Saturday, October 09, 2004

Reading Mickey Kaus is like picking at a scab. I just can't help myself sometimes.

This one is, in a nutshell, everything that is wrong and fake and scummy about him.

Kerry's tortured, intellectually bogus answer on abortion--'I think it's murder but I would never base legislation on morality!'--suggests that one of my co-watchers was right to think the way to trip him up is on "smaller," discrete values questions like abortion and capital punishment. Update: Saletan has more detail on why Kerry's abortion answer was "awful" politicking.

I thought Kerry's answer was probably bad politics too. What it most emphatically wasn't was "tortured (and) intellectually bogus." It was conflicted, sure -- which is where the bad politics comes in -- but it was also incredibly honest, which is why it must have given Kaus a rash.

Of course legislation is based on morality. Rape is wrong, therefore it is illegal. But that's not what Kerry said. Kerry's point is that legislation cannot be based on his individual morality. It must reflect the morality of the country and the time. If, as leader of the country, he can bring enough people around to his way of thinking, great. If not, he's got to go with the flow.

What were LBJ's personal feelings on civil rights? It doesn't matter. He did what was unquestionably the right thing. That was the point Kerry was making. His personal morality can inform his actions as a leader, but it must not inform his actions as president. There is a distinction between the two that is lost on Kaus (not to mention Bush).

I had a great snark line about Mickey and being intellectually bogus, but fuck it. Kaus is wrong, but more than that. He's lost. He's not just wrong, he is incapable of being right on this. It's just not part of his self-image. Kaus is so desperate to be the journo's journo that a statement like Kerry's ends up being completely alien to him. It doesn't compute. He can't let himself recognize it.

No wonder Kaus hates him so much. If a guy like Kerry is actually capable of being genuine, then Kaus' pose is a sham. And every time Kerry rubs Kaus' nose in it by being genuine, the bile rises just a little bit higher in Kaus' throat, and the life he has chosen for himself seems a little more hollow.

But of course, thinking something like that just makes me 'naive'. Everything a politican says is a priori an angle, an attempt to gain a vote from somebody somewhere, and I'm just a sucker for falling for it.

Right, Mickey?
Slowly, the fog is lifting. Mark Halperin, ABC News bigwig and often the brain behind The Note, states the bleedin' obvious: if one side is lying more than the other, it's OK, nay, mandatory, to point that out.

Needless to say, the Pubs are outraged, with Drudge taking point.

Of course they're outraged. If Big Media starts doing something remotely resembling their job, the Pubs could slip to third party status. Level the playing field, and they'll fall off it.

It's yet another baby step, but it's a good one. Let's hope the faux indignation-fueled backlash doesn't turn it into yet another round of the Hokey Pokey.
Interesting. Apparently, Bush's bizarro interpretation of the Dred Scott decision during the debate was actually religious right code for Roe v. Wade.

So while 90% of the country thought Bush was just rambling, his hard-core base was hearing, "I'll appoint a Supreme Justice who will help make abortion illegal again."

Moderates, are you listening?
I meant to blog this last night, but it got lost in the jumble of thoughts and reactions...

Bush's "Need wood?" joke is clearly an attempt to woo Wonkette and her cult. There's just no other logical explanation for such an obvious (*cough*) straight line.
Yee-owch. The morning-after polls on who won the debate:

CNN -- Kerry 76%, Bush 22%
MSNBC -- Kerry 66%, Bush 34% (and check the head shot they used for Bush!)
Foxnews -- Kerry 46%, Bush 53%

If the best the Foxnews poll can muster is basically a tie, you know Bush got schooled.

Of course these are online poll on the "internets"... maybe the geeks just got snippy over Bush's inner Luddite shining through.

Friday, October 08, 2004

I think it's clear that the Bush team either got lucky, or knew exactly what it was doing, when they agreed to the debate schedule. Bush cannot talk about Iraq anymore without sounding like he's just a couple of short steps from hopping on a street corner soap box and ranting until he's hoarse.
No, wait, it's not quite over. Kerry got one final chance to explain the $87 billion vote... and he flubs it. D'oh. The "I didn't want to supply a slush fund to Halliburton" line was a good one, but dammit, it's got no context around it.

How hard is this? "There were two bills before Congress to fund our troops. One just rang up the deficit even further -- that was the president's bill, the one I voted against. The other one, the one I voted for, scaled back the tax cut to the rich to pay for that body armor, and that humvee armor."

After that Kerry can natter on about who made the bigger mistake and Halliburton slush funds all he wants.
The final questions: Kerry gets abortion, and Bush gets asked to fess up to some mistakes.

Kerry directly addresses his question, possibly making a tactical error in doing so.

Bush dodges his, refusing to admit to any specific mistake ever and essentially claiming that his only boo-boos were in appointing a few people who he won't name to spare their feelings.

I think that about sums it up.
Now, was Bush genuinely baffled by Kerry daring to express some nuance on the abortion issue, or was he just trying to score a cheap shot? Does it even matter?
Bush has definitely recovered from his earlier stridency. Interesting that it was Iraq that so got his back up. Is even Bush succumbing to some cognitive dissonance?
Kerry's response on the stem cell question was very strong, despite (or maybe even because of) his stutters. And bonus points to Kerry for invalidating Bush's opening line about 'destroying life' before he even spoke it, by noting all the frozen embryos set for destruction anyway that could be harvested.
Watching the crowd again... they seem a little less hostile to Bush (he's talking about the Patriot Act at the moment).

The crowd still seems more receptive to Kerry, though.
Bush, twenty minutes ago: "You didn't even show up to vote on medical liability reform!"

Bush, now: "He opposed medical liability reform!"

Umm, which is it? Did Kerry oppose it, or did he simply not vote on it?
One thing Kerry is doing well is simply having a short-term memory. A few times tonight he's related one answer back to a previous question, and correctly addressed the person who asked the original question in his response (i.e., on Bush walking away from Kyoto: "You wondered why people around the world don't like us, Nikki?")

He's also bringing things home by using Missouri as a specific example of things he's talking about.

Bush, meanwhile, doesn't seem like he's even trying to connect with the audience.
Kerry's "don't pay attention to labels, pay attention to results" refrain could be a keeper.
I just threw up in my mouth. Bush: "I guess you could say I've been a good steward of the land."
Kerry seems to be running a decent campaign as Clinton's veep... not only is he pledging to restore the Clinton-era economy and name-dropping Bob Rubin, he actually got the first real laugh of the night by saying only three people in the room would have their taxes go up under his plan: him, Bush, "and sorry, Charles, you too."

And Bush claiming that Kerry isn't credible when he talks about balancing budgets kinda seems a little hollow. "Look at the record of the man running for president!"

How about you look in the mirror instead?
Bush is doing better in round two. He seems to have gotten his feet under him, and actually held his own in the tort reform tilt.

He's still gusting towards shrill in his tone and body language, however.
I'd be curious as to the opinion of professional jury-watchers to this debate, because I'm watching the crowd watch Bush talk, and man, do they not look happy.

When Kerry talks, meanwhile, they look at least thoughtful. Heck, I'm seeing a couple of people actually glance over at Bush to see how he's twitching when Kerry is speaking. Not that I know what I'm talking about, but Bush seems to be losing this crowd big-time.
Round one -- Iraq -- is over. I'm not sure who won, but Bush certainly acted and sounded like he lost, so I'll bow to his judgement.
"I don't see how you can win in Iraq if you don't believe we should have been there in the first place."

And that's why you're not fit to be president, George. You can't grasp relatively simple concepts like that.
The shot of Bush listening to Kerry talk about his 'tax gap' gaffe is just brutal. He's blinking at about 120 bpm.
The draft question presented an interesting contrast. Bush clearly had a set answer ready -- not only did it last exactly 1 minute 59 seconds, but Bush seemed far more comfortable saying it.

And then he pissed it all away by fighting with Charles Gibson over having a follow-up, even as Gibson was agreeing to allow the follow-up.

I'm starting to wonder how Bush is going to last the hour without taking a swing at Kerry. He seems that on edge.
They just cut to Bush, listening to Kerry talk about Iran and North Korea, and I swear to God he started to develop a twitch in his left eye. And he starts off his rebuttal with a lead balloon of a joke: "That answer almost made me want to scowl."

We're about 20 minutes in, and Bush has been -- dare I say? -- shrill for pretty much the entire debate. His tone of voice is stressed and raw, his body language is agitated, and he basically sounds like a guy feeling the sand crumbling under him.

Bush is also jumping in for after-rebuttals without waiting for Gibson to approve it.

Meanwhile Kerry is calm and composed, while punching it up when he needs to. "It's the military's job to win the war. It's the president's job to win the peace."

Exactly one guy on stage is looking remotely presidential, and exactly one guy on stage is looking like the bunco squad is closing in on shutting down his pyramid scheme.
Bush is still babbling about WMDs. Keep bringing it up, Li'l Bushie. Keep clarifying to everyone just how divorced you are from reality. Schmuck.
Bush: "That's the kind of mind-set that says sanctions were working."

Ummm, the sanctions worked, dumbass. Saddam had no WMDs.

And Kerry called him on it in his rebuttal. Hee!
Bush: "In the old days, if we saw a threat, we could deal with it if we felt like it or not." Say WHAT????? When has the US ever sat on its hands when faced with a threat?

He's already losing it. Wow.
One minute in, and Bush is grinding his teeth listening to Kerry. This could be good...
I'm actually home and awake, so what the heck -- let's real-time the second debate.

And just for fun, I'll watch it on Fox.

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