Friday, October 01, 2004

Cobbled from Olbermann

Ripped this off from MSNBC, though I feel very comfortable with Keith Olbermann, I think I have been watching his since I could drive.

September 30, 2004 | 11:43 p.m. ET

The tie goes to the challenger (Keith Olbermann)

If you had heard John Kerry and George Bush for the first time in this first debate, it would've been hard for you to figure out which one was the president, and which one the challenger struggling to coalesce his campaign.

That is very bad news for George Bush.

Kerry still fell periodically into the quicksand of his familiar Senatespeak, still sometimes must have blinded viewers with his ellipses, still occasionally had to have had them banging their ears to clear out his lapses back towards the unnecessary role of East Coast Distributor of Statesmanship. But for ninety minutes at the University of Miami, the Senator never once seemed off guard, never once seemed the wannabe victim of a practiced and seasoned incumbent, never seemed like he was in anything worse than a tie ballgame.

From his first bold statement, accusing Mr. Bush of a "colossal" mistake in judgment in Iraq, through his ominous pronouncement that "certainty can sometimes get you into trouble," to his last stiletto twist of quoting the poet laureate of conservatism George Will about Russian democracy's lost momentum, John Kerry never seemed to flip-flop, never seemed flustered, never seemed out of focus.

President Bush, once unfairly described as sounding like a 2nd Grade Teacher frustrated because Kindergarten students didn't intuitively understand him, at times came close to justifying that bitter evaluation. Twice at least he seemed visibly exasperated by Kerry— ready to turn on seeming softballs, but unable to connect. "Course we've done everything to protect this country," he began one reply, then petered out. Later offered another opportunity to pound Kerry after the Senator reminded the audience that Osama Bin Laden had attacked this country, not Saddam Hussein, Mr. Bush began "I know Osama Bin Laden attacked us," and then paused as if that statement had led him not towards an easy parallel between threats realized and threats pending, but rather down a dead-end alley. He took the alley.

In trying to explain his own previous use of the term "miscalculation" in regards to Iraq, the President appeared to get lost in the kind of entangled nuance which his party has so effectively criticized in Kerry. His explanation of the fact of the insurgency might've been boiled down to 'we won too fast'— and by that point, the President's breathing itself seemed labored.

By the time Mr. Bush made perhaps his most important news, in his concluding remarks— that in a second administration, the military would remain all-volunteer— the meaningfulness of the remark had lost its impact. It had been fifteen minutes since Kerry had proclaimed that a "backdoor draft" had already been instituted in this country, and that the nation's armed forces were "overextended." The President's forceful answer was so delayed as to be relegated to an afterthought, the kind of mot juste that comes to you on the way home from the party.

It is impossible to gauge, in an era recently and aptly described as the time when vast numbers of the electorate don't want to hear what they don't already believe, if Kerry's forcefulness and the president's frequent struggles will have any profound effect on the polls, or on the election itself. But it is impossible to believe that undecideds, or even Mr. Bush's supporters, could have watched this debate and thought that the president had put his opponent away, or made Senator Kerry seem unpresidential.

A personally popular, image-creating and image-employing president— man who has triumphed, rightly or wrongly, by rendering the complex issue into the simple and stalwartly-held belief—should have looked at least as in command as his challenger. And he simply did not. By Joe Scarborough's count, the president fell back no less than eleven times on the cliche "It's hard work."

Tonight, for him, it certainly seemed to be exactly that.