The Counterpoint

October 13, 2004

Thoughts on the final debate

I attended the 19th annual Silha Lecture tonight, featuring Geneva Overholser speaking on "Finding a Credo for Today's Journalist." My girlfriend incessantly ripped me for using my free time to attend a lecture (apparently it is too geeky), but I went anyway. :). The speaker was an interesting woman with quite a professional background, but her method was slightly dull. Granted that my vision is not the greatest, but from where I sat she seemed to read most of her speech directly off paper.

The ideas that she conveyed were essentially what you would expect from a professional journalist: strive for objectivity and always be honest. She, of course, related this to new media developments such as talk radio and the blogosphere. One concept she mentioned was the idea of greater checks and less humor; for example she said that when she was the editor of the Des Moines Register, they would have running jokes citing sources that didn't exist, and talk about how many times they could get the name mentioned in their articles. With no manner of checks, they were able to get away with this. With the advent of the blogosphere this is no longer a possibility. Even the most minute fact is now subject to review. In fairness, she did repeatedly say she welcomed the advancement of the blogosphere as a new era in journalism.


We stayed down at the Coffman theater (meaning I watched it in an auditorium packed with democrats and liberals) to view the debate, which they had projected on to a large video screen on stage. I foolishly didn't bring a notepad, so I had to scribble some thoughts down on the front and back of the program. The debate was, in my view, exactly the opposite of what media polls are showing (although media polls are essentially meaningless). I thought Bush won a decisive victory tonight.

True that Kerry had better command of the numbers, but I don't believe that the American people just want to hear endless strings of numbers rattled off at them. There has to be some type of passion and connection with the population that I think Bush is a master of. Pay careful attention to some of the answers tonight, if you taped (or just watch a re-run) of the debate. Notice how Bush was much more passionate and emotional with his answers, and seemed to generally care about the average citizen? Kerry seemed almost too rehearsed. He was definitely more prepared than Bush, but he may have prepared so much that his answers became tedious. There didn't seem to be any feeling with the responses Kerry gave.

Other thoughts that I jotted down:

  • I thought it was smart of Kerry to keep mentioning republicans, until Bush FINALLY reminded everybody that people like McCain are supporting his candidacy, and not Kerry's.
  • Did you notice that Bush was always smiling? Kerry rarely smiled. Maybe that tells you something about their personality, maybe not. I also like that Bush brought back more of his natural humor and sarcasm, which is a definite positive. It makes him seem more like a regular guy, more average -- I think people love that the president can make fun of himself. Everybody has to be able to poke fun at their past mis-steps (i.e. "Bushisms"/language mistakes) and have a good time, and Bush displayed that he can do that. Kerry seemed too stiff and too serious. In the interest of fairness, Kerry did have the best self-deprecating joke of the night when he said, "The three of us have all certainly married up, and some would say me more so than others." The entire auditorium cracked up at that point.
  • When the question of homosexuality was brought up, Kerry reminded people that Dick Cheney's daughter is a lesbian. If Kerry had a different position than Bush, then this may have been a smart play. But his position is essentially the same (against gay-marriage), and since Cheney's daughter is obviously in favor of Bush, then his answer doesn't do much to draw the homosexual vote. Some pundits think it is a low blow, but I am not sure if there *are* any low-blows in this race. It seems like everything is fair game.
  • I don't understand how Kerry can say Allan Greenspan has done a tremendous job on the economy and monetary policy, and that he supports Bush's tax cuts, and then tell the voters that he disagrees with him. If the Monetary Genius Greenspan supports the tax cuts, then maybe they aren't so bad? Why would Kerry disagree with them? Not that this question is important, but it still makes me think.
  • The final question of the night was about the strong women in the lives of the two candidates. Bush didn't mention his mother. I'd say that is a minor mistake that will probably go unnoticed (you always thank your mother, right?), but Kerry scarcely mentioned his wife, instead focusing on his mother. It seems that the wife would be especially important to him, but I guess not. The most interesting part was when he said that his mother had to repeatedly say, "integrity, integrity, integrity" to him on her deathbed. I'm sure that I am not the only one thinking this, but shouldn't that go without saying if you are going to run for president? Shouldn't that be the way he was raised?
  • I may be in the minority with this one, but I think Bob Shieffer did a very good job as moderator. The questions were by far the most fair and objective of the debate sequence, and also contained a much higher number of biased questions toward Kerry than the previous three debates. Not that this is a great thing, because I would like to see NO biased questions. But if you watched the first two debates then you know that Kerry was mostly given softballs. Bush got some tough questions this time too, but Kerry got his share as well. It was nice to see them even-up in this sense.

    Final thought: I've watched the debate twice now, and with each question and answer I can't help but lean closer and closer to one conclusion:

    George Bush just won the election.

    Too early to call it that way? Maybe, but that is the overwhelming feeling I am getting right now.

    Update: I am obviously not the only one who saw it as a big victory for the President. Hugh Hewitt and The Hindrocket @ Powerline weigh in.


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