheney opening a 4-point lead for the Republicans, the match started to get ugly at the next faceoff. Edwards showed his first signs of inspiration when he falsely accused the Bush administration of attempting to cut combat pay for soldiers in Iraq. Cheney followed up by misrepresenting international participation in the current Iraq coalition, which left an opening for Edwards to work in a second embellishment of cost figures on the Iraq war. That led to a brief scuffle, which boiled down to “Oh, I’m not/You are indeed/no I’m not.” Clearly well outside the rules of the contest, though the competitors separated before the referees needed to step in.
      Cheney finished out the first half with a pair of goals, one an unsupportable assertion about a close relationship between Abu Musab Zarqawi and Saddam Hussein and the other a half-truth involving his never meeting John Edwards on Capitol Hill. Between these tallies, Edward sandwiched a solid score, alluding falsely to a comparison between Halliburton and Enron. The first half was a high-scoring and chaotic affair that ended with the Republican side holding onto a 4-point lead at 11 to 7.
      The second half opened with several domestic policy falsehoods, and it looked as if Edwards might climb back into the match. He closed the gap first by amplifying job-loss figures for the past four years, and then again several minutes later with an promise about the federal deficit that he can’t possibly hope to keep. However, any hopes for a Democratic comeback were squashed when Cheney scored successive goals with an overstatement of Kerry’s tax-raising votes in the Senate and an exaggeration of the impact of tax increases on small business owners. All the wind went out of the Democrats sails after that. Edwards snuck in one more half-truth comparing the tax rates on investment dividends and on a typical soldier’s income, but that was all he could muster. Both competitors coasted from there, and the match ended with a convincing Republican victory, 13-10.
      After the sometimes wild but mostly-disappointing match, Kerry expressed disappointment with his junior-partner’s lackluster showing. “You’d think a lawyer would be ready to fight for those crucial points when it counts,” he said as he rushed from the field. “I’ve got a lot of work do do now, we’re down 5 points on aggregate and that’s going to be tough to make up in the next two debates.”
      For his part, Edwards was also very frustrated by the match. “I know Cheney’s got years of experience, but I’ve got a freakin’ law degree from UNC! You’d think I could compete with some Wyoming hillbilly!” It was clear throughout the match that he couldn’t, however, as the younger Democrat was outplayed consistently. For every falsehood and shaky promise Edwards made, Cheney had an answering lie or insincerity.

    37. Carny, don’t put words in my mouth. My statement re: the lunatic fringe of the Democratic party stands, dude.

    38. Some of the most perceptive — and unique — comments I’ve seen on the debate, particularly 1. “Camera falls out of love…” 2. The coloring book allusion 3. Your father-in-laws comment. Great blog. See mine (Running Commentary).

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