The Osama Endorsement
I've already written that trying to pick who bin Laden would want for president is a fool's game. But Mark Evanier put it much better in this post:
My guess is he doesn't care who's in the White House any more than we care
who Al Qaeda names Employee of the Month.
If you aren't already checking out his site, you oughta. He's a clearheaded fella, and funny, too.
Sunday, October 31, 2004
The Osama Endorsement
I'm an Alligator...
Taking a break from all the political blogging for a moment to ask -- what's your favorite opening line to a song? Not the whole verse -- maybe not even the whole thought -- just that first gulp of music that practically forces you to listen further. My example is David Bowie's "Moonage Daydream." This two guitar chords and his declaration "I'm an alligator" are all he ever needed to get my interest. I mean, WTF?
So what's yours?
Saturday, October 30, 2004
The T-Shirt Speaks!
... which means I’d better wash it soon.
But the T-shirt I’m talking about in particular is one I was given during a production of The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged) at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival years ago – in the summer of 2000, I think. It’s a great show, funny as hell. For one part, I was lucky enough to be called up on stage to run in circles and shout some line that was supposed to represent Hamlet’s subconscious or superego or something. (Anyone who’s seen me run knows that the scene was probably twice as funny as usual because of this.) Be that as it may, when the scene was over, T-shirts dropped from the ceiling for every audience participant. The shits had quotes from Shakespeare on them. Mine was from Richard III, and read: “Woe to that land that’s groverned by a child.” The first R in “groverned” was crossed out with a red x, correcting it.
Naturally, I thought of George Bush, who was poised to win the Republican nomination.
(Okay, I probably thought of Dan Quayle, too, since he was a lousy speller, in public, at least. But, as usual, Bush was on my mind.)
And when I look at all the mistakes he’s made, I’d have to say the T-shirt was a bit prophetic. I’ve known that for a while now. But the T-shirt is speaking in a whole new way, that I’ve only understood just now.
For some reason, the red x – and ONLY the red x, not any of the other red on the shirt – has completely faded away. Disappeared completely. And it’s occurred to me that that’s a symbol of how much worse this administration is than what I expected. Because, stupid mistake though it was, at least it got corrected. But now I’m just walking around with a misspelled shirt, pretending that nothing’s wrong. Sort of like saying “I support the troops” while sending them over to die for a series of lies. Except without all the widows and orphans left behind, because it’s just a stupid T-shirt.
It’s time to correct this groverning child. Let’s give him an F and leave him behind.
UPDATE: Then again, nobody's perfect. As soon as I posted this, I noticed I had written "when the scene was over, T-shits dropped from the ceiling." Which is a helluva lousy thank-you gift.
Friday, October 29, 2004
Still the One? Not so fast...
Speaking of music, the thief-in-chief got called on a copyright violation. From the AP:
Bush Asked to Stop Using 'Still the One'
WASHINGTON - The Bush campaign said Friday it would stop using the 1970's
hit "Still the One" at campaign rallies after the songwriter, no fan of the
president, claimed the Republicans never got permission.
John Hall, a former Democratic county legislator in upstate New York, co-wrote the song and recorded it with his band Orleans in 1976. He complained Friday morning about the campaign's use of the song at the president's events.
Hall, still a working musician at 56, wrote "Still the One" with his then-wife, Johanna D. Hall. The two, as well as surviving members of the band, are supporters of Democratic Sen. John Kerry and didn't want their work used to promote Bush's re-election.
"I'm not just some guy that's stoned out and happened to write a song, and even if I were, it would still be a problem, because you should always ask permission to use the work," Hall said.
That's just too rich.
Everytime I think I've posted my last post about 'em...
... they pull me back in. Here's Jim's Big Ego's newest tune, WTFMFWTFAYT, in an easily downloadable mp3 form.. with their blessings, o'course.
For everyone who's as frustrated as I am about the dabacle-in-chief, who'll have 79 days to pack. 83 if he starts now.
UPDATE: Don't have kids around when you listen. No, really.
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
More on Abu Ghraib
Phillip Carter has written an excellent article for the Washington Monthly on how the abuses at Abu Ghraib were a result of the Bush administrations policies, including the suspension of the Geneva convention. He also explains the ways that simple, seemingly innocuous methods (like "sleep deprivation") turn into nightmares, and details how our actions there will come back to haunt us in the future.
You can, and should, read it here.
My brother Tom and I have been emailing each other about my last post (the letter to Mom), and I've posted the letters to that post's comments section. If you don't normally read the comments, you might want to take a look. It's a pretty good discussing, and I'm not sure where it will take us next.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
This is a letter I wrote to my mom the other day. I think it’s pretty self-explanatory. Since I think it’s my best writing I’ve done about the election, I asked her if I could post it here. (She said yes.)
Yesterday, you asked me why I didn’t think the President had “moral strength.” I had a hard time putting it into words – I find him outrageous on so many levels that I often don’t know where to begin.
But I’ve found it. Looking back, it’s the moment when it crystallized for me that GWB was not simply a bad president, but a disastrous one, one who, despite his easygoing manner, is actually undermining everything that makes America great.
That moment was Abu Ghraib.
Mom, seeing those pictures turned my stomach. I couldn’t believe that Americans were doing these things. When I was younger, I didn’t have a very high opinion of soldiers, but that’s changed in the last few years. I’m sure there are plenty of soldiers I wouldn’t like personally (although probably just as many that, like Mark G., I would like a whole lot), but I’ve grown to respect what they do and the peace they keep a great deal. They’re often called on to dirty their hands in a way that I don’t think I could ever do. They do it to keep me safe, and you safe, and people in other countries safe. Often, it’s in high-stress environments, keeping an already bad situation from becoming incalculably worse.
These men and women deserve our respect. And in most cases, they earn it.
But then there was Abu Ghraib. There were pictures of naked prisoners, prisoners threatened with dogs. Prisoners forced to stand motionless for 12 hours at a stretch. People, men and women, were raped and sexually humiliated. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything more horrifying to me – because I knew that my own people did this. Not the Germans, not the Japanese, not Osama bin Laden. My people. People who grew up in towns like ours.
It turned my stomach for days. The photos kept coming, and all I could think about was how wrong it was. We’re Americans, I thought. We don’t torture. We’re Americans.
To my mind, there are two people ultimately responsible for this (aside from George Bush himself). One is Donald Rumsfeld, who is in charge of the military, and who let this happen. The Red Cross estimates that 70 to 90 percent of the Iraqis detained were held in error, on his watch. The other is John Ashcroft, whose Justice Department wrote a memo that blurred the line between torture and acceptable interrogation techniques.
Looking at the situation, I have to ask: What would a moral person do, if this happened on his watch? Ask yourself what Dad would have done if he were President when it happened. What would you have done? What do you think Rev. Ev would do, or me, or Tommy, or anyone else who you can think of as moral?
Here’s my answer, for every one of these people: They would get to the bottom of why it happened, and they would make sure it never happened again. In doing this, they would hold the right people accountable – not just the people who got their hands dirty, but the people who encouraged or allowed it to happen. They would replace these people and move forward. And they would take personal responsibility for their own oversight, and assure America and the world that it would never happen again.
That didn’t happen. The administration scrambled to put a lid on the photos, trying to crack down on the people who took and shared the pictures, rather than the torturers themselves. Soon after the story broke, the President stood by Rumsfeld and called him one of the best Secretaries of Defense the country’s ever had. Instead of focusing on the problem, he focused on political damage control, hoping the story would blow over.
And amazingly and sadly, it did.
But whenever the President has been asked about any mistakes he’s made, he never mentions Abu Ghraib. It’s understandable that he doesn’t want to dwell on it during an election. But neither he nor any of his staff have ever taken any sort of responsibility for the horrible treatment prisoners received there. That’s neither moral nor strong.
And that’s why I can’t vote for him.
I know you’re planning to vote for Bush, Mom. I can only ask, please consider his actions, rather than what he says about himself. Does he measure up to your standards of what a good man should be?
I can tell you he doesn’t meet mine. Not by a long shot.
I love you, whatever you decide.
Sunday, October 24, 2004
The shelling has begun
There was just an enormous barrage of fireworks somewhere near my neighborhood. We could barely see them from our attic window. Does anyone have any idea why? Because we're completely in the dark -- aside from the bursts of light we can see just beyond the trees, that is.
Saturday, October 23, 2004
Who can protect you?
In the end, domestic policies aside, this election all comes down to terrorism. We’ll vote for who we think can keep us safe. And in the end, that’s the main reason I’m voting for John Kerry.
I work in New York City. Terrorism isn’t some abstract concept to me. It’s not something that will happen to someone else. I work two blocks from the Empire State Building. I take the train to and from Penn Station (right under Madison Square Garden) every day. These are targets. The next time a terrorist attacks, I could die. This is real to me. This is what I think when I get off the train in the morning. Not every morning, but enough.
When I walk past the Empire State Building, I keep an eye out for people with walkie talkies. I called 911 once about a suitcase left near a trash can.
I’m not kidding.
President Bush’s response to the terrorism threat has been ineffectual, and in many ways counterproductive. He sends Tom Ridge out to raise the terror alert any time he needs a bump in the polls (studies show the boost lasts about two weeks, but is shrinking – expect one next weekend, another little scare for Halloween). And Bush has let the Republican Congress dole out the antiterrorism money to all sorts of porky pet projects, rather than spending it sensibly, focusing on high-threat areas like NYC, DC, and LA. And he hasn’t taken proper steps to keep our ports, nuclear reactors, and chemical plants safe. These places tend to be privately owned, and Bush steadfastly refuses to regulate businesses, even when imposing new laws limiting individual freedom. The gap in our security is as big as his blind spot.
Meanwhile, Attorney General John Ashcroft hasn’t yet made a single conviction for terrorism – this, after detaining over 5,000 people. Not one conviction. Zero for 5000 isn’t exactly a stellar batting average, particularly with using the big red fat bat of the Patriot Act. Now he wants to expand the act. Hey John – show us you can do something with what you got, first. Besides disrupting thousands of lives, that is.
And Iraq? More and more, it just seems to paint a target on us here at home. Not only hasn’t it helped us in the fight against terrorism (if that were a really our priority, we would have taken out Abu Musab Zarqawi on one of the several chances we had before the war, rather than keep him around as a pretext to go to war), but it presents us as weak. We’re losing ground there and terrorists are getting bombs into the supposedly safe “Green Zone”, all because our president didn’t think the overwhelming force we normally present was necessary.
But an even bigger sign of weakness is the target he chose. Instead of focusing our efforts on the one who attacked us, we soon turned our attention to the one he thought we could beat. We’re flailing our arms wildly, hoping to hit something – anything – to show we’re tough. In middle school, we had a word for that: spaz. And no one respects a spaz.
On the other hand, Kerry perceives the War in Iraq and our antiterrorism efforts as two different things. They’re linked, but they are not one and the same. I’ve no doubt he will use force when necessary, but not without judgement. He’s an intelligent man, one who isn’t afraid of reading. Someone who would read a Presidential Daily Briefing entitled “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” and actually do something about it, rather than continuing his vacation.
Yes, I blame Bush for not preventing September 11. I blame him for not taking the threat to American lives seriously. I blame him for his deer-in-the-headlights inaction when the attacks took place. I blame him for going after Saddam Hussein when we had Bin Laden in our sights. And I blame him for putting on a dog-and-pony show of terror alerts, airport security, and bogus detentions to make me think I’m safer, without actually making me safer at all.
This is the worst president we’ve ever had. None of us are safe while he’s in office.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Team America: World Police
Trey Parker and Matt Stone are funny guys. They know how to be funny. they do it alost every week with South Park. The South Park movie was one of my favorites in the last decade.
All of which makes Team America: World Police so disappointing. It's a waste of 9 bucks, and it's a waste of your time. There are a couple of funny moments, but in no way were the worth the hour and a half of boredom and pain that we sat through. See something else. Stay home. If you get the urge to see this movie, drop your car keys down a sewer. Or chop off a finger every minute until your urge to go to the emergency room becomes greater. It's just bad. I wish I'd been offended by it -- getting pissed off galvanizes me. But this movie was so feeble, even when it tried to rile me, it just left me cold.
Friday, October 15, 2004
Anyone Feel a Draft?
Josh Marshall raises an excellent point, and gives details about the Bush Campaign's latest attempt at supressing free speech.
In a nutshell: Rock the Vote has been using the possibility of a draft to motivate young people to register to vote. Considering how many troops we have in Iraq, and how long they could be there for, it's certainly a possibility, however distateful it might be. And the people who would be most concerned are the very people that RTV is trying to reach. (Of course, their parents and toehr loved ones should be very concerned too. And if your kid isn't draft age now, just remember that they're growing every day.)
The Bush administration, all the way up to the President himself, have said that there would be no draft, that our all-volunteer army is doing just fine. (This, despite the fact that a substantial chunk of the National Guard isn't, y'know, guarding the nation. At least not our nation. They're in Iraq, because we can't spare more troops from the regular army.)
And so, the chairman of the Republican National Committee has sent them a cease-and-desist letter (.pdf link) to shut them up, threatening to revoke their IRS advantages that come with being labveled a "non-partisan" group -- because the idea of a draft is purportedly so preposterous that they're obviously just doing this to cause trouble.
And his proof of this? A few soundbites from Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld. Essentially: "Because we said so."
That's not good enough. Not from anyone, but especially not from these guys. This is thuggery, pure and simple.
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
I think Kerry took this one by a hair. He just seemed more substantial than Bush. His answers were more complete, and he seemed like a solid man -- someone you can trust.
But enough about that...there's a sex scandal abrewin'! Is it any surprise that onscreen bully Bill O'Reilly is a sexual bully off-camera?
Warning: Disgusting behavior.
Friday, October 08, 2004
Completely out of left field, let me recommend No Ordinary Time, by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It’s an amazingly detailed yet human portrait of Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelt and their time in office. I read it a few years ago, and loved it.
So, who’s your favorite Universal monster? There are basically seven pics from the old Universal Studios horror movies – Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, the Bride of Frankenstein, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
I’m a fan of the Gill-man. I even have a little stuffed animal of him.
I'd go back in a second.
One of the best places we went on our honeymoon was this little town south of Paris called Nolay (not an auspicious name for a town to visit on your honeymoon, I know). This town was wonderful. It was the perfect little French village. We took a twelve-mile walk around the countryside with wine and cheese in out backpack, and relaxed at this Tabac (a tabacconist shop/café) and drank great wine and was introduced to one of my all-time favorite sandwiches, the chevre chaud. It’s goat cheese, ham, gouda and tomato on a baguette, warmed in the oven. Delicious doesn’t cover it. I didn’t know comfort food came in other languages.
Steve Martin is one of my favorite writers. He’s had some clunkers, but ever since LA Story, he’s had this sad whimsy about him that really draws me to his work. And happy news, his fantastic play Picasso at the Lapin Agile is in pre-production to be a movie. I've seen this play three times, and loved it every time.
Kathy & I stopped at the Lapin Agile when we were in Paris. Sadly, we never got there when it was open – hopefully we’ll have a chance to go back someday.
I figure I’d cheat a bit, and continue the modern myths thing here. I remember something Peter David once wrote which struck a chord in me. It was an idea that said that myths are fictional characters that we think of as real. Not in the sense of being living, breathing people, but in the sense of being able to see them without their fictional context.
The example he gave was Captain Kirk. If you asked a dozen people on the street who Captain Kirk is, most of them will tell you he’s the captain of the Enterprise... instead of saying he’s the lead of the Star Trek tv show, and was played by William Shatner. They’ll know those things too, and probably give them to you right after, but the foremost thing in their minds would be he was the captain of the Enterprise.
I was thinking about this on the train today, thinking about characters that have this same resonance with us – that we think of their reality first, before we think about what they are in our own reality (fictional characters).
I think Charlie Brown meets the criteria. So does James Bond. I’m not sure about Indiana Jones – I think he’s probably too closely associated with his three movies (despite appearing in other media, including TV, novels, and comics) to be there yet. But I think the Simpsons certainly have made the grade. I think constant exposure is important, and that’s where Indy falls down, but Homer and his family certainly qualify.
Can you think of any characters created after the Simpsons that have reached this point? I have a couple ideas, but I want to hear your thoughts.
I’m reading the first volume of The Complete Peanuts. Fantagraphics is publishing the entire strip, in order, in a huge series of classy volumes. Most cover two years of the run, but the first also covers the tail end of 1950, when it began.
And it’s fantastic. Reading the later years of the strip, I forgot how funny it once was. And it’s a joy to see Charles Schulz inventing the characters, one by one. Did you know that Schroeder showed up before Lucy? Fact. And Snoopy is a great character, even better without speaking/thinking. I don’t know if I’ll pick up all of these books, and I’ll certainly look for discounts, but they’re worth keeping an eye on.
Because Charlie Brown is one of our modern myths.
Month of agony
It’s been about a month since Kathy & I joined the Y and started working out. I haven’t lost much weight, but I’ve been much less out of breath when I’ve run to catch the train, so I guess that’s something.
Seriously, things are going well with it, and I’m feeling more fit because of it. Not that you could tell with any mass-measuring scientific instruments. But that’ll come, I’m sure.
The other night, Kathy & I were watching Action, tivoed from around 2:30 or 3 in the morning on Comedy Central. It’s a great show, cruelly funny in all the right ways. But as I was fast-forwarding though the commercials, one caught my eye enough that I went back to it later.
Yes, it caught my eye because it had strippers on it, and cheap graphics. It said “sleaze” loud and clear, and really, can you blame me for being curious? But what I found was pure entertainment gold.
It was a help wanted ad for strippers. Some show bar in NJ is so desperate to get quality dancers that they’re advertising on Comedy Central. Because all the hotties are watching Jay Mohr at 3 a.m.
Kathy & I have been stripping on the weekends. It’s a lot of work. I really did a number on my shoulder last week – heck, I was sore all over. But how else are we gonna get the paint off this wood?
Oh… what did you think I meant?
Actually, we’re using white disposable surgical gloves to keep the paint thinner off of our hands. And I have to say, whenever I snap a glove against my wrist as I put it on, my brain gets a signal that something frightfully kinky is about to happen. “All right.. bring out the gimp!'
Chris clued me in to a bit of a tempest in the online news sources—it seems like the Hand Puppet is wearing a wire. An article on Salon.com has the skinny on Bush’s bulge, and what it might be. It might be so that he can get answers to debate questions, or maybe he needs help from some GOP Cyrano to practice his love like an OBGYN. Heck, maybe he’s just listening to smooth jazz—reason enough to boot him from office.
Me, I prefer to think of it as an endless loop of Mark Wahlberg saying “I’m a star. I’m a big, big star!”
I just changed the time back. Otherwise, I'd have to remember to change the time for EVERY post I made, and I'm just not willing to make that effort to remember. So keep in mind, this is all happening 3 hours later than what the clock says it is, or 3,000 miles east of where you think I might be, or something like that.
Let's do the time warp again, baby!
Batterbatterbatterbatter SWING batter!
Kathy just called me downstairs because she had some angel food cake batter. I can't convey how yummy it is, but let me try:
Lick your computer. Seriously. I'm trying here. Lick your computer.
See? It's like that, only a hundred million times better. Because what you did was just gross. And this batter is divine.
Batter. Truly chicken soup for the blogger's soul.
I have to say, I’m really digging this Tivo contraption. I can watch Celebrity Poker, Family Guy, or Good Eats whenever I want. Plus, I’m not missing Smallville, Jack & Bobby, The Daily Show, The Venture Bothers, or any other cool shows. Of course, this means that TV is taking over my life. But I can look away! I can look away!
Oh, and I changed the time. It's 8:06. I think this is why my brother asked me if I was posting blog entries from work.
Time …. Flowing like a river…
It’s taking forever to load my Queimada post. I’m two posts later in MS Word – post post-post, you might say, and it’s still uploading. Is it even POSSIBLE to blog 35 entries in one day? In an hour? I’m stalled at 75%. Well, at least I got a post out of it.
The Big Dog
Bloodhound continues to rock, by the way. It’s one of my favorite comics. Hopefully, the new issue will be out soon. I think Travis Clevinger is the best character comics have seen in years. Whether he’ll survive low sales is anybody’s guess. I hope he turns it around.
The other night, when New Jersey Transit shut down for a while due to a transformer explosion, I decided not to squeeze onto the Path with ever other commuter in the city, but instead to go see a film. I caught Queimada, which was released in the US as Burn! in 1969. It was a terrific film. Brando plays an enigmatic Englishman who comes to the Carribean island of Queimada to foment a revolution against the Portuguese. Having doen that (and establishing British foothold in the new government and its sugar business), he leaves. Ten years later, he’s called on to go back, to put down a second revolution, led by Jose Dolores, the same revolutionary he trained years ago.
Brando is dubbed into Italian (the language of the production), and still his performance is vibrant. He’s amazing as he slowly begins to realize he’s the villain of the piece, and wants to make restitution, because he doesn’t have a villain’s heart.
The music is by Ennio Morricone, who did all those creepy whistly soundtracks for Sergione Leone’s westerns. The soundtrack to this is haunting in ways I can’t fully describe, although it probably won’t affect people who haven’t seen this movie the same way it did me.
Man, what a cool movie.
There’s a place in NYC that sells the food of my people. I’m talking about Carl’s, which does a damn good cheesesteak. And even with trying to eat heathier food, I broke down today to have one and some cheese fries for lunch.
Heritage is important.
Headlight Savings Time
I can’t wait for Daylight Savings Time. When is it? Because when I drive home from the Y after working out, the sun is so completely in my eyes at one point that I can’t see a damn thing. I’ll rear-end someone for sure. Or someone equally blind will rear-end me. Neither is an acceptable option, so if we could just all agree to move dawn back an hour, I’d appreciate it.
Lightning in my Brain
I was at the gym today. It was a cardio day, and I decided to use the treadmill. At one point, I flipped the discman to Jim’s Big Ego’s “The Ballad of Barry Allen,” and started to run. Listening to a song about the Flash while jogging? It felt like my birthday.
And yes, I can’t stop talking about this band.
Lemme link to a couple of friends who have blogs that are worth paying attention to. Jeri Smith-Ready’s Seething in the Wilderness is consistently a good read. Her posts always turn out more literate than mine;I think that’s because she actually puts time into them. She’s got more of the do-gooder impulse than I do, or at least she doesn’t suppress hers as successfully. Her chief concern has always been the environment, whereas mine has been making snarky comments from the sidelines. So the fact that she can do both is astonishing and worthy of respect.
Jack Curtin has been blogging a lot longer than me, but his concerns (politics and beer) tend to line up with my interests pretty well. He’s a comic reader, too, or at least he was years ago, and the things are like crack, so I can’t imagine he gave ’em up. I met him when I used to edit his Liquid Diet column at The Suburban and Wayne Times. Drop by.
Mark Evanier is one of the fathers of blogging, at least to my mind. His News from Me site is chock-full of Hollywood history, comics, politics, and just plain stuff that he amazes me. He’s a fantastic writer, and you’ll be hooked quick. Even on his supermarket reports. Really.
A very conservative friend of mine is thinking of giving up politics after the election. Just stop thinking about it, stop talking about it, all of it.
It’s an interesting idea, one which might save my stomach lining. But I don’t think I’m quite there yet.
Best. T-Shirt. Ever.
Y’know, Greg (or He Who Blogs Only At the Full Moon) gave me the best T-shirt ever years ago. It shows a Calvin Klein ad with Homer Simpson on it. On the front is Homer, shirtless, with his Calvin underwear peeking over the waist of his pants. The back shows the same thing, but a read view.
And I can’t remember the last time I wore it when someone hasn’t told me how much they love it.
So thanks Greg.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
Outlook Murky. Try Again Later.
I’m curious. Did Dick Cheney’s suit look sorta blurry-fuzzy on anyone else’s TV during the debate? I talked about it with Kathy, and decided the insubstantial black murk around him was his “shroud of evil.” But a friend suggested it might have been the result of Cheney actually being a hologram beamed in from an undisclosed location.
Did any of you notice this? If you have any other explanations, I’d love to hear them.
Sunday, October 03, 2004
One bad mutha...
My favorite moment of the debate came at the very end, where Kerry, in his closing argument, said:
... who's the person who could be a commander in chief who could get your
kids home and get the job done... and win the peace.
And in that pause, I turned to Kathy, and chirped: "Shaft!"
Friday, October 01, 2004
Okay, it probably comes as no surprise to most of you that I think Kerry won the debate. For one reason, I’m pretty virulently anti-Bush, so I was rooting for Kerry anyway. Second of all, because Kerry flat-out won it pretty handily.
Really, though, the winning conditions weren’t all that high. Heck, Bush beat the same conditions last year – to be a plausible candidate for President. To not be the caricature that the other side says you are. And, in Kerry’s case, to hold the same stage with the President without being diminished by him.
Kerry handled it wonderfully. He spoke clearly, and kept on-message without using the same words over and over and over again. (Kerry would repeat himself once or twice; Bush sounded like … ah, what the hell is it that he sounded like now that technology has made broken records obsolete? A macaw. A well-trained macaw.)
Granted, there were times that Bush held his own. The discussion about what to do about Korea really impressed me – not so much because I agreed with him, but because he actually seemed engaged in what he was saying. But in general, Bush looked peevish, and completely unaccustomed to someone standing up to him. (Which is probably because he is – he hasn’t held a press conference for months, and his public-speaking stops are carefully screened so that no one who disagrees with him can get in.)
But Kerry was in control. He jabbed at Bush, and Bush deflected most of his criticisms, but not all. (The fate of Osama bin Laden was a major source of contention, and, I thought, one of Kerry’s most effective attacks.) Bush tried to nail Kerry on the flip-flopper thing, and Kerry turned it right back around on him – “I made a mistake when I talked about the war, but the President made a mistake by taking us to war. Which is worse?” Bush didn’t land a punch.
Kerry didn’t knock Bush out, to continue the boxing analogy, and I don’t think Bush was every really on the ropes. But there were times where he looked like he thought he was on the ropes, and in those moments, he looked decidedly unpresidential.
I think Bush will be better prepared for round two, in the town-hall-style debate. But frankly, this was his strongest subject. He needed a win here, and he didn’t get one. Suddenly, Kerry is as plausible at national defense as Bush is – and Bush’s defense numbers were really what’s been keeping his campaign afloat in the polls. If they drop, Bush drops.
And we all might actually start becoming safer come January.