Ohioblog: A Swing State Journal
Thursday, September 30, 2004
Let's not pussyfoot around.
Who won the first of three president debates? Democrat John Kerry.
What difference does it make? Not one bit.
Kerry supporters saw the man they admire. He answered the questions in a straightforward manner (for him). He didn't equivocate. He kept it within the time limit imposed. He wasn't arrogant but he was assertive.
President Bush's supporters saw the man they admire. He never showed a moment of doubt about any of his decisions, including going to war in Iraq. (How many times did he say that Kerry could not lead the armed forces because he has termed Iraq the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time? Two hundred? Three hundred? It seemed like it.) He was a leader's leader, unwavering, resolute, sure that Iraq and Afghanistan can become beacons of democracy that will light the entire Mid East.
The most important moment in the 90-minute debate occurred relatively late, after President Bush had responded to a question from moderator Jim Lehrer as to whether there were any underlying character issues that would prevent Sen. Kerry from being a good president. Bush praised Kerry's service in the Vietnam war (I wonder if the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were tuned in), complimented his family and generally made nicey-nice before returning to his recurring point that a person cannot send mixed messages and lead the United States and the rest of the free world.
``It is,'' Kerry responded, ``one thing to be certain, but you can be certain and wrong.'' He said that when the best leaders get new facts, they use them to make their policies right. Earlier in the debate Kerry had cited the example of a Republican doing this. Abraham Lincoln had been at one time opposed to emancipation. He changed his mind, becoming, I suppose, a flip-flopper. (Maybe we should get him off Mount Rushmore.)
This was a debate filled with as much substance as this form and these circumstances allow. As I type this, the TV is on in the other room and the commentators continue to debate the debate. Elsewhere out there in the blogosphere, others have been writing and will continue the assessments into the small hours. The discussion will go on in homes and offices tomorrow and throughout the weekend. To paraphrase MCSNBC's Chris Matthews: Citizenship began tonight. The candidates did their parts. Now it is up to the potential voters who are undecided or those people who just aren't convinced that democracy is worth the trouble of getting to the polls on Election Day, Nov. 2.
There will be two more debates. The second on Friday, Oct. 8, a town hall forum, and the third on Wednesday, Oct. 13, about domestic issues. Then we'll decide. In between, the candidates will be in Ohio, including the vice presidential candidates, Republican incumbent Dick Cheney and Democratic challenger John Edwards, who will debate Tuesday night at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Maybe they can address the fact that their debate will be taking pace in one of the nicer areas of the most poverty-wracked city in the country. Or, maybe not.
The president will be back on familiar ground Saturday afternoon in Cuyahoga Falls, where the audience will be controlled, the message canned. It wasn't quite that easy Thursday night in Coral Gables, Fla.
- Steve Love
posted by Ohioblog: A Swing State Journal at 11:33 PM
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