Okay here’s the low-down, this is my fifth column of the week (sixth if you count the interview that was posted on Friday) and I’ve worked two 8 hour shifts in the last two days on the back of around four hours sleep each night. So what I’m trying to say is that I had very, very little time to write this column that you are reading now so I’ve had to skip a plug section for the moment (I’ll put one in later) and my analysis of the Presidential Debate and VP debate is less comprehensive than I would have liked. Okay on with the show”¦
Presidential Debate Thursday 30th September
Oh man something get me a Frenchmen to kick this was bloody awful to look at as Bush wasn’t at the gates at all. Now one of the things that you can usually say about Bush is that he’s stylistically very good, he comes across good on TV. His manner is on the whole appealing and warm and the sense of comfortableness in his own skin that he projects means that you enjoy watching him. Together these make him a very good if untraditional advocate of his own cause as can be seen in his speech to the RNC speech and in his recent interview with Bill O’Reilly.
However, on Thursday he was stylistically awful beyond word. He seemed tired, unfocused, peevish, hesitant and just totally and utterly uncomfortable. He tripped up over his words, he failed to pick up on points, he was constantly pulling faces when Kerry was talking and oh I could go on and on. To make matters worse Kerry had a very good night stylistically giving crisp answers, having an authoritative posture (compared to Bus’s slouching that amplified the height difference). In addition, it’s a minor but he looked good; not only in that he looked relaxed, confident but physically too with the fake tan, the new haircut and the manicure (they were some nice looking hands he was waving all around the place) giving him the edge in appearance.
However, the defeat was quite as toe curling complete as it first appears, or to re-phrase that Bus’s stylistic defeat didn’t have the impact that it “should” have had on the electorate. The most recent polls by such organisations as Zogba, ABC and so forth have shown that while the race has tightened Bush still has a significant lead. Worse for Kerry that the President internals have actually improved with the Fox Dynamics poll showing that the President’s job approval rating has gone up to 53% whilst on such questions as strong leader, keeping America safe, winning the war in Iraq Bush is still comfortably ahead of Kerry. There are I think three reasons for this.
Firstly, is the fact that Bush actually won on substance with Kerry’s arguments actually proving on many occasions incoherent and contradictory i.e. if the Iraq War was a mistake then how come soldiers aren’t now dying for a mistake. With the more meaty discussions on topics such as North Korea and Iran Bush showed a grasp and attention to detail that he is rarely credited with and his demolition of the Kerry demand for bi-lateral negotiations with North Korea was the most startling example of this.
Secondly there is the fact that although Kerry did win the debate in most people’s eyes he won it on style not because he was able to define Bush. Indeed, Kerry didn’t even try to, there was no theme that ran through his answers and there was no line of attack that he returned to over and over again. Many commentators criticised Bus’s use of repetition but the constant use of the “flip-flopping” attack and showing how this undermined Kerry as a prospective Commander-In-Chief stuck because Bush was willing to make it over and over again. The idea that Kerry going round saying “wrong war, wrong time” made it virtually impossible to convince new allies to sign up was a good one and it is now there as a permanent part of the debate. The constant repetition of Kerry’s opportunistic and glib shots at the Coalition, such as calling them the “coalition of the coerced and the bribed” to show him as placing politics above honouring America’s allies’ contribution was another good point. Bush made fewer quality points than Kerry but because he repeated them people will remember them. All people can remember from Kerry’s performance is that he upped his game and he debated quite well, the internals are rapidly showing that they haven’t adopted any of his arguments nor has he managed to significantly improve his own internals in any meaningful way.
Then thirdly there’ s the fact that the deck was stack against Kerry in such a comprehensive way on the issue of the War on Terror, etc that a ninety minute debate was never going to change people’s minds. The fact is that Bus’s record on foreign and terrorism issues is better than Kerry’s, he is a more steadfast and resolute leader than Kerry can every be. That’s in part a reflection on Kerry and a 30 plus year record in public life that started with publicly stabbing the Band of Brothers he claims to so revere in the back once he had got enough future campaign footage, then continued into voting against the death penalty for terrorists, for a nuclear freeze, to cut 27 weapons systems, voting against Operation Desert Storm, to cut by six billion dollars intelligence spending after the first WTC bombings. Before 9/11 Kerry was far from a flipper, he was utterly consistent. He was consistently wrong but hey he was consistent. Since 9/11 and since his decision to run for the Presidency his statements have been the best guide as to what the public’s view is on the War on Iraq/Terror. He voted for the Patriot Act and is now against, he voted for the War in Iraq and yet when Howard Dean was shrieking his way to Democrat frontrunner he voted against the 87billion needed to funded even after saying two weeks before that it would be “irresponsible” to do so. He’s called himself the “anti-war candidate” when things were going badly yet when things were going well he’s said on voting for War in Iraq that “knowing what I know now I would have voted the exact same way”. The man flip-flops with the tide of public opinion, he is weak and wobbly and the idea that the keys to the Oval Office would give him some spine is ludicrous.
However it’s also a reflection of the fact the Democrats are just not to capable of conducting the War on Terror properly as despite their protests they see it as a purely criminal matter between the USA and Osama Bin Laden, with their emphasis on capturing him primary evidence. It doesn’t matter that even if he’s still alive (which is doubtful) he’s been sidelined and neutralised in a way that makes him an irrelevance. Today’s Democrats would have after the fall of Nazi Germany insisted on scouring the continent for the remaining Nazis rather than turning attention away from Germany towards Japan. The War on Terror is called such because it’s a comprehensive, multi-layered war on the international terrorist network that exists. It must target not only terrorist organisations but also those states that sponsor terrorism, and preventing such states getting their hands on WMD. Whilst I think Bush made a mistake with the War in Iraq the same rationale applied to countries such as Iran would be entirely correct, the crypto-pacifist and appeaser Democrats would do no such thing and so allow this most serious threat to increase. Remember the Democrats are the party that gave a overwhelming positive reception to Howard Dean, the man who refuse to say that the world was a better place with Saddam in jail and the man who claims that Bush “caused” 9/11.
Finally Kerry is addicting to multi-lateralism, the experience of Vietnam has left him profoundly unsure of the goodness of American Power and his statements are full of the protestations of the need to get foreign Governments to reassure him of the virtue of the any mission. You heard on Thursday, to Senator Kerry any pre-emptive war must meet the “global test” which if the support of Britain, Australia and 81 other countries means nothing obviously means France and Germany. Such a test makes as much sense as well Kerry on Iraq.
Kerry’s flaws are there for all to see and despite his impressive performance on Thursday they were further highlighted. They will prove his undoing.
Check here on Friday for analysis of VP Debate
See you in seven