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Kerry & Bush face off for the first time

Author: Johnson
Posted: 03 Oct 2004

OK, so I watched the first 2004 Presidential debate this past Thursday evening. I've never been one for politics, to the point of ignorance and aversion, but I've been particularly interested in this campaign (you can probably figure out why). As such, I looked forward to this debate as much as I look forward to a good football game.

Subconsciously, I think I was afraid. I was afraid Kerry would come off stiff and uninspiring, and Bush would pull his "regular guy you'd drink a beer with" routine and win America's heart. Sure enough, Kerry started out robotic and aloof. Much to my delight, though, he warmed up after the first ten minutes and really got into things. Even more to my delight, Bush spent a good deal of time staring into the cameras, slack-jawed, stammering for a word or, even, just awkwardly pausing as though the speaker in his ear had just gone dead. I wish I'd recorded the debate, actually, as I wanted to piece together a running loop of just those moments.

Along those lines, one thing Bush said early on was another reason I wished I'd taped it. He hunkered down on the podium, looked right at the camera, and spoke those magical words: "the Patriot Act is vital." This was followed by the most horrific, irony-laced smirk and made me want to throw up. That, my friends, is effective television.

Let's give the man credit, though, for not mentioning "evil Muslims" or any other sweeping, offensive generalizations. He also managed to avoid saying "G'head, hoss" to Jim Leher at the top of each question. In all honesty, though, aside from the blank stares, stammering, and sad little smirks or eye rolls, what he said was about par for the course for him. He didn't lose his cool as much as the Democrats might have hoped, at least not visibly. He spoke with conviction for his side of things, which is admirable when he's a complete fucking lunatic and might possibly be aware of the fact.

Now, I have a few things of note on Kerry's performance.

My biggest arguments are two things. The first is that I was absolutely floored when he talked about killing terrorists. I thought the K-word was reserved only for hardcore Republicans. I'm told, though, that this is the kind of thing that Kerry needs to do more often in order to win over the undecided votes. My other problem was that he really didn't go on the offensive enough, especially when served meatballs by either Bush or Leher. I'm also told, though, to keep in mind that this is merely the first debate, and that may have been a controlled attempt to save the best for later on.

Now, on to the good stuff. Nearer the end, he spoke of prior warm relations with the Bush family. This was a small piece, but it very much humanized him (and, moreso, at least in my mind, halfway demonized his opponent). He also worked in mentions of Powell and Clinton, which I, for one, was glad to hear. I also rather liked when he heated up and began to rant about Bush's "mixed messages" of, for instance, keeping up our side of the arms race while attempting to force North Korea (et al) to disarm. It abstracted the current discussion and tackled a new concept while still staying relatively on-topic.

Best of all, though, was the magic "summit" word from Kerry. That's precisely what we need to start fixing the rest of the world's view of us. Include them in it. Come right out and say "look, we fucked up, and we need help." Bush tried to jump on that bandwagon, but to the best of my (admittedly unlearned) knowledge, he'd never mentioned it in the past. It was sort of an "ooh, ooh, good idea!" moment. He even started to lay out a plan of action, how to stabilize and win back confidence, and ended on a wholly string "Yay America!" tone, which I felt was pretty damn perfect.

Now, I may get some feedback on this article. It may be good, it may be bad. It may be full of props, it may be full of insults and death threats. Please note, though, that no matter what it is, I'm going to most likely laugh and delete it. Just sayin'.

Peace out, all, and be sure to watch the second debate this coming Friday (10/8). And, most of all, be sure to vote. It really matters this time.

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