Well, Johnny and Georgie did their bit. I apologize for the political theme of this particular blog entry; I don't like to promote or push my political beliefs upon people in order to influence theirs. I do, however, love to discuss my beliefs with other receptive individuals for the purpose of promoting enthusiastic dialogue, be their opinions different from mine, or correct.
In all seriousness, be mindful of the one-sided nature of blog publishing, and don't allow yourself to confuse the sharing of my opinion with you with the pushing of my opinion to change you. By the time you're done reading this entry, you will likely be able to guess who I intend to vote for, but remember I'm not trying to tell any of you to pick the same man. One thing I will push, however, is that we should all be concerned and motivated to participate actively in the privileges our citizenship offers, that we may affect the politics, as they will certainly affect us.
So, consider yourselves disclaimed, and while you're at it, expect me to do this again following each succeeding debate night.
Presidential Debate 2004.
Round 1, as called by myself: Kerry, by a narrow margin.
My opinions regarding the first night of debates, which covered the topics of Terrorism (or is it, 'Errorism'?) and National/Homeland Security: This was Bush's home turf. This is where he makes his bread and butter, and where he makes the most of his fans (redundantly he makes them with his religious affiliations, as those of similar foundation tend to be the same ones who support his military policy). Bush definitely kept with his theme of steadfast resolve, often reiterating himself throughout the night. I must say his smarter side began to shine through during the early period of questioning. He composed himself better than I expected him to, speaking confidently and clearly, without letting slip any of the dubya-isms we love to mock. He actually used the word 'denigrated'... I damn near shat myself. But it wasn't all good for the man; He disappointingly fulfilled some of my negative expectations, particularly toward the end when he started losing his patience and began throwing out cookie-cutter responses regardless of the topic he was supposed to address. Another favorite method of his was to make groundless claims, neglect to back them up with evidence (as the nature of each claim was illogical and false), and then try to stand by them to attack his opponent. Don't worry, I'll mention specifics later (look for the *).
Kerry was more confident, better spoken, and better prepared, it seemed, than was Bush. But this was expected. Everyone knows Kerry is a better public speaker than Bush is. What notable things he did, though, included managing the momentum of the night. Whether fielding his own questions, or rebutting Bush's answers to his questions, Kerry's words were the ones that punctuated the topics at hand. The 'definitive' overtone that is requisite to a good debater's message, was more often found coming from Kerry's podium than from the President's. Kerry definitely took control and soundly defended himself against the expected attacks of flip-floppery and softness. That being said, I also believe Kerry let Bush walk away with a few easy points. There were a couple of things Bush said throughout the night, over which Kerry could have absolutely ripped the man to shreds, but he left it all untouched. Again, I'll mention specifics later (look for the **).
Something worth noting... The debate format was as follows: a candidate is asked a question, and is given two minutes to answer. His opponent is then give 90 seconds for rebuttal. If the issue still begs resolution, one extra minute is allowed, 30 seconds to each candidate to further address their points. I find it interesting that it was almost always Bush who invoked the '30 second re-rebuttal' option throughout the course of the debate. This calls a very specific point-to-ponder to my mind. Kerry crafts a much better answer and rebuttal, in general. He play the game like it were chess, and here's what I mean - If the question is his, he speaks for his two minutes, and after Bush made his rebuttal, Kerry's point still stood on its own and needed no further reinforcement, either because Kerry's point was so solid, or because Bush was so ineffective at offering a counterpoint. If Kerry made a rebuttal, it often upset the point contained in Bush's preceding answer to the extent that Bush requested the 30 second re-rebuttal to attempt pick up the pieces. Of course, afterward Kerry took his 30 seconds and bashed it right back to the floor again. Bush was forced to attempt such a recovery at least eight times tonight, while Kerry did it twice at most.
That aside, the following pissed me off:
*Bush spent a lot of time tonight saying things like "You can't lead America when you call the war on Iraq 'The wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time'," to which I respond, "Why not?" Kerry said what he said (and interestingly apologized for saying it tonight; I would not have in light of what I'm about to say) at the beginning of the American deployment in Iraq, in reference to the fact that our troops were sent to Iraq from Afghanistan (where they were also sent haphazardly) while they were making at least slight progress in the hunt for Bin Laden, but they were sent without the support of the rest of the UN or our other allies, which neglected the primary objective in the War on Terrorism and yadda yadda yadda. Now, John Kerry has all the right in the world to say that this was the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time, because it summarizes the viewpoint he has had since this whole thing started (and has not actually waffled on): He believes our troops need support, and will support them since they're already stuck there, but he would not have sent them so quickly were he in power. He would have exhausted other alternatives before committing our troops in such a relatively high proportion, and he'd only have done it with the backing of the rest of the concerned world. Now, having these opinions, while I feel would actually increase morale among our active-duty troops, has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on whether or not Kerry would make a capable president. Bush tried to imply that Kerry's comments meant that he had no faith in America or in its armed forces, and therefore he can't be trusted to lead us. There is, in point of fact, no logical basis for this. Disagreeing with our unprovoked occupation of another country while there were more imminent dangers to address? Sounds like rational thinking to me, and in no way un-American. Sounds like a quality I'd like to see in the Commander-In-Chief of our armed forces.
Here's another goodie: When asked to clarify his plan to remove troops from Iraq pending its reaching stability, Kerry mentioned "changing the situation on the ground", specifically providing more equipment to our troops, and accelerating the training of Iraqis to promote self-sustainment. *In rebuttal, Bush simply said, "You can't change the situation on the ground when you disrespect the Prime Minister, " and then proceeded to explain that Kerry raised questions about the credibility of the Prime Minister of Iraq while he was visiting the U.S. Again I found myself asking, "Why not? What in the world does it matter what he said about the Prime Minister have to do with his ability to change the situation on the ground?" The two are in no way related. Changing the situation on the ground involves changing the allocation of our troops and keeping them at their very best, and keeping them there only for as long as necessary. That has nothing to do with Kerry's caution with regard to the potency of the Prime Minister of Iraq. If anything, Kerry's claims were about whether elections will indeed happen on schedule as both the Prime Minister and Bush promised. Kerry can doubt that all he wants to, and that makes no difference in his ability to perform according to his contrasting plan regarding that particular military operation. These are two of at least four instances in which Bush just flung these claims out there with no coherency or factual basis whatsoever.
My disappointment with Kerry, on the other hand, was based on his softness with regard to a few points Bush made. This was evidenced most clearly in the mens' closing statements, though it was evident several times earlier in the debate, as well. Kerry was pushing for international cooperation; he promised to revive alliances which have been stressed by our offensive motives of late, namely by changing that attribute. Bush made it clear that he wished to put America first, no matter what the cost. He promoted the idea that if we stay on the offensive, we will minimize the chance of facing threats on our soil. Kerry came off as 'we have to let the rest of the world give us the green light before we do anything big', while Bush turned it right around and came off as 'I'm not going to let the fate of the America and the Americans that I love rest in the hands of foreigners'. Bush did a great job of showing the contrast between the two mens' philosophies, while simultaneously reinforcing the notion that he is the strong 'Keep us on top' President. While Bush had one of his few exceptionally strong remarks in this regard, Kerry sounded like a soft 'Can't we all just get along?' hopeful. Not the way I'd have done it. Here's where my temper begins to flare a touch. I submit, not too humbly, that Kerry should have made a power move right exactly there. Kerry was pushing for international cooperation, and that was his ticket to trounce Bush in light of his angle, but Kerry didn't have the balls to step off the ledge. If it were me, I'd have made the following move: I'd say (and this is potential political suicide, but it's true and it's courageous to admit):
"The people of the United states must come to terms with one unsettling fact: The majority of the world sees the United States as the single greatest threat to the stability of the world. This brash imperialistic, self-serving attitude and action we partake in, is the sort of behavior that inspires wrath and causes a ubiquitous flare-up of animosity toward our nation. This is exactly why terrorists then try to attack us. We need to instead keep our humility. We cannot exist safely in a standoff against the rest of the world as George W. Bush said he'd plan to; continuing on this path will only further alienate us, and will therefore make us more vulnerable, more exposed to attack, and more likely to be attacked due to the thusly increasing hatred directed toward America. We are not above the world. I love the life I live because of all we have to offer in this great nation, but as much as I believe that our way is the best, there are plenty others who believe differently. There is plenty of remaining power throughout the rest of the world, and if they behaved at all like we have as of late, then our beloved nation would be war-torn and decrepit, just like the Middle East. George W. Bush says that offense is good for Americans. I say, what's good for Americans at the expense of others will never be as correct as what's good for Americans in accordance with others. That end can be achieved by cooperation with the world's nations, without losing any of our perceived muscle. We will continue to be the world's policeman, but we will refuse to be the world's bully. Following that course will keep us equally safe from existing threats, but far safer from new threats."
Now, back to what ACTUALLY happened -
As I said in the beginning... Kerry wins Round 1. But Bush will have an easier time keeping the presidency than Kerry will have taking it. If Kerry intends to take the presidency, he's going to have to dominate these debates and win favor by a landslide, because winning these debates by such a small margin will only afford him enough votes to make it an interestingly close loss.
Kerry has to fight for every victory, leaving nothing for Bush to pick up unearned. This may require taking the edgy road, and providing he can swing it as such, he'd make a damn strong impression with all the voters who lack confidence. This one might still be won in the trenches of the swing states, coincidentally susceptible to the potential influence of the currently floating and disjointed youth contingency. Time to put on our battle gear and fight for who we choose to support. I fucking mean it.