The Debate: Jim Lehrer: It is amazing what they're doing with animatronic puppetry these days. George Bush: Takes the initiative by crossing all
September 30, 2004

The Debate:

Jim Lehrer: It is amazing what they're doing with animatronic puppetry these days.

George Bush: Takes the initiative by crossing all the way over to Kerry's podium for the handshake. Standard alpha male dominance-establishing tactics that anthropologists refer to as "getting all up in his grill."

John Kerry: Lingers slightly in that handshake, hoping people will notice he's significantly taller than Bush.

The Cameras violate the rules: showing both candidates reacting...on the split screen, Kerry's podium is way low on the screen to keep their heads at the same height. Score that one for the Bush negotiating team...Bush looking as if he's sucking on a lemon. The split-screen isn't flattering to Bush, with the eye-rolling, angry looks, mouth-smacking...

George"Strong Alliances" Dubya:

(approximately): "He says we didn't have allies? What does he say to Tony Blair? What does he say to Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland?"

President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland: "They deceived us about the weapons of mass destruction, that's true. We were taken for a ride."

GDUB: "It's hard work..."

GDUB: pathetically pleading that he's "closely cooperating" with the Foreign Minister of France, our close ally. Old Mr. Unilateral Action appears to have been retired.

GDUB: Libya has disarmed. The A.Q. Khan network has been brought to justice. [A.Q. Khan is not in jail. In what sense has his network been "brought to justice"? Bush is confused.

GDUB:That wasn't going to work. That's kind of a pre-September 10th mentality, the hope that somehow resolutions and failed inspections would make this world a more peaceful place. [Except that we now know that the inspections were remarkably successful.]

GDUB:America and the world are safer now [Pervez Musharraf and other Middle East leaders disagree, and say that the world is definitely not safer as a result of Bush's invasion of Iraq.]

GDUB: actually has the nerve to complain about a "tax gap"? Yes he does.

KERRY: really needs to stop nodding when Bush is saying stuff he disagrees with.

GDUB:There are 100,000 troops trained, police, guard, special units, border patrol. [Bush shouldn't be saying this. It isn't true.]

KERRY: "The president's plan is four words: 'More of the same.'" That's a good line.

GDUB: "The enemy only has to be right 1 percent of the time."
So we install Bush as the head of Al Qaeda. Problem solved...
GDUB: “The alliance is strong.”
FACT: The shaky international alliance in Iraq is disintegrating. Norway quietly pulled out its 155 military engineers last June, “leaving behind only about 15 personnel to assist a new NATO-coordinated effort to help train and equip Iraqi security forces. New Zealand intends to pull out its 60 engineers by September, while Thailand plans to withdraw its more than 450 troops that same month, barring a last-minute political reversal that Thai officials consider unlikely, say envoys from both countries. The Netherlands is likely to pull out next spring after the first of three Iraqi elections, while Polish military officials told the Pentagon that Poland's large contingent will probably leave in mid-2005, other diplomats say.” [Washington Post, 7/15/04]
GDUB: “We won’t succeed if we send mixed signals”
FACT: Bush sent mixed signals through his ambivalent approach to Fallujah. Marine Commander Lt. Gen. James T. Conway said, "When you order elements of a Marine division to attack a city, you really need to...not vacillate in the middle of something like that. Once you commit, you have to stay committed." [CNN, 9/14/04]
GDUB: "Of course the UN was invited in." Please....tell that to Hans Blix.
Kerry is looking darn good.
GDUB: "It's hard work..."

Holy shit, he's winging it, and it's painful.

I don't doubt some people out there are loving the unprepared "C" student president.

But Kerry is winning on the substance, and in the preparation game.

Kerry was on an even keel the entire debate. He was confident and steady...he grabbed the initiative early and kept GDUB on the defensive by keeping the focus of the debate on the president's record.

Bush, on the other hand, was like a little chihuahua, talking over Lehrer to get his responses in. He came off as petulant and even more unlikeable than usual. His belligerent toughguy routine isn't coming off very well from behind a lecturn...let's see...unprepared, bellicose, and unlikeable. What's left?.....HARD WORKER!

GDUB: Did I mention that "it's hard work?"

Overall: Not a knockout, but I think Kerry clerly won on points, and he certainly more than held his own on what has been Bush's issue.

GDUB stumbled through his responses and seemed almost lost sometimes. More than a few times he appeared to struggle just to fill up his alloted time. He was too repetitive....

Saddam was a threat.
We must spread liberty.
My opponent keeps changing his position
You can't say "wrong war at the wrong time."
Central part of the war on terror.
Solemn duty to protect the American people.
You can't send mixed messages.

Staying on message is fine, but sounding like you've been hypnotized isn't. There was a startling change in the president's demeanor when he made his prepared final statement. He was much more relaxed and convincing than he was while giving his bumblin', stumblin' real-time responses. Apparently he's more comfortable in Karen Hughes' skin than he is in his own. He must've been using a teleprompter.

The president and his people have worked hard to convince the country that Kerry is weak and indecisive. That is certainly not what America saw Thursday night. Senator Kerry came off as forcefull and direct. I suspect that anyone who was genuinely undecided came away from the 90 minutes with that impression.

The spinmeisters on CBS: McCain spinning like mad for Bush on Iraq -- ignoring his own statement that Iraq is going badly -- but says Kerry came across as knowing what he was talking about.

Biden nails Bush on saying that China would pull out of the N. Korea talks if we taked bilaterally. (Too bad Kerry didn't hit that one.) Biden says that China has asked us to negotiate bilaterally with N. Korea. No mention of Bush's sour looks.

Watching ABC: Poll says people think Kerry won, but no one changed their minds about who they would vote for.

ABC News: "Bush was unusually angry". And regarding the post-debate spin, the Kerry spinners are "gleeful".

ABC poll: debate viewers judged Kerry the winner 45%-36% (with the rest judging it a tie).

CNN/USA Today/Gallup: has Kerry the winner 53%-37%.

46 % had a more favorable of Kerry afterwards,
16 % has a less favorable impression.

Only 21 % had a more favorable impression of Bush afterwards; 17 % had a less favorable impression.

CBS Poll: of uncommitted voters shows Kerry winning 43%-28%.

Who has a clear plan for Iraq:

Kerry 51%
Bush 38%

Kerry did better than Bush, especially among women. More than half were more willing to vote for him after the debate, only one in seven less willing.

Well, we'll see. The spinning is just beginning. But this looks to have been a very good night for Big John.

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