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The Debate - The Life and Thoughts of Zach

Oct. 1st, 2004

12:47 pm - The Debate

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I feel strangely obligated to comment on the debate but I feel like I have nothing to say that isn't obvious. The debate was characterized for me by formulaic shallowness. I expected nothing more and Bush and Kerry gave nothing more.

Everyone seems reassured that Kerry defended himself so strongly against the flip-flopper claims by being resolute and confident. Was there really any doubt that this would happen? I mean, the flip-flopper thing have been the main attack against him, and it's a stupid and specious attack. Do people actually give Bush's attack tactics so much credence that they think they might hold up to observation?

Of course Bush stumbled over words. Of course Kerry had more interesting facts. Of course Bush "talked plain". This was like watching a joint press conference or some kind of interspliced parallel viewing of campaign advertisements. There was no new data, no new revelations, no time to elaborate positions, and no real explication of substantial differences in their plans for the future (other than their different approaches to Korea).

I was annoyed, but not surprised, to hear Kerry promise to "hunt down and kill" terrorists. Kerry, like Bush, supports extra-judicial executions with impunity. Check. I mean come on. The civilized world isn't about "hunting" and "killing". At least use a euphemism like "bring to justice" that at least lets us pretend that maybe you'll attempt to give suspects a trial. If someone attends a recruiting meeting of a terrorist group to see what it's all about but doesn't actually participate in terrorism, will they be "hunted and killed"? If someone lives in a house with someone who has lent some minor logistical support to a terrorist group, will they be "hunted and killed"? How about the Reclaim the Streets protestors that the FBI has declared to be domestic terrorists, will they be "hunted and killed"? Do we not put people in jail anymore? Do we not have trials anymore?

I was surprised that the two had substantive and vaguely technical differences in their approach to North Korea. I'd have liked to hear them spend much more time actually hashing out their views on that because I'm honestly not sure which approach I agree with (6 way regional talks vs. bilateral talks). I'm not sure I'd end up liking either of their approaches but I'd like to hear more. It seems, on the face of it, to be ironic that here we have Bush pushing for an international coalition approach of negotiations and Kerry pushing for a bilateral direct approach. It seems like the opposite of their positions over how Iraq was done.

I was annoyed, but not surprised, that in this debate on foreign policy, they did not bring up any issues besides Iraq, Afghanistan, and Korea. What about South America? What about Venezuela and Argentina and Brazil? What about the FTAA? What about the WTO? What about Africa? There was a passing mention to Darfur but nothing in depth about the many other issues facing Africa. Maybe this was largely the fault of Lehrer and not the candidates. Just because we live in a post 9/11 world doesn't mean that the pre 9/11 issues that are of vital importance to our relationship with 90% of the world have gone away.

That either of them could be characterized as "winning" this thing is absurd. I suppose neither of them really lost. But it wasn't a real debate. It was a joint press conference. It was a head to head spin session. It served only to increase my disdain for the process of having millions of americans choose between two polished alternatives that are mutually unrepresentative of the populace. Our politicians are about as healthy for our world-view as magazine cover models are for our self-view.

Comments:

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From:the_sween
Date:October 1st, 2004 06:25 pm (UTC)
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Even the notion of having a "winner" of the presidential debate was considered a major faux pas just 30 years ago.

And you're right, it was like watching two press conferences or sedate rallies that happened to take place at the same time at the same place.

I do think Kerry did a much better job of explaining his positions and pointing out that Bush's were based completely on emotion, but that was expected.

I just had fun with it and played debate bingo.
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From:folkyboy
Date:October 1st, 2004 06:46 pm (UTC)
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i agree. i don't think this really was anything more than a quick "your mama" between two kids bantering back & forth. there can't be winners when it comes to debates because that negates the word "debate". but i, like you, was non-plussed in regards to this whole "hunt and kill" tactic Kerry is using.

lesser of two evils, i have to keep telling myself. lesser of two evils...
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From:zarfmouse
Date:October 1st, 2004 08:18 pm (UTC)
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"lesser of two evils, i have to keep telling myself. lesser of two evils..."

...and in the end all you get is evil.

Massachusetts is so not even a swing state. Support David Cobb!

Do you know that Kerry supports your state's efforts to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage? Cobb on the other hand is quite aware that there's a modern civil rights movement afoot and he is on the right side of it.

If you don't like Kerry, you can safely vote for Cobb and show the Democrats that their kind of politics will NOT win your vote. In the mean time you will be helping the Greens maintain a ballot line in your state.
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From:ryanfirewitch
Date:October 1st, 2004 06:53 pm (UTC)
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Well, there are two more debates coming up.

The economy has got to be the topic of one of them. I'm hoping WTO/FTAA issues will be addressed. They've got to be asked about jobs.

And WHERE IS EDWARDS?!?!?!? He's not elected yet, he can't go to a secret undisclosed location!

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From:boannan
Date:October 1st, 2004 11:54 pm (UTC)
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I know! he's vanished into the ether! It's so weird.
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From:xymboulos
Date:October 2nd, 2004 01:43 pm (UTC)
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John Edwards has been doing quite a bit of campaigning and fundraising. Since I do not live in a competitive state, though, I don't see much of this locally.
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From:tugena13
Date:October 1st, 2004 07:13 pm (UTC)
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It served only to increase my disdain for the process of having millions of americans choose between two polished alternatives that are mutually unrepresentative of the populace. Our politicians are about as healthy for our world-view as magazine cover models are for our self-view.

hear hear!
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From:boannan
Date:October 1st, 2004 11:53 pm (UTC)
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What struck me as most depressing about the whole thing is how I really, really didn't want to watch it. Like my first thought when leaving work was "Damn, can't we just watch the movie we rented instead? This thing is 90 minutes long! Maybe we should make some really strong strawberry daquiris". (Which we did, and we played that election bingo game and folded laundry, which sort of made the whole thing tolerable). But I mean, come on! I'm a reasonably political civic-type person and the thought of watching the two presidential candidates debate just makes me tired? Not a good sign.

it also pisses me off that I think my dad is right about a peculiar factor of American politics and being "brainy" -- you can _be_ smart, but you can't talk like you _know_ you're smart, or it's a goddamn liability. Think about it -- that was one of Gore's big mistakes, and I think it's a little bit of a liability for Kerry too. Clinton had the down-home south thing goin on, and (according to my dad anyway) Kennedy was smart but young and handsome and charming and witty, which helped offset it.

But again -- what kind of a country is it when you're running for President, and it's _dangerous_ to be subtle and open-minded and have a good grasp of complex issues? christ. meh. rant over.
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From:arun251
Date:October 2nd, 2004 05:56 pm (UTC)
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Instead, I attended a Ravi Shankar concert and then caught the recap on the Daily Show.
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From:zarfmouse
Date:October 3rd, 2004 08:38 pm (UTC)
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Oh goddamnit. I knew that if I didn't pay more attention I'd miss that concert. Damn! Well I didn't have any money to go anyway.

I'm going to end up missing all the good Kranert shows that are coming up due to lack of funds.

Damn.
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From:herbivorous
Date:October 3rd, 2004 08:16 pm (UTC)
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My beau Enik came up with what I have decided was the BEST way to "celebrate" the debates: Drink.

I got a decent bottle of white wine, he got a sixpack. After about three glasses of wine (or a couple of beers), it's amazing how much more amusing things got. I stopped wanting to throw items at the t.v. screen and instead just recognized it for the great comedy that it was.

Did anybody else get a giggle about how many times President Chickenshorts referred to himself as the "Commander in Chief"?
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