Debate 1 Recap: Kerry beat Bush on facts. But Bush, being a religious fanatic, stays on message, even though he f-ed up in Iraq. Kerry has no good answer to Bush's oft repeated criticism: How can you say "wrong place, wrong time, wrong war" (that is, make a devastating and accurate critique of prewar machinations) and expect to win the war? How does that inspire the troops? Kerry says he'll "win" by (1) going to the UN, (2) getting more allies involved, (3) strengthening Iraq's borders, (4) giving our troops body armor, (5) "chang[ing] the dynamics of the ground" (i.e., flattening Fallujah), while all the while criticizing the Administration's plan to build 14 military bases in Iraq. That is indeed a contradictory mix of signals. And would France or Germany really commit troops at this point? No. Will Arab nations? Get real. Bush plans to pour it on and kill more people without help; Kerry plans to bring in allies to help us do it, which will never happen. Kerry wants us to stay in Iraq for the usual bleeding heart "humanitarian" reasons (killing rebels for peace); Bush wants to do it to show Americans are tough (and for the oil). Yet I think Democrat and Republican voters alike are secretly banking that both are lying and will do a quick pull-out after the election. Both positions are phony, but Bush is at least internally consistently phony.

UPDATE: From the lead paragraph in the NY Times coverage today: "And it was body language as much as rhetoric and one-liners that distinguished the two candidates in last night's debate. " There they go again, focusing on the cosmetic stuff, avoiding discussion of the issues. "We'll get allies involved." Rii--i-ight.

- tom moody 10-01-2004 6:16 pm

I've been following the DKos reactions. First, there seems to be a recent influx of users that has resulted in a lot more monologuing than dialoguing. I hope it's not gonna jump the shark just yet.

While there has been much frivolous delight at the spanking Bush took on style, and FNC's two faux pas (fake "cowboy vs. metrosexual" story, photoshopping Bush-Kerry handshake to add 3-4 inches to Bush's "stature"), etc., there is also discussion of differences in substance, and how to push substance related memes in letters to newspapers.

On the topic of Iraq, I really don't know the answer. In Vietnam, the issue was simple: just walk away. But Iraq is in an important and volatile region. Just walking away from Bush's act of arson is likely to have larger regional consequences.

Fundamentally, I'm still an ABB kinda guy. However, Kerry revealed a command of facts and issues that I admire. He doesn't have the answer on Iraq, and I haven't seen a good solution from anyone, but I think he has the right emotional and intellectual tools. I'm willing to make a judgement call to be supportive, and give him about 6 months before I start mocking him for incompetence.

- mark 10-02-2004 5:29 am

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