Here is where we are: We are in my apartment.
Here is what we are doing: We are about to watch the Presidential Debate. I guess we get to call it a debate.
Here is what we have before us: A tumbler of whiskey—because, well, writers like to tumble—and my computer, which is on battery power so I can watch from my couch.
I’m going to keep a running diary. The holograms of Jingoistic George and Kerry the Flipper are about to take the stage. They have preprogrammed their answers and all extemporaneous movement or thought has been outlawed.
We are about to see something we will never see again for of our lives. Two men will stand 10 feet apart from each other (as regulated by the 240 page, 1,700 addendum rules and regulations agreed upon by both candidates) and never once address each other. I engage people daily on the subway who are standing as far away from me.
Oh, and by the way, a quick note. This year I am partisan. Normally I find both of these parties stances and tactics absurd; the politics of the lowest common denominator. But not this year. This is the most important election of my lifetime for one simple reason: 4 more years of this and we are fucked. Let’s begin.
9:06 – Question one to Senator Kerry. I have to say I’m impressed with his answer. I have not seen Kerry debate so far. He was concise and to the point. This bodes well. I’m excited.
9:08 – “People out there know where I stand. People out there know what I believe. And that’s how best to keep the peace.” Ah, yes. Knowing where President Bush stands has certainly kept the peace so far. I feel better, how about you?
9:11 – “Osama Bin Laden. Unfortunately he escaped.” Nice! It’s about time we brought this front and center. My thinking is this. Terrorism is a nationless enemy. If America is engaged in a war, and if America does have an enemy, and if that enemy is terrorism, and if terrorism is faceless, nationless, mobile and ruthless, then what the fuck are we doing in Iraq?
9:14 – Bush is looking pissed right now. He’s a little ruddy faced. His voice is pitching. Probably not the best moment for him.
9:15 – I think Bush just said “the world is safer without Saddam Hussein” for the 4th time. We are a little over 5 minutes in and he’s said that 4 times. Good old fashioned Republican drumbeating.
9:17 – “Iraq was not even close to the center of the war on terror before the President invaded it.” Senator Kerry’s rebuttal to Bush’s statements on the war on terror. I think I’m standing up cheering. Kick his ass, Seabass!
9:18 – The first 1 minute extension. Bush is really hammering the flip-flopper motif. It must have been a talking point, or something.
9:19 – Kerry’s 30 second response “I think we need a President who has the credibility to bring our allies back to the table.” No one in the States really talks about this, but are we the most hated country in the world right now? We are, right? Are we 2nd most hated right now, or are we 1st, because if we’re 2nd shouldn’t we do more to be more hated? Can Bush invade Portugal? We should be #1 in everything, dammit! Fuck everyone! America rules! God this is fun.
9:23 – Bush just said this sentence. “We’re communicating better.” He was talking about his administrations efforts at coalition building, but it’s still a funny sentence nonetheless. Hi, I’m George Bush. English is my second language. I’m sorry, I’m mocking here, but I kinda feel like Kerry’s kicking some serious ass right now. I will now do a little jig.
9:24 – “I wake up everyday thinking about how to protect America.” That’s a relief. I feel better now. Good point, George.
9:26 – A free Iraq will help support Israel? What exactly does that mean? That's the first time I've heard of this connection, and I stay pretty up to date. I need an explanation. This man is so fucking frustrating.
9:28 – “What kind of message is it to say help is on the way? That’s not what a commander in chief says.” I think we officially saw Bush panic for the first time. At least it looks like a panic response when it could just have been a talking point. My God have I become a partisan mother fucker. Let’s get this man out of office so that I can go back to largely ignoring the Beltway and detesting both sides for their lack of vision, because I’m just too hip to care about this. (To be honest, I am a highly political person. If you hadn’t guessed that yet. I just think politics is something of a hustle. But if you want to know why I identify with Democrats, it is simple. Women's and minority rights. The rest is codshit to me, but as long as one party is trying to remove the right's of those who can't properly defend themselves, I'm voting for the other side. Still, I can't stand the system, the self feeding and self perpetuating circle it's created. It bothers me.)
9:34 – I think Bush wants to take a swing at Kerry. I think he’d like to rubberneck him, just clock him upside the head. Even though I disagree with Bush’s stance about the Grand Coalition (we do, after all, bear 90% of the burden, financially and in man power), I can see how people who enjoyed his indignation at Kerry’s alleged insult to the rest of the world. Kerry should have been clearer on that point. Give the number of troops, the number of deaths. How many British and Australian and Polish have died in comparison to American soldiers? I don’t know the answer to that, and you don’t want to count the dead, but Kerry needed to slip in the numbers there.
9:37 – He just did. Well done, Kerry! Well done. But I made a good point. Someone in politics should hire me for this shit. I’m a baaaaaaad man. I’m back to doing my jig, by the way.
9:41 – “Osama bin Laden doesn’t dictate the war on Iraq. I decide. I decided.” This isn’t a point, George. I repeat. This. Is. Not. A. Point. That doesn’t answer anything. Now you’re going bring up the… yep! I couldn’t even get out the flip flop point. It’s amazing how Bush circles back to a campaign point in a debate on foreign policy.
9:49 – I think Kerry just pulled what Bush would call a flip flop. Crap. He was going for nuance, which is something that this format just doesn’t allow. He was trying to explain the point of his plan on Iraq, given all of the confusion and the basic facts of a transition of power, but he just gave Bush an opening. Thankfully, he is doing a good job of pinning Bush on the lack of an operational plan in Iraq. Let’s see how Bush does.
9:51 – “We’re training, we’re doing the training. It’s hard work, and we have a determined enemy.” That was Bush’s retort. I wonder why people buy into this shit. Politics in general is a world of sound bite and spin, the creative packaging on the product you are pitching. I don’t pretend that Bush is stupid; he is not a stupid man. Simple, yes, but he knows exactly how to stay on point. And, for some reason, people buy that as an answer, when it’s not addressing anything. I blame the media. DAMN YOU MEDIA!
9:54 – “I think by speaking clearly, and doing what we say, and not sending mixed messages.” This has to be the 30th time Bush has said this. After awhile you have to realize the repetition has reason, beyond the obviously political one. The reason is, I think, that he just doesn’t have the answer. There is no plan, there is no there, there.
9:55 – “He just said, ‘The enemy attacked us.’ Saddam Hussein didn’t attack us. Osama bin Laden attacked us. Al Queda attacked us… that’s the enemy that attacked us. That’s the enemy that walked out of those mountains.” Amen! As a New Yorker, as someone who watched the World Trade Center fall I can only hope that people get that. I want retribution for those crimes, and retribution is a powerful, awful, hateful word. I want those fuckers to pay. You cannot imagine, if you were not in this city what that was like. But that was the best point of the debate so far. Bin Laden razed those buildings. And bin Laden is still out there.
9:59 – “What is at test here is the credibility of the United States.” That was Kerry, of course. I don’t really think I need to identify who is speaking. It’s seems obvious. But that is so very true. I’d like to apologize right now to the rest of the world. Our bad. We fucked up. Sorry. Oops.
10:01 – SPEAK ENGLISH MOTHER FUCKER! SPEAK! Good fucking lord, it's your native tongue. Fuck! Bush went to Yale! When did this stutter, duh, duh start? This man is my President. Good God I’m embarrassed right now. Oh, by the way, I’m not voting for Bush on November 2. I know that was hard to tell so far. Just thought I’d let you know.
10:04 – “With respect to Iran, the British, German, and French were the ones who brought Iran to the table, without America, regrettably.” Hi, my name is John Kerry. I know you don’t know me, but I actually have a grasp of the facts. Vote for me.
10:11 – “I admire Senator Kerry’s service to our country.” I hope Kerry hammers him on this point. Bring up the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, because if Bush really did admire it, he would have put the smack down on those ads. And, by the way, I am an American, and this is my political system.
10:14 – “It’s one thing to be certain. But you can be certain and be wrong.” I think that’s the first time that Kerry has nailed Bush on the intractability of his vision. I’m liking Kerry tonight. He’s doing well. Smart, articulate, pointed, and he has been forceful. Admit it, if you are watching, he more than deserves the chance. He can do it. You know you’re thinking he can do it.
10:17 – “You talk about mixed messages. We’re telling the world you can’t have nuclear weapons and this President is funding the development of nuclear weapons.” Did anyone know this? Why is no one talking about this? Are you flipping kidding me? We are developing nuclear weapons still? Did I just say flipping?
10:21 – Last question of the evening. On President Putin of Russia, which, although Jim Lehrer has done a very good job with his question, should have been placed in the middle of the debate so he could bring wrap up the debate with a question more relevant to the American people. However, Lehrer did a great job as moderator. A smart man.
Well, they are saying their closing statements right now, so I’m going to wrap up here. I was not looking forward to this debate, mainly because I did not think the format would actually bode well for fostering open conversation and argument, but I was very wrong. The distinction between the two candidates became imminently clear. Both bases will be happy with their man, I’d assume, but personally, I think Kerry kicked Bush’s ass on a few very key points. There were no knockout blows thrown, no man was the obvious winner, and neither man made a clear gaff that could permanently hurt him. But who cares. I’m not a political pundit. I think Kerry did one thing tonight that was incredibly important. He showed, without a shadow of a doubt, that he is a bright, decisive, intelligent and passionate man with a grasp of world and domestic events. He qualified himself for the role of Commander in Chief. If those aren’t the qualities that Americans want as a President, then I don’t know what to do.
Because there has been a sense of dread around here of late, and I don’t know how you don’t tie that directly to the leadership, policies and decisions my President has made over the past 3+ years. But that’s just my opinion, just one man’s thought. And in November just one man’s vote.
What I'd like to see now is for the press to actually do it's job. Don't parse the message. Don't give me the highlights. Don't grade the performances. Go do some reporting. Fact check the things they said, get behind the statements. Analyze their policies and tell me what each means for me, in the short term and in the long term. It's not your access to politicians that's at stake, it's my belief in your ability to defend me from their spin doctoring and slogan dropping. Let's see what happens from here.