America got to see John Kerry stand next to George W. Bush last night. The tall, lanky senator came to the stage and shook hands with the shorter, solid-framed incumbent. Jim Lehrer had laid out the debate rules to the audience just before the debate began, warning that he would publically ridicule them and penalize their respective candidate by chopping time off their responses if the audience members got rowdy or loud.
From start to finish, John Kerry did a good job, in my opinion, of delineating the war on terror from the war in Iraq...and Osama bin Laden from Saddam Hussein. For any American viewer with a healthy appreciation for common sense, I would think Kerry certainly ruled the night.
John Kerry offered clarity on his Iraq position, and after the third or fourth time Bush leaned on old talking point-criticisms about Kerry's tendency to change positions, I began to feel slightly uncomfortable for Bush. Kerry would be issue-focused in his criticisms of Bush. Bush seemed to rely on repetitive talking points in his criticisms of Kerry, even when they had no sensible relation to the issues Kerry was raising.
I'm not sure how many times I heard the words "It's hard work" come from Bush's lips (I think the pundits said it was 11 times), but I'll tell you that after the third time, I thought to myself, "Hard work will get us nowhere if the course is wrong."
I saw no "killer" moment last night. I got more of a sense that John Kerry had a "killer" 90 minutes. He appeared calm, collected, sometimes gracefully amused by his opponent's replies. He often used a pen to jot down notes to prepare himself for his next opportunity to speak. He responded with an appearance of assuredness in his own convictions regarding strategy and diplomacy.
Bush was sometimes shaken and he went blank for a very uncomfortable 5 or 6 seconds several times. Bush's anxieties were obviously piqued many times as John Kerry would speak. Bush often looked agitated and often, his face showed a desperate search for what he wanted to say next. He was apparently intimidated by facing Kerry's issue-focus when he realized that talking points weren't adequate responses and there was just too much darned time left on the clock and too little to say.
When Bush said, "The enemy attacked us, Jim, and I have a solemn duty to protect the American people...", I think it betrayed error, fantasy, and weakness in the face of all Bush's Manichaean certainty. Iran was far more connected to terror than Iraq. Bush has failed to convincingly connect Saddam Hussein's government to 9/11 and last night's debate revealed nothing new.
The elephant in the middle of the room:
What are we going to do about Iran if push comes to shove? Neither Bush nor Kerry discussed their thoughts or plans.
Most totally-unconvincing line:
"I understand how hard it is to commit troops. I never wanted to commit troops."
--George W. Bush
I don't believe him. Period.
Lamest defense of Iraq war:
"...to think that another round of resolutions
would have caused Saddam Hussein to disarm, disclose is ludicrous in my
judgment, it just shows a significant difference of opinion."
--George W. Bush
The U.N.'s renewed inspections were working. The level of the threat from Iraq was not sufficient for Bush to commit troops to a unilateral pre-emptive war. He rushed to war with no plan for the peace. If anything is going to lose this election for Bush, it his his stubborn refusal to admit to commanding the wrong course to which he steered our nation.
Is this a joke?
"I've got a good relation with Vladimir, and it's important that we do have a good relation because that enables me to better comment to him and to better to discuss with him some of the decisions he makes."
Bush's repeated use of Putin's first name seemed incredibly inappropriate and was meant, I assumed, to convince the public that Bush had Putin under some form of diplomatic control. The problem is, we witnessed Russia's slide back toward Soviet rule after the Beslan attack. If that's "convincing Vladimir", then Bush is clearly no Ronald Reagan.
Americans are hated more than ever since 9/11. It's now a more dangerous world for us, our children, and our grandchildren. After last night's debate, I heard a foreign pundit, Christine Ockrent,a journalist from France 3, interviewed by Charlie Rose and she said she loved America and did not like to see an increase in already-existing world distrust. She intimated her opinion that Bush has been a failure in public diplomacy and to the eyes of many in the world, Bush has personified the paranoid set of beliefs that some foreigners have about America. Ockrent said she believed the world would breathe a sigh of relief if/when Kerry is elected president, because only then can a healing and a new course begin. I can understand that sentiment. Bush has promised there would be no change in his course. What options or hope has he left to the nations of the world who do not agree with that course?
I recalled Bush's statement during the debate:
"He says the cornerstone of his plan to succeed in Iraq is to call
upon nations to serve. So what's the message going to be? Please join us in
Iraq for a grand diversion? Join us for a war that is a wrong war at the
wrong place at the wrong time?"
I don't believe Bush can envision a President Kerry going to the U.N. as a humble, heartful, and respectful leader and making a convincing case for internationalizing the effort to make Iraq secure as she becomes free. Why can't Bush imagine that? My conclusion is that Bush cannot envision that sort of success because either he's never consciously tried or he's never been able to do it himself.
Bush followed his statement with:
"I know how these people think. I deal with them all the time. I sit down with the world leaders frequently and talk to them on the phone frequently -- they're not going to follow somebody who says this is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time."
I thought to myself that Bush lumped world leaders into a less than respectful lump with his "these people" comment. This was not a question of whether or not Bush deals with these leaders,which, as president, he is required to do. This was a question of the result of the negotations with these world leaders. Most of the world thinks Bush was wrong to attack Iraq unilaterally, so we already know the world's trust in the U.S. has been lost directly because of George W. Bush. Bush seem sto be speaking from the standpoint of someone in an alternative universe by insinuating that Kerry would be the one with problems convincing world leaders.
America got to see John Kerry stand next to George W. Bush last night. After the debate was over, I firmly believe Americans got to see John Kerry as their next president.
"I don't know if it is possible to get Arab League troops for Iraq. They'd have to be convinced to walk with their eyes open into a guerrilla war. But they are now offering training and other help, and should be taken up on it. It is not clear that despite the attempts of Colin Powell, the Bush administration still has the credibility in the Arab world to get the cooperation of the League in Iraq. Unlike Kerry, Bush did not even mention wanting to try. Kerry's strategy, of announcing that the US will leave Iraq and does not want bases, would certainly go a long way toward mollfying the regional Arab powers."
Digby warns us that the media spin has only just begun:
Tomorrow is where the action is folks. Tonight, the consensus is that Kerry won the debate and he did. Tomorrow, the push back begins. Get your phone numbers in hand. Get ready to write e-mails. They will not go down without a fight. We will have to fight them back with their own words.
Note: This story made Top Story on Google this morning.
-Acadiana weighs in on debate The Advertiser
-Bush, Kerry showdown keeps race close San Jose Mercury News (subscription)
-Our bloggers analyze debate minute-by-minute Seattle Times
-CNN - AlterNet - all 2,840 related »
In the American Prospect, Matthew Yglesias says that "..the president wants us to re-elect him because he's a flawless leader whose mistake-free policies have created a lovely situation in Iraq, where freedom is blossoming and the war has made Americans safer."
I realize that concerned Americans each hope the best for their country, each in their own way, but as mentally healthy people, we all come to a point where we understand the difference between hope and reality. Some clearly see reality sooner than others, but we all eventually reach a common conclusion when facts outweigh fantasy. Time passes and events cause us to understand that what we may have once believed may not necessarily be true, if we begin to trust our own eyes and our own intuition. The trouble is, our President may be the last to reach that realization, and we cannot let our nation fall into disgrace while our leader languishes in delusion. There may be many very decent and trusting Americans out there who really did buy into the president’s Iraq storyline. [Perhaps I should say storylines, because there have been so many varying rationales offered to the public]. My question is, as reality sets in, where will those Americans draw the line in their support for Bush’s policy, which is being revealed as sheer fantasy?
Mr. Yglesias states that an opportunity to admit to the American people that Bush had made mistakes and learned from them "..was present in late July, when the president received a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) reflecting the consensus view of the intelligence community that the range of possible outcomes in Iraq was bleak to very bleak. Instead, the White House sat on the report for months until it was leaked to The New York Times in September. When simply hiding the NIE from the public was no longer possible, Bush explained that the CIA was "just guessing" and mischaracterized the content of the report, saying that under one scenario for Iraq, "life could be better." In fact, the report stated that, at best, things would stay the same."
Abraham Lincoln's performance in the Civil War, where he realized mistakes, fired generals often, and changed the course of the war quite a few times before getting it right, is a stark contrast to Bush, who has fired no one and has stubbornly stuck to one catastrophic course while painting a fantasy of success for the American public. To sharpen the contrast, Bush forced out the one military man, General Eric Shinseki, who had correctly foreseen that Bush's plans for Iraq involved too few troops.
I personally think that Bush should be embarrassed and ashamed to face the American public tonight in his debate with John Kerry. I am amazed that the media has allowed Bush's fantasy to fly with gossamer wings in the face of harsh reality; practically unchallenged by the media throughout the war's progression.
If one believes in the concept of sin or moral law, the mainstream media's sin of omission would be the greatest moral offense to American democracy. Their failure to fearlessly question the Bush administration has caused the Bush administration to use them as a political tool to suppress American dissent and lead us to a journey of war and death upon which we never needed to embark.
I shudder to think about the post-debate spin in the mainstream media after each of these upcoming debates. If I sound pessimistic to you, it's only because of realistic past experience. In all their King-making glory, I ask myself why the media would further tangle the truth and deliberately betray the public by counterfactual and persistent aggrandizemant of the catastrophic ideas of a delusional man.
If the mainstream media wants to continue to find reasons to defend a madman whose big trick is to talk tough and stay on one wrong message, you and I do not have to continue to offer our trust or our time to them.
I am ashamed of what Bush has done to my reputation as an American.
I am embarrassed for my fellow Americans who support the leader who has diminished every one of us.
In the face of all the contrary evidence presented by the media-monstrosity, I am still aware of the difference between hope and reality. I can only hope the majority of Americans still possess the same faculty, especially through all the irrational fears the Bush administration has laid at their doorstep over the past three years.
I will admit that I do have my own fantasies. In my fondest fantasy, John Kerry will kick George W.Bush's delusional ass in the first debate tonight.
Let the message "GET REAL" replace the tired "FLIP-FLOP".
Juan Cole's advice to Bush: Stop Mocking, Start Changing
"It is depressing for me to see George W. Bush on the stump doing a stand-up comedy routine about John Kerry, parroting the predictable line that Kerry has had more than one opinion about Iraq. Serious news reporters who have gone back over the record find that Bush's charge is without merit, and that Kerry has been consistent on his Iraq position.
The thing that most worries me is not when a politician's thinking evolves on a subject and he changes his mind. It is when a politician refuses even to consider changing his mind. Such inflexibility is almost always a sign of rigidity, which can be catastrophic in the most powerful man in the world.
Bush should stop slapping his thigh and guffawing about that flipflopper Kerry and being to think seriously about changing his mind on some key policies himself. Otherwise, an Iraq as failed state could pose a supreme danger to the United States.."
DE: (Laughs) The latest ones. It is very important for the public to know the existence, in a general nature, of the recent national intelligence estimate which shows great pessimism about our prospects in Iraq. The public ought to know the entire document. Someone should leak it [Editor's note: If anyone has that document, please send it to me. I would be happy to report it, in the grand tradition of the Pentagon Papers. And, I will go to jail to protect your identity. We now return to our regularly scheduled interview].