A couple of loose ends to note. First, I thought Kerry did a superb job overall. But I think he was especially strong in appealing to women, while Bush’s pedantic and arrogant manner must have been off-putting especially to women. Plus, Kerry specifically hitting on the wage-gap for women, and just speaking the word women several times, was huge.
On another note, I absolutely love making the President deny that he’s going bring back the draft. It’s exactly the same as making your opponent deny that he’s beating his wife. Excellent.
I remember when Bush was asked whether he thought he had made any mistakes at his so-called “press conference.” His response was he wished that the question had been submitted in advance (presumably so he could prepare an answer). He then went on to think for a moment and conclude that, thinking back on everything, no, he really couldn’t really think of any. At the debate last night, having had these many months to prepare an answer, he didn’t seem to be any better prepared than he was so many months ago. And still, no real idea of any mistakes. Any adult who has ever encountered a child who’s always in trouble but it’s never their fault will recognize this putz in two seconds.
Big Thought: Remember the build-up to the Iraq invasion? Remember how the President and his people went way, way out of their way to assert their absolute conviction that they were right (phrases like “100% certain,” “no doubt,” “in fact,” etc.)? There’s a reason why: they knew they had to convince a skeptical populace, and they also knew the evidence was beyond thin. And that’s the big point: they knew perfectly well just how lousy their intelligence was. That’s why when the President was asked about mistakes he said there weren’t any (other than a few appointments which didn’t work out, but being such a gentlemen he declined to name them on the air (Paul O’Neill and Richard Clarke you know who you are), but then launched into a lengthy defense of Iraq. In my experience, impassioned defenses where none are called for generally belie a guilty conscience. My suspicion is that the President is going to spend the remainder of his days trying to convince anyone who will listen (and I’m hoping it will be people like Manny Rodriguez, his caddy at the country club) that his invasion of Iraq was justified, even required and noble. But the person he’s most trying to convince is himself.
One last thread: the President has claimed (including in the first debate) that the “miscalculation” (which somehow or other doesn’t count as a mistake) of the “catastrophic victory” (if you wrote this in fiction people would say it wasn’t believable) was the cause of the problems we’ve been seeing in Iraq. But doesn’t anybody remember that the invasion plan was heavily promoted as “shock and awe?” It wasn’t “grind ‘em down,” or “Operation Delayed Victory.” The catastrophic victory was exactly what they told everybody they wanted. The miscalculation was that they simply didn’t believe that the Iraqi’s wouldn’t welcome them as liberators. (“we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.”) In fact – once again, I suspect they feared that the event would go off exactly as it “in fact” did, and just desperately wanted to believe that it would go off the way it should in their fantasy.