Here is where we are: We’re back in my apartment again.
Here is what we are doing: We’re about to watch the third, and last, Presidential Debate. I wrote on this for the first one, in the same format you will find here, but I'm not so sure it’s going to be as fruitful this time around. We know what the candidates are going to say, we know their positions. There is still, however, something interesting about this last go round.
Namely, George Bush got his hat handed to him in the first two. You can argue this all you want, but to any reasonable mind, there is no possible way to not see Kerry as the clear and distinct winner of the first two. And I’m interested in this debate for one simple reason. I think Bush feels that he needs a homerun. I think there’s a lot of pressure on him, both personally, and from his party. One thing that struck me about the last debate was how aggressive he seemed. It was a level of hyperactivity that I think his base can point to and spin to the positive, but there is a fine line to walk. If he gets riled, if Kerry knocks him one hard, I think there’s a distinct chance we may see a Presidential candidate, a sitting President no less, lose it. I don’t think the election will be won tonight. But it can certainly be lost.
Here’s another interesting tidbit. Look back at the history of sitting Presidents and how they fared in reelection. There is almost never a close race. Almost never. It is a landslide, always, either in loss or victory. They don’t go down to the wire, mainly because, no matter what the candidates try to pretend, the central question is always a simple one: Do we think this man deserves a second term. That answer usually comes in a resounding yes or a roar of a no. And with people registering to vote for the first time—I am amongst this group—in record numbers, as close as this election is, I think it’s going to be an asswhopping one way or the other. And the momentum, the tides, are not for our President. Should be an interesting night.
One last thought before we begin. There is a lot said about this man, this George Bush. Much of it personal and incredibly negative. He is, to my mind, the most divisive political presence of my lifetime. People either love him, or they hate his guts. Here is where I come down. I do not think he is a stupid man. I do not think he is a bad man. I just don’t think his mind works in a way that many can understand; in truth, I do not believe it works correctly. I find that dangerous.
It also bothers me to have a President who, although I just said I don’t think he is stupid, I know I am smarter than. By a long stretch. I’m not saying the President has to be up to my level, but it makes me uncomfortable that the one I live under right now is so egregiously below. Since when intellectualy turgidy a quality we seek in our leaders?
Anyway, those are my thoughts. The debates are about to begin. The puppets of Georgie Porgie Pudin and Pie and Johnny Kerry the Dapper Dandy are about to waddle to the stage. So let’s begin.
9:03 – The candidates just took the podium. Kerry has a huge smile on his face. A confident smile.
9:04 – “Will our children and grandchildren ever live in a world that is as safe as the one that we grew up in?” That is the first question. What a whopper. Great, great, great fucking question. I wish moderators would get more theoretical, more philosophical. The candidates will obviously bring the discussion back to boilerplate campaign rhetoric, but it opens up the opportunity for expansion and exposition. It welcomes them to at least reach for greatness. I like this opening. And Kerry, while he is mired in campaign speak, is answering well.
9:06 – “If we spread freedom and liberty around the world… Freedom is on the march.” That was Bush’s answer. It’s a fine answer. But I don’t understand this idea that Americans are a freedom loving people. I think it oversimplifies the issue. I think we are a life loving people, but I think everyone is, from any nation. Freedom is an abstract, a construct, and one that makes sense and is admirable to a point, but I don’t live my life thinking about freedom or liberty or truth and justice. I live my life thinking about my life.
9:08 – I know I said Bush might be desperate, might panic. But he seems poised in a way I’ve actually never seen him. Conversational and colloquial, but not in a regional sense. He is relaxed. He is calm. He also seems to have a grasp of basic facts, which is something I rarely think about this man. Crapola.
9:10 – “We have a problem with frivolous litigation in this country. Vaccine manufacturers are worried about getting sued.” Dubya right there. This connection is so tenuous as to be ridiculous. You could sneeze and blink with blurry eyes and see the politics behind the statement. One of the things I hopes happens with my generation about to vote in record numbers is the effect of elevating political discourse. We are a suspicious generation; we don’t trust much of anything (although I can’t speak for the teens and early 20s). I would hope that politicians begin to talk to us, in English and complete sentences. I ask you a question. You answer THAT question, not the one you just asked yourself in your own head because you weren’t listening to me.
9:13 – I don’t like how calm Bush is being. This may be his best performance to date if things go on like this. To use a sports analogy, to win this one as clearly as Kerry has the other two, he’s going to have to find another gear, another level.
9:15 – Kerry doesn’t seem as strong. I think Buddha Bush has thrown him as well. Now if you want to talk political tactics, getting Bush to calm himself is a brilliant maneuver. Or as the Guinness people say, BRILLIANT! Kerry is going to have to hammer Bush on his record, as the President is attempting to do right now. As a retort, Kerry should nail the President on his economic record, because he doesn’t really have one.
9:18 – Someone needs to tell Bush that he has spit in the corner of his lip. Um, George, there’s, like spittle in the corner of your mouth. Spittle. Dude, there’s spittle.
9:25 – Sorry, I had to take a work related phone call. I’m back.
9:26 – “Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?” WOW! What a fucking question. They aren’t going to answer this the right way, so let me take this one, Charlie. Do you mind, Mr. President? Mr. Kerry? No, good. Here’s the answer, in no uncertain terms. Hell no it’s not a choice! Do you think people choose to be discriminated against? Would someone choose second class citizen status? To choose to grow up always questioning why you are not like the others? If you do you are a fool. Now, Bush is going to bring up his activists judges point, which is in his talking points, but is a fabric thin ghost of an argument. When the courts allowed miscegenation, it was not a popular choice. When the 14th Amendment was passed, it was not a popular choice. Civil Rights was not the "no shit" argument that it is now. These conversations may have reached a fevered pitch, finally and ultimately drowning out the asinine assertions of the amped in few, but these were not popular choices. They were right choices. The courts do not decide what is most acceptable to the American public; it decides what is right by the laws of this land. I hate to rest on this, but if we are all created equal, then why are we not all equal. This is the most important civil debate on our times. I feel that 30 years from now, as we look back, it is an issue that we just do not want to be wrong on. Fuck who you want to fuck. Love who you love. Be who the hell you are, because most people don’t even have the strength for that endeavor.
9:35 – What is the $28 Million dollar cost that irresponsible lawsuits cost this country when compared with a $500 Trillion dollar deficit? Can someone answer that? They are not related, but isn’t Bush confusing the forest for trees when he makes this disingenuous statement?
9:39 – I’m sorry, but when we talk about health care in politics, am I the only American who ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…
9:40 – “I will give you, the American people, the access to the same health care that politics approve for themselves,” Kerry said. I wish we cared more about the health care, salaries, raises and other sundry perks that politicians grant themselves in comparison to the options laid out for average American citizens.
9:43 – I want to say that Bush is doing a hell of a job tonight. Asswipe.
9:45 – I understand why people who are drawn to this man. He can have such an easy way of speaking, a conversational tone, an everyman manner about him. It must have come from growing up in the suburbs, the youngest of 7, his mother working 2 jobs, the State education he got on college loans. He is just like you and me. He grew up like me. He understands me.
9:48 – If Kerry says, “the top 1% of America” one more time I’m going to pop him in the nose. While I do think that those who benefit the most from this country should bear the greatest burden, the idea that the nation’s wealthiest give back disproportionately is ridiculous. I have a friend who earns well over $1 Million a year. He also pays about 50% of that to the federal government, which is close to 35% more than I did last year. So he paid his due. But, in an economic slow time, if the taxing of the top 1% is going to help us out of this, and I think it makes sense that it should, I’m not going to feel sorry for them either.
9:52 – Okay, that’s it. The whole theory of Bush and the bulge in his pocket, the radio transmitter that is feeding him answers, is gaining credence with me. Who the fuck is this man? He speaks, he argues, he makes a point. What the fuck?
9:55 – “To say that the borders are less protected than they were on 9/11 shows he doesn’t know the borders.” This is a classic Bush rhetorical repetition, and opens the door for Kerry to pound him on the facts, if he has access to them.
9:56 – And he does have them.
9:57 – “I’m tired of politicians who talk about family values, but don’t value families.” Did Kerry just say that? Did he? Did he pull that one out? That is the line of the night. He’s got a head of steam; roll up your sleeves, Kerry is kicking in doors. Hold on, I have to do a little dance.
9:59 – Bush is now touting his No Child Left Behind Act. How do you politically stand on a program that is an across the board failure that you yourself underfunded? That takes balls, my friends.
10:01 – “I’m not going to appoint a judge who’s going to undo a constitutional right.” I’m beginning to think that Kerry might not just be worth my vote, I’m beginning to think he is more than the better of two evils, and I don’t know why I think this, but I’m beginning to think that he just gets it.
10:02 – “Liberal Senator from Massachusetts,” and next Bush will pull out his liar, liar pants on fire defense.
10:03 – Wow, Kerry is starting to hit back. It’s like Ali in Zaire, the rope a dope. Rumble young man, rumble!
10:04 – Non secquitor aside: Angelina Jolie is the sexiest thing on Earth. I don’t think we talk about this enough, and we really should. She is, hands down, the most alluring, interesting and hotttttest female on the face of the globe. Hell, in the universe. If I am elected President, I vow to the American people that we will all see enough of Angelina Jolie. It’s good for moral. It’s good for the blood. Hell, it’s just good. Aside done. God bless America, and God bless Angelina Jolie.
10:07 – Did the National Reservists President Bush just mentioned (the one's he met with you told him they were proud of the job they were doing in Iraq and didn't feel put upon) did they have to sign a loyalty oath before meeting him?
10:08 – When Bush brings up this “global test” quote that he loves tagging Kerry with it just gives the Senator another opportunity to talk logic, to speak rationally, to give the answer that most of us know is the central truth in Iraq today: you fucked up, son.
10:11 – I don’t understand the gun debate. I just don’t. What’s the point, really? I will stipulate, for the sake of conversation, that we should all be allowed to own a gun. Let’s allow that as a fact for a second, although I don’t understand this either, that we need guns. Then what is the logic, what is the reason, that any of us, at any point, under and reasonable circumstances, need an automatic weapon? What is the reasoning behind this?
10:13 – “It just isn’t true that I didn’t meet with the Black Congressional Caucus. I met with the Black Congressional Caucus.” Good for you, George. Here’s a cookie, go sit in the corner. By the way, have you met the NAACP?
10:16 – “Prayer and religion sustained me. I love the fact that people pray for me and my family. Religion is an important part.” It’s hard to be skeptical about the President on this point. I think religion is probably the most important part of this man’s life. And I think it plays too large a roll in his politics, which he, very subtly, admitted right there. Still, as frustrating as this man is to me, as skeptical as I am about religion as an institution, I would never begrudge him his own faith. Just keep it out of my damn living room.
10:20 – “The President who proclaimed himself a uniter and not a divider is presiding over the most bitterly divided time.” Didn’t I say that? Someone should really hire me for this shit. I’m a baaaaaaaad man. But this is a point that needs to be hammered home. In the days, weeks and months after Sept. 11 we were the most thought of and cared for nation in the world. We are now the most hated, or 2nd most hated, which is not just unfortunate, it’s tragic.
10:22 – “I was surprised at how partisan Washington was when I came here.” Are you not ever accountable for anything? How is it, in 4 years in office, that you have not once been the cause of fulcrum of any of our countries problems? You are the President? You are the leader? You like that word, leader, but you don’t understand the fundamental responsibilities that any leader should understand. If it goes wrong under you, if things go sour, people will look to you to not just admit it, but to lead us out of it. And on that account, Mr. President, you have failed me. You have also inspired me to vote. Against you.
They are right now making their closing statements, so I’m going to wrap up here. I hope, that in analyzing this debate, that pundits do not confuse exceeding expectations for winning. Because although the President was far more literate and composed than he has been in the past, this is not the same thing as winning the debate. This is a man who has thrived on low expectations, but the truth is, this election is as much about terrorism than it is about whether or not this man has earned the right at 4 more years, or deserves to be fired. Apply what standard you will, but in tonight’s debate I think Kerry went 3 for 3. It took a bit for him to get going, but once he got his legs under him he just beat the crap out of the President on policy and the facts.
One final thought: Bob Schaeffer is a brilliant moderator. He did a remarkable job. Now I will let the talking heads and useless spin doctors have their way with you, in the hopes that the news outlets will not comment tomorrow on style or fireworks, but will rather analyze the candidate’s statements. Tell me what I need to know. Protect me from a system that hides itself from me to begin with.
Peace, and go with Angelina Jolie.