Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Debate Preview

Tomorrow night we will see the first of three scheduled debates between John Kerry and George W. Bush. Pundits, bobbleheads, and bloggers (myself included) have been giving advice to both candidates ranging from what to say, how to say it, and even how to appear while saying it. While nobody can predict the exact wording, I believe that we can look to past performances to predict the overall course that the debate will take.

When examining the transcripts from the 2000 debates, you see the Bush approach: talking points. If there is one thing that we can give George Bush credit for, it's staying on message. Even if the message has nothing to do with the question that was asked, Bush will not deviate from the script. His script includes, among other things, such politically astute techniques such as mocking and ridicule. In 2000, he gave us the following gem:

Here's what we get in 2004:

Is this the talk of a candidate running for the highest office in the country or is this the talk of ajuvenile trying to prove a point when he know's he's wrong? As it turns out in 2000, Gore's math wasn't so fuzzy. The exchange that prompted Bush's fuzzy math retort centered around medicare and Gore said the following:

Now, considering the news that says Medicare premiums are increasing by 17.5%, I'd have to say that Gore's fuzzy math was pretty damned accurate. And it's my belief that Bush knew it at the time. But instead of debating fact, he offered ridicule. He mocked his opponent. Much like what we're seeing now.

When faced with facts that oppose his agenda, he responds with opinion. If you've been reading this blog lately, this has been a big issue with me. Bush, Cheney, Rice, and all the others respond to opposition not with facts and statistics but with unproveable speculation. When asked about July's National Intelligence Estimate, George Bush responded with they were "just guessing." No facts. When John Kerry criticizes the president's handling of the war he responds by calling it one of John Kerry's ever-changing positions. Once again, no facts.

So from Bush, I'm going to predict the following: talking points, talking points, ridicule, talking points, mocking, talking points, and talking points, but no facts. He will stick to the script and offer nothing in terms of proof to support himself.

From Kerry, I expect the same thing we've been seeing on the campaign trail. Clear, pointed attacks, keen observations, and straight-forward plans for the future. The president likes to label Kerry as a gloom-and-doom candidate, but what Bush sees as gloom-and-doom is actually the truth. Kerry is not going to sugar-coat the truth for the sake of the debates. He's open and honest and sometimes honesty isn't pretty. This is a quality I'd personally like to see more of in a president.

In the past, honesty has not been much help to the candidates (ask Mondale about honesty and taxes), but this year I think it's going to be different. After four years of President Bush's lies and deceptions, I know I for one am looking forward to some honesty. Of the two major party candidates running for President, John Kerry is the only one telling us the truth about Iraq. That should be worth something.

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