3rd Debate 1st Thoughts

The questions were limp. Ever hear of the environment? John Ashcroft?

If Bush could have bottled his best ten minutes he would have defeated Kerry's worst. But it's a 90 minute event. And Kerry stumbled only once that I caught (I think the Congressional Black Caucus has been in the White House1). Bush stumbled often, looking lost. That smirk crept back. And he got caught out badly on jobs, on how students are losing their lunches. Kerry had several zingers, on jobs, minimum wage, health care. For example, the line about telling union workers that he can't stop all outsourcing is pretty obvious but it will play well.

Bush at his best was better than in the previous debates—notably in pointing up Kerry's opposition to the First Gulf War authorization; but for the middle part of the debate he looked alternately lost, scared, smirky. It was odd. The line about not trusting the press oh never mind was not just unpresidential, it was strange. Bush ducked the Roe v. Wade question, and it showed. That helps with the base, but I don't think it helps with the nation as a whole. Kerry also nailed the guns question after Bush said he ducked supporting the assault weapons ban because he didn't think it would pass—Kerry said that was a failure of leadership, and he could do what Clinton did: pass the bill with the help of law enforcement officers who support it.

In my view, Bush was better than before — but so was Kerry. He looked like a President, and I think he actually inspired, yes John Kerry inspired, when he talked about fairness. Bush will have scored points talking about faith, but I'll take works please. [It's interesting that the candidates' debate reflects the fault line in US Protestantism regarding faith vs. works, the tension that famously destroyed the hegemony of the Puritan divines in Massachusetts shortly after the American Revolution. It's also interesting to hear Catholic Bostonian Kerry giving the salvation through works line, while it's unchurched Protestant Southerner Bush, the man whose works are not working, is in essence arguing for blind faith. Sociologists of religion will be quoting this stuff for years.]

But it doesn't matter what I think, what matters is what the country thought.

[Update 10/14: Insta-polls say Kerry won big. ]

1 [Update 10/14] Well, yes and no. See the details at The Carpetbagger Report

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10 Responses to 3rd Debate 1st Thoughts

  1. The most annoying thing about Bush tonight was that, everytime the subject of jobs came up, Bush talked about “education for jobs in the 21st Century”. Someone needs to get Bush a calendar….

  2. Thing is, professor, they will be bottling not Bush’s best 10 minutes, but his best 15 seconds, and Kerry’s worst…better soundbites for Bush from this one without question…

  3. ed says:

    kerry said NAACP..

    bush heard him wrong or, even worse…think they are the same organization.

  4. Night Owl says:

    They should let the candidates ask questions of each other. Moderator is there as ref only.

  5. ed says:

    retraction. Kerry did say CBC, I just read the debate script.

    crap. oh well.

  6. Alina says:

    “What the country thought”? Have you been reading Herder, Matt? Guess that just reminds me of the line in the Nellie McKay song, “The American people have spoken” where she is referring to the 2000 election (sarcastically, of course). The “country” doesn’t think– the people who in America react to what they saw tonight, and then try to digest it through the comfortable filters of family conversation, favorite radio talk shows, and the David Brooks blurb. Good soundbites for Bush, but I think that debates are like sex– it’s all in what you walk away with. If you feel good and warm about the person in question, then they scores points. Bush made people feel the fuzzy stuff. Kerry missed that chance by making the joke about Teresa’s money, and then only describing her instrumentally (which makes the money comment not so funny and a little more eyebrow-raising in retrospect).

  7. Brian Boru says:

    I think that the CBC was in the White House because they bussed themselves over there and barged in uninvited to press their points re:Haiti.

  8. Barry Freed says:

    NPR = Mediawhores

    Here’s some NPR balance for you

    This morning piece on the debates

    They did the Usama bit and did it right.

    But being “journalists” they needed to add some “balance” So they did Kerry’s thing on how 95% of all cargo containers entering American ports remain uninspected. NPR said Kerry told a fib.
    NPRs explanation? 100% of all cargo manifests are read and any dangerous cargo mentioned is flagged and they end up physically inspecting 5% of the cargo containers.

    Say wha?

    Sounds to me like Kerry was right on the money there.

    There’s a difference between physically inspecting cargo containers and merely reading the manifests of the containers.


    Do they think that one day they’ll be able to thwart a terrorist attack that way?

    I can see it now:


    Container 574 23,000 Nike sneakers

    Container 575 1 Atomic bomb, plutonium core, GPS timer

    *calls supervisor*

    Mr. Smith, I think we should physically inspect container 575. Yes, very suspicious.
    OK I’ll pull the…….*BOOOOOM*

    I’d like to suggest that the NPR news staff responsible for that atrocity seek remediation at their nearest Community College under the No Child Left Behind Act.

    At the very least maybe we can outsource their jobs to India?

    Why do they persist on thinking we’re stupid?

  9. ed says:

    yeah, Jesse Jackson is pissed. Bush only met with “members” of the CBC…he never met with the CBC as an entity. So it can be construed as a lie.

    Also. We should be demanding a physical through media pressure.


  10. Forget the physical, I want a patdown and a frequency sweep. And a deposition on George DeParis…someone got to this guy or I can’t imagine him suggesting his suits, after 40 years of serving the white house, hang badly on repeated occasions…

    But it isn’t really a lie that Bush met with the CBC at the White House even if it wasn’t the whole caucus…what’s dishonest is failing to mention that until they stood outside the gates refusing to leave, nobody got in.

    Now, as to the NPR report. Just checked out the audio, from John Ydstie. And barry, I hate to admit it as an NPR junkie, but Ydstie did actually say 95% of containers not being inspected was incomplete on the basis that 5% are inspected, and 95% are manifest checked…seems to me the fact that they choose the 5% on the basis of admissions in manifests is scarier than Kerry’s statement alone…here’s the link (click “listen”):


    However, they did nail Kerry on claiming he’d insure all americans, when 20 million will be uncovered, as he’s been nailed before. And Kerry’s claim of 600 votes for tax cuts is as ridiculous as Bush’s claim of 90+ votes for tax increases. And kerry’s failure, very reminiscent of Reagan’s rewriting the unemployment numbers by including the military, to include government jobs in his claim of job losses by Bush.

    So while I have to point out that Bush got nailed on a lot more by Ydstie, I think they did an honest and fair job of attempting to point out both candidates misstatements, and the container issue, while admittedly ridiculous in the fashion it was stated, did deserve some mention. Since most of these reports were coming from non-NPR factcheckers, tho, at least as the source, even giving soundbite time to the cats running factcheck.org, its not really fair to start tossing around the “whore” title just yet…

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