September 30, 2004

Blogging the Debate

I’ll post observations as I have them (if I have them) here. Read on for my blow-by-blow observations.

Starting out watching Lehrer on CSPAN. Talking to the audience. Giving them instructions on how to behave and what’s going to happen.

They’re using a buzzer if the candidates go too long. Kerry is more likely to want to and be able to speak for more than a few minutes at a time coherently. We’ll see how that works out.

Lehrer is in good spirits. 0 seconds…

Handshake. No blood yet.

9:03 PM: Kerry is leading with the stressing of alliances, and even reaching out to the Muslim world to isolate radical influences. Bush’s first rebuttal: he’s started right in with mentioning 9/11. Broken record.

9:05: Bush looks dyspeptic. Kerry looked a bit nervous in his first question, but looks to be gaining comfort during the first rebuttal.

9:09: Bush is leaning heavily on the people registered to vote. (in Iraq)

9:10: Kerry loses no time mentioning Osama and Iraq as a distraction from the war on terror. Osama bin Laden. Afghanistan. (“Bush changed his mind [on the UN] his campaign has a word for that”)

9:14: Bush throwing Kerry’s words back at him on Saddam as a threat. But Kerry is nodding at him.

9:16: Bush: “Of course we’re after Saddam Hussei… er, Osama bin Laden.”

9:17: Kerry begins a more detailed case as Iraq being peripheral to the war on terror.

9:20: Kerry: “We can succeed, but I don’t think this president can.”

9:23: Kerry: Steamrolling. Confident. Bush: Seems bored, dyspeptic and possibly gassy.

9:25: Bush is close to flipping out. Kerry appears to have him flustered.

9:28: Kerry brings up Bush’s Dad and military folks he’s talked to. Bush is taking his second “extra response.” Can’t stick to the format? Now he’s getting whiny.

9:32: No allies, Halliburton - Body blow! Body blow! Bush’s response? “Absurd” and Bush points to Blair.

9:35: Bush says we achieved a rapid victory. Huh? Won’t explain the “miscalculation” statement. Keeps trying to hit Kerry over the head with the idea that Kerry doesn’t support the troops just because he’s running for president.

9:38: Kerry showing Bush’s coalition for the joke it is. Snuck in a comment about North Koreans and their progress while we are off in Iraq (no nukes there, by the way.)

9:40: Kerry points out Bush did not use war as a last resort, as he said he would.

9:42: Bush hitting Kerry with repeating “mixed messages” and “not supporting the troops.” But Bush comes out with an odd “Osama doesn’t determine how we defend ourselves.” Hunh? No one is asking Osama.

9:44: Bush paraphrase: If I say Kerry is inconsistent, it must be true. No examples needed.

9:46: Kerry: “important not to confuse the war with the warriors.” Yeah!

9:48: Kerry is on message. Bush is on a weird message — trying to stick Kerry to “Wrong war wrong time.” Bush isn’t selling it, though. I think he means to attach that to “is the world safer without Saddam” but he fails to make the connection. Instead, he’s connecting it to Kerry’s message to the troops. It’s falling flat. He still has time to try to stick it to Saddam, though.

9:51: Bush is obviously focused on how Kerry’s words are heard by people like the troops and Allawi. Why should we care about Allawi?

9:54: No one is really wounded yet. But my biased read is that in almost an hour, Bush has come off as annoyed. Kerry is confident, and has not made Gore’s mistakes from 2000.

9:56: Bush whoops! Opened it up for Kerry to smack him with confusion over the enemy. Saddam Hussein didn’t attack us, then Bush let Osama go. Bang. Bush is annoyed.

9:58: LOL moment. Bush insisting he knows that Osama attacked us. If we need convincing of this, that’s sad.

10:00: Bush is actually using feigned confusion as a tactic. Amazing.

10:02: Kerry appears to be getting by without asking for extra time.

10:03: Bush is wandering off to North Korea. But he’s wandered way off into China. And off into one of his famous Duuuuuhhhh moments.

10:04: Mike tells me in IM that he loves it when Bush calls the terrorists “folks.” Brian says “Heh. He said nukyoolar.”

10:06: Lehrer asks for clarification from both N. Korea. Apparently this means Bush can talk as long as he wants about the sanctions.

10:07 Darfur is brought up. Kerry says “genocide.” We’re overextended.

10:11: The Darfur answers were a flop. New question for Bush: character differences? Woof. The steam has gone out since the Darfur question. Bleh, this part is boring and not very useful either.

10:14: Kerry: Bush is certain and wrong. Kerry gets easy stuff to rebut from Bush, something silly about wilting.

10:18: Kerry hits the nuke proliferation issue. Bush comes out semi-strong with a response on the funding, but is stumbling and rambling with a confused explanation of his plan.

10:20: Nuke clarification, they agree but Kerry says he’s going to get the nukes controlled quicker with talks. Bush’s only response is that he doesn’t think it can work. No reasoning, just he doesn’t think it will work. “Vladuhmer?”

10:24: Bush: “I likes Vladumer!” Kerry: “I actually know something.”

10:25: Kerry: Just because Bush says it can’t be done doesn’t mean it can’t. Bush, wanders off the North Korea/China question back to Saddam. I don’t think he was listening!

10:26: Bush snorts at Kerry’s comment about the coalition.

10:27: Kerry “I’m not talking about leaving, I’m talking about winning.”

10:28: Bush: Back to fear. Back to innuendo. Secret religious handshake.


Shields: “Morning in America” message is missing. Winners have had that.

David Brooks: “I think the president held his own on the factual issues which is always a problem for him …”

Wow, glowing review.

My email to CNN:

Regarding the debate tonight, I thought Kerry looked remarkably comfortable, while Bush looked either annoyed or like he’d rather be somewhere else.

Bush offered us no insight into his plans. Kerry, on the other hand, comported himself with sincerity, I though. He’s got credibility. He’s willing to admit mistakes and correct them. Refreshing!

Now watching the spin room. But I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to take.

Posted by James at September 30, 2004 9:01 PM
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Interesting blow-by-blow - I don't know how you kept up with it that fast, but for the most part I had similar reactions.

My take - I refuse to watch the spinsters and pundits, but I don't mind trying to be one:-)

1. No zingers, no knockout punches.
2. Bush looked at a loss for words sometimes.
3. It was "presidential" in tone and that was good.
4. Kerry has an almost impossible task of countering the flip/flop nonsense while not looking defensive.
5. I think on balance Kerry managed to make this about the failed polices of the president. - but not overwhelmingly
6. Both got passing grades in terms of reaching their bases - but I haven't a clue how to tell if anyone reached the undecided.
7. The Bush position is easier to defend - stay strong, stay steadfast, stay resolute - be John Wayne. I don't wan't to believe it, but I am afraid that will play better with most voters than the more complex Kerry message which says win freinds and influence people and you'll be alot stronger.
8. Kerry let Bush get away with a lot of indirect characterization - Bush was in effect saying - "I won;t cut and run" and was by implication saying that Kerry would. Kerry has to cunter that kind of subtle misrespresentation.

Posted by: Greg at September 30, 2004 10:54 PM

I think Kerry needs to stress that core values don't change, but actions do based on wisdom and information.

Posted by: James at September 30, 2004 11:04 PM

I agree. All he needed to say is that changing your mind in the face of new information is not flip-flopping. It's called thinking.

I think that the one thing that Kerry did was force the undecideds to take another look at him. So, people who were starting to lean Bush are probably back on the fence. I don't think either one really convinced undecided people of anything.

Posted by: briwei at September 30, 2004 11:15 PM

Those 6 Ohioans on NBC seemed pretty confident in their answer. Kerry won this debate, but they want to see more.

Their words. Are they representative? I don't know.

Posted by: James at September 30, 2004 11:20 PM

During the debate Bush seemed indignant that anyone would question his simple solutions to the problems posed by Kerry and the moderator. Kerry had a good line just as I was recalling a similar quote:

"For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong." --Henry Louis Mencken

My strongest impression of the debate, and indeed the past three years of president statements, is that Bush believes it is more important to stay the course than to admit we have ever made mistakes. No wonder the world hates us.

Posted by: Mike at October 1, 2004 12:01 AM

I enjoyed the debate. Quite frankly I thought Bush did better than I expected him too, but still lost. But I also don't think it was a landslide. Kerry was critical, but not nasty. He seemed very much in charge of the situation, which is pretty amazing since he was the challenger.

The only thing Bush seemed to have on his side was conviction. He was convinced he was right. Stay the course. Yadda yadda yadda.

Posted by: Chuck S. at October 1, 2004 12:11 AM

Good comments, all.

Kerry is the clear winner, though it was not with a mushroom cloud. The effects will sink on over the next few days.

But remember, Bush is the master of lowered expectations. That might be okay, though. Kerry is known for coming through in a pinch. This is where he gets to show the American people that side of himself.

We can't look for Kerry to bury Bush in these events. It's not a debate. Such fireworks are not possible while stickign to the format. The only possibility is screwing up royally. In this debate, Bush screwed up more than Kerry did.

Are we supposed to think his Duhhhhh moments are folksy? They're downright creepy. I wouldn't buy a hamburger from someone who answered me like that, let alone hand him the reins of a country.

Looking forward to the next debate.

Posted by: James at October 1, 2004 12:28 AM

I think the next debate is the town meeting style. The format there is going to be unreviewed questions from undecided voters. Looking forward to that.

I don't think the lowered expectations will work this time around. After all, he is supposed to be the leader of the free world.

Posted by: briwei at October 1, 2004 12:41 AM

Bush did do fairly well, but foreign policy is supposed to be his strong suit. He'll have a far better chance of bombing when they talk about domestic issues.

Posted by: julie at October 1, 2004 10:34 AM

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