Saturday, October 09, 2004

On the Second Debate:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

I have to say it since most of the talking heads will not: Bush won this debate. He was a lot more composed, he avoided the facial scowls and other gaffes that impaired perception of him in the first debate, and the townhall format which allowed for candidates to roam a bit helped him.{1} He also displayed a sense of humour at times -even self deprecatingly so and this can only help with perceptions among anyone who actually is still undecided.{2}

The forum was composed of supposedly "undecided" voters who were the ones who asked the questions and this worked a lot better than having Jim Lehrer throwing hand grenades at Bush and softballs at Kerry.{3} Kerry for his part (based on what I saw of the first debate) did better there with the podium probably because that is how things are done in the Senate with those who come to the floor for speeches. Here he did not look as comfortable walking about but part of that may have been that Bush actually came to fight this time.

It took him a while to really get going{4} but once he did, not only was Kerry kept noticably offbalance most of the night but a couple points where Bush clearly struggled, Kerry did not capitalize on them as he could have. It is not so much that Kerry lost much between the two debates as Bush gained significantly: he started hitting Kerry on his record and making repeated references to his contradictions -responding to several of Kerry's longerwinded and nebulous offerings with "I did not understand what he just said, did you???" kind of comments. And of course, he had what may in retrospect be his equivalent to President Reagan's "I paid for this microphone" moment in his second Carter debate in 1980{5} This moment came at about the twenty-eight minute mark after Kerry lied about the US "going unilaterally" into Iraq. Though Bush had a minor edge up to this point, here is the text of the pivotal point of the debate:

KERRY: We're going to build alliances. We're not going to go unilaterally. We're not going to go alone like this president did.

GIBSON: Mr. President, let's extend for a minute...

BUSH: Let me just -- I've got to answer this.

GIBSON: Exactly. And with Reservists being held on duty... (CROSSTALK)

BUSH: Let me answer what he just said, about around the world.

GIBSON: Well, I want to get into the issue of the back-door draft...

BUSH: You tell Tony Blair we're going alone. Tell Tony Blair we're going alone. Tell Silvio Berlusconi we're going alone. Tell Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland we're going alone.

There are 30 countries there. It denigrates an alliance to say we're going alone, to discount their sacrifices. You cannot lead an alliance if you say, you know, you're going alone. And people listen. They're sacrificing with us.

Kerry then contradicted himself (surprise surprise) by claiming that countries were "leaving the coalition." Of course how they could "leave" a coalition when we were "going unilaterally" (Kerry 29 minutes into the debate vs. Kerry 28 minutes into the debate) is a mystery to me. But then again, to see yet another position reversal by the junior Senator from MA but after probably a few hundred of them in this election season alone (not to mention Kerry's senate voting inconsistencies) is not surprising. Instead it is tiring and predictable.

Because he sought to expose Senator Kerry's senate record (and succeeded in highlighting key contradictions in Kerry's position - even in his campaign positions on the war), this debate has to go to the President. He could have done a better job but compared to the first debate, the improvement was significant. And he took the fight to Kerry this time unlike last time where he (from the text as I did not see the debate live) did not make the effort to unmask Kerry before the viewing audience. This enabled Kerry to remain confident before whereas that swagger was gone this time. Instead it was Bush who was swaggering -arguably a bit too much- but it was clear to all but most of the meatheads of MSM (and the died-in-the-wool sorts who would vote for"anybody but Bush") who won this debate. But Bush cannot rest on his laurels here. He must be more forceful in the third debate and hit these same points harder. The Duelfer report (released yesterday and mentioned in passing by both candidates) is predominantly favourable to President Bush and undermines Kerry's foreign policy plans. The president needs to use this as a source to go hard at Kerry in the third debate. He won the second debate handily but not to the extent that he lost the first one. If he turns in a performance akin to that of yesterday's he probably will not succeed because Kerry will be ready unlike for the second debate.{6} So if he wants to take from Kerry a golden opportunity to score points in the third debate and close the gap between them, he has to win the third debate or at least draw a stalemate. And yesterday's performance duplicated will not be enough for either if Kerry is even moderately capable of adapting in light of what happened in the second debate.


{1} As one who likes to roam a bit when I talk, I can see that President Bush has this preference too.

{2} Perhaps the one thing that helped both candidates a bit was the ability to take notes at various points during the opponent's speaking to collect points to touch on in responding.

{3} I have read most of the first debate's text and that is precisely what was happening there.

{4} Twenty-eight plus minutes into the ninety minute debate to be more precise.

{5} Or Reagan's quip about age and how he "refused to take advantage of [his] opponents' youth and inexperience" in the second 1984 debate.

{6} Unless tanking the first debate to get Kerry to underestimate him for the second debate -where the format was more favourable to the president- was a plan of Karl Rove. If it was, then it worked quite nicely.

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Friday, October 08, 2004

Briefly on Hanoi John Kerry, the First Debate, and What President Bush Needs to Do in the Second Debate:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

Assuming for a moment that CBS has not doctored the debate text,{1} I will peruse parts of the text of the debate and point out contradictions that I can perceive in short order. Time will not allow me to study the full text as thoroughly as I would like; however, without further ado, let us get to it.

(Kerry) I believe America is safest and strongest when we are leading the world and we are leading strong alliances.

Which is why your sister is in Australia trying to influence their upcoming elections to undermine one of our allies in the war on terror.

I'll never give a veto to any country over our security. But I also know how to lead those alliances.

But of course the UN is not a country Senator. Therefore, if they said we could not defend ourselves, what would your answer be??? I think we all know and it is not a good policy by any stretch.

(Kerry) This president has left them in shatters across the globe, and we're now 90 percent of the casualties in Iraq and 90 percent of the costs.

How would we bear less of the cost if the UN was involved in a war in Iraq Senator Kerry??? Furthermore, why do you ignore the deaths of Iraqis who have sided with us against the seditionists??? And finally, even if your 90% figure is correct Senator, how would that be any different than the casualty numbers from the first Gulf War -where we fielded about 85% of the fighting forces and sustained by far more casualties than anyone else. Even if our casualty totals were on the whole not very high, the ratios are about the same now as they were then.

(Kerry) I think that's wrong, and I think we can do better.

Anyone can say this: talk is cheap.

(Kerry) I have a better plan for homeland security.

Tell us your plan then and stop this Nixonian "I have a secret plan" crap that you have been throwing around. Give us a chance to know what you plan to do because otherwise we are being expected to trust you at your word: a chilling proposition if ever there was one sir.

(Kerry) I have a better plan to be able to fight the war on terror by strengthening our military,

You voted against every military program that came up for a vote in your Senate tenure!!! How is this record supposed to give anyone comfort??? I am unaware of any about face you have done on your entire Senate career voting trackrecord -preferring instead to avoid discussing it at all costs. The truth is, you would have WEAKENED our military Senator, not strengthened it. This is a well established fact beyond debate. If you dispute it, then openly discuss your abysmal Senate voting record on military spending and programs. Senator Zell Miller was right when he outlined your record in his keynote address back in September.{2} That you are running from your record like a vampire fleeing a crucifix is all that those of us paying attention to these matters need to know about you.

(Kerry) strengthening our intelligence, by going after the financing more authoritatively, by doing what we need to do to rebuild the alliances,

You have been belittling the coalition we already have Senator. You do not show coalition building capabilities when you sabotage existing coalitions because other nations have no reason to believe that you would act differently if they did come on board.

(Kerry) I know I can do a better job in Iraq. I have a plan to have a summit with all of the allies, something this president has not yet achieved, not yet been able to do to bring people to the table.

Earth to Hanoi John: the French and Germans have indicated that they want no part of a coalition period. You have even admitted that the French and Germans are not going to join your mythical "grand coalition." And besides, the last war where there was a coalition akin to what you claim you would support this time, you voted against that war effort. (Referring to Desert Storm.) You not only voted against the war resolution but you delivered a big speech about why you opposed it. Again, discuss your REAL record on these matters Senator, that is something that your supporters need to be aware of. (As most of them are not.)

Bush's response to Kerry's comments were decent. He pointed out that Libya has agreed to disarm, 75% of Al Queda have been snuffed out thus far, Saddam Hussein is in prison, and there will be free elections in Afghanistan and also in Iraq. He also pointed out that the strategy in the war on terror is a "multi-pronged one." All in all good but I would have spent at least thirty seconds delving into Kerry's voting record on past coalition efforts, military spending/defense programs, and his belittling of most of our coalition partners and attempted sabotage (via his sister) of Australia: another coalition ally.

(Kerry) But we also have to be smart, Jim. And smart means not diverting your attention from the real war on terror in Afghanistan against Osama bin Laden and taking if off to Iraq where the 9/11 Commission confirms there was no connection to 9/11 itself.

The 9/11 commission said no such thing. This is a LIE Senator. Furthermore, you yourself from 1997-2002 made numerous statements about Saddam Hussein being a threat because of possession of WMD's and the capabilities to produce them for distribution to other rogue states. Here are just a sample of your previous positions:

"[We] urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs." [Letter to President Clinton signed by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI), Tom Daschle (D-SD), John Kerry (D-MA), and others Oct. 9, 1998]

"I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force-- if necessary-- to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security." [Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA), Oct. 9, 2002]

But Senator, we were fighting in Afghanistan at the time!!! Why would you vote to give authority to use force in Iraq when we were already in Afghanistan in 2002 then -and NOW you say you would not have done this??? Whom do we go with, the Kerry of 2002 or the Kerry of 2004???

More could be noted but what is noted here is enough points for President Bush to utilize repeatedly until those of good will who mistakenly support Kerry begin to see this man's foreign policy for what it really is. For the rest, they are hopeless and beyond reaching but (hopefully) those of good will who are confused will wake up before November and recognize what others who personally do not like President Bush but who --understanding many of the underlying issues-- recognize about the war on terror and its actual scope and implications.{3} I may posit more from the debate later on but Bush needs to hit it hard tonight.

The problem is, he squandered the foreign policy debate to really bury Kerry. This next debate is the economy issue. Bush needs to point to the war on terror and 9/11 as something that resulted in a loss of jobs and slowing of the economy in many sectors for months afterward. Remember, we were going into recession in 2000 before Bush was even elected. It would also not hurt in light of how Kerry likes to pin the "big corporations" tag on Bush that (i) it was big corporations who profited during the bubble of the late 1990's and (ii) the bubble bursting in 1999 was a large reason why we went into a recession in 2000 -the recovery of which was retarded by 9/11 and its aftermath.

In summary, (i) the bubble burst (ii) the US intelligence was severely impaired (iii) the military of the United States was significantly weakened, and (iv) all of this contributed to the economic recession of 2000-2002 and the attack on US soil on 9/11. If we are going to blame everything on the president "whose watch" things happen on, I have to point out that President Bush was not sworn into office until 2001. Therefore, one would have to (if they were consistent) look at who was president during the 1990's during the tech bubble inflation/explosion and the weakening of the military in equipment and intelligence took place after the buildup by President Reagan and its maintenance by President George H. W. Bush.

But then again, since the president whose watch sowed the seeds of the recession and the terrorist attack of 9/11 is an ally of the anti-W crowd, do not expect them to do this. For liberalism in its extreme forms is not a political philosophy but instead it is a mental disorder. And as with all mental disorders where logic and reason are impaired by a weltanschauung of solipsism, consistency is the first and most tragic casualty.


{1} Which as we all know is no minor presumption to be making by any means.

{2} [Democrats such as Senator Kerry] claimed Carter's pacifism would lead to peace.

They were wrong.

They claimed Reagan's defense buildup would lead to war.

They were wrong.

And, no pair has been more wrong, more loudly, more often than the two Senators from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry.

Together, Kennedy/Kerry have opposed the very weapons system that won the Cold War and that is now winning the War on Terror.

Listing all the weapon systems that Senator Kerry tried his best to shut down sounds like an auctioneer selling off our national security but Americans need to know the facts.

The B-1 bomber, that Senator Kerry opposed, dropped 40% of the bombs in the first six months of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The B-2 bomber, that Senator Kerry opposed, delivered air strikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Hussein's command post in Iraq.

The F-14A Tomcats, that Senator Kerry opposed, shot down Khadifi's Libyan MIGs over the Gulf of Sidra. The modernized F-14D, that Senator Kerry opposed, delivered missile strikes against Tora Bora.

The Apache helicopter, that Senator Kerry opposed, took out those Republican Guard tanks in Kuwait in the Gulf War. The F-15 Eagles, that Senator Kerry opposed, flew cover over our Nation's Capital and this very city after 9/11.

I could go on and on and on: Against the Patriot Missile that shot down Saddam Hussein's scud missiles over Israel, Against the Aegis air-defense cruiser, Against the Strategic Defense Initiative, Against the Trident missile, against, against, against.

This is the man who wants to be the Commander in Chief of our U.S. Armed Forces?

U.S. forces armed with what? Spitballs?

Twenty years of votes can tell you much more about a man than twenty weeks of campaign rhetoric.

Campaign talk tells people who you want them to think you are. How you vote tells people who you really are deep inside. [The Honourable Senator Zell Miller (D - GA) circa September 1, 2004]

{3} The Case for George W. Bush [Esquire article by liberal columnist Tom Junod circa August 2004]

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