Saturday, October 02, 2004

Debates

NOTE: I have not read any other reports on the debates yet, and I am writing this the morning after I have slept on it. The only news I have heard about the debates has been from Paul Harvey and the local AM station.

I talked of the debates earlier, and here is what I predicted would happen.

When asked a question Kerry can do several things: Attack Bush's record, promote himself, attack Bush's ideas for the future. Attacking Bush's record is one of the worst things he can do. First off, everyone knows his record, so nothing new is going to come out of that. Secondly, Kerry will meet a wall of conviction. Bush will strip away the long, boring political process talk and concentrate on the reason why he acted in the way he did. In other words from Bush you will get, "I did what I did because I believed it made America safer" . You can argue if Bush's actions accomplished what he wanted to do, but you cannot argue with Bush's goal. Kerry can attempt to cast Bush's judgment into question. That is just trying to jump over the wall of conviction, not avoiding it entirely.

This debate help America a lot because it showed where the candidates are the same and they are different in several areas. Well I don't think it turned out for Kerry as bad at I thought it could have. Kerry seemed on the offensive and bush seemed repetitive. While listening to the debates, I had more moments of "what is he talking about with Kerry" than I did with bush, but I don't know if the rest of America felt the same way.

Major gaffes stories
The major gaff story of this debate is that there were no major gaffes. There were some minor ones that if repeated heavily in the second debates could lead to some trouble for either candidate. When Kerry was asked to what was wrong with Bush's president ideas on one subject, he laughed and said he as a long list of them. I think he meant it as a joke, but it seemed like a joke of contempt to me, I don't think that will play well with people. Bush's response to one question about what would happen if Kerry wins was that it is not going to happen. Everyone likes a winner, but no one likes a bragger. Though we have seen that from bush before, it still does not lessen the effect of it to me.

Instantaneous polls
I heard that Kerry polled well in the focus groups immediately after the debate. This will fade as people sleep on what he said. It appears Bush did not poll well because he seemed irritable. My response is that it is really tough to be called a liar to your face and to not be able to do anything about it. [Crazy liberal in my head says, "But would not you get used to it after awhile." I say, "No, you would only become more agitated as time went on."]

Policy Highlights

Iraq
Kerry did not our right contradict himself within the idea of Iraq, but He did suggest different views of Iraq. He at one time said that we should not have taken off our focus on Iraq and that Iraq is not the center of the war on terror. Then at another turn he criticized Bush for allowing terrorist to come across the boarder in Iraq, but yet Iraq is not important on the war on terror. I am confused.

North Korea
The way Kerry wants to handle Iraq is completely different than the way he wants to handle North Korea. He repeatably said that he wanted Bi-lateral talks with North Korea instead of multi-party talks like the president wanted. That was until at the end of talking about North Korea, Kerry said we needed to not alienate China. He strayed from his idea, though I don't know if will hurt him.

Iran
I have no idea what Kerry wanted to do with Iran, that was different than what was already being done.

Recap
Kerry said he could do Iraq better than Bush because he can bring our allies in to share the cost. Kerry wanted to try something that did not work with North Korea, again.
Finally, Kerry did not have anything new to bring to the table where Iran was concerned. I wonder if everyone else realizes this.

cube

update: CNN quick vote


Who do you think won the first U.S. presidential debate?
President George W. Bush 21% 85500 votes

Sen. John Kerry 72% 291577 votes
Evenly matched 7% 26371 votes

Total: 403448 votes

update2: I for got to mention the warmest moment of the debate, it was not when bush gave his mushy I pray with the family line, I was when both of the candidates were talking about their daughters. That helped both candidates, and both should replay the part they find most favorable, as much as possible.

Update 3: I left a fun game at say uncle.

"Fun game to play. See you can restate what Kerry's foreign policy will be.
Once you do that, ask yourself how is it different from what Bush is doing? "


update 4: Well most of the web agrees that Kerry won on presentation. My friends and I agree on that also, but we think Kerry lost the content part. One of my friends made a good point about the differences between the candidates. Kerry is the conservative when it comes to the war on terror (he wants to fight it the way it has always been done. one-more-resolution- Kerry, is my new nickname), and bush is the progressive in this debate.

12 comments:

Andrew said...

Then at another turn he criticized Bush for allowing terrorist to come across the boarder in Iraq, but yet Iraq is not important on the war on terror.If you go through the transcript you'll notice that Kerry did unite those points. What he said (so perfectly) is that Iraq wasn't an important part on the war on terror until after GWB toppled Saddam and the insurgency mounted. He keeps hitting on the point that Bush screwed up by rushing to war, but now that he did--now that we have some certain situation--the responsibility to fix Bush's mistake falls on all of us. It's very consistent and straightforward. Unlike many idiots in the voting public, Kerry doesn't care about pro-war vs. anti-war crap. He cares about Bush having demonstrated poor judgment and about a looming world crisis that needs to be fixed (albeit because of Bush's poor judgment).

I agree that Kerry screwed up about the North Korea stuff. I think he can establish a good plan, but he started off by framing the plan poorly and that gave Bush great avenues for attack. And then Kerry continued to do a poor job by not responding to Bush's criticisms with much clarity. I think Kerry wanted to say that China will still participate in talks with NK even if we resume to bilateral discussions. It's not like China would no longer have a stake in a nuclear and militarized NK just because we started having private talks with NK.

And yeah. I've been saying for awhile that this election really shouldn't be focused on foreign policy. There's really only one way to go forward in the foreign arena right now, and both candidates have been committing to it. If one really insists on voting based on that issue, you'd have to turn to leadership and accountability issues rather than policy. One could say that Bush should be held accountable for executing his first term poorly, and that we may be able to better trust Kerry to accomplish the goals they both share.

Brian said...

Cube: you make an interesting point. Would Kerry's foreign policy really be that different from Bush's? I would like to think it would not. However, I can't escape the conclusion that people who think they've figured out Kerry's foreign policy are kidding themselves.

It's an objective fact that Kerry has adopted at least two mutually exclusive positions on Iraq. First he voted for the war resolution. Then during primary season he called himself an anti-war candidate, and voted against the reconstruction bill. Now he's attempting to unify these contradictory positions with a whole bunch of talk about coalitions. The effect is to make Kerry's Iraq policy ideas (and by extension all of his foreign policy ideas) like an inkblot. If you're determined enough, you can find a unified picture. But that picture is yours, not his.

That's exactly how Kerry (and people like him on both sides of the aisle) likes it. But in this time and place, it's very, very dangerous. Will Kerry fight tooth and nail against terrorists? Maybe. Will he capitulate, appease and defend? Maybe. If you like his domestic policies enough, you can make yourself believe he'll fight. If you dislike his policies enough, you can make yourself believe he'll give up. But the truth is, you don't -- can't -- know.

Andrew: you say "Iraq wasn't an important part on the war on terror until after GWB toppled Saddam and the insurgency mounted." What if (humor me) GWB knew what would happen after Saddam? What if he knew that toppling Saddam would cause all the world's terrorists to flood into Iraq? What if he did this intentionally to move the central front of the WOT from New York City to Baghdad? The moment I heard foreign terrorists were entering Iraq, I though "Boy, that was clever. He's lured the jihadis into fighting our soldiers instead of attacking our office buildings." Like it or not, the objective fact is that American soldiers and Marines have slaughtered jihadis like sheep in Iraq. Would you, for a moment, entertain the notion that that was part of the plan?

Andrew said...

Brian,

That's the flypaper or lightning rod theory. It's a worthwhile and tempting thought, and I've mentioned it in the past. Unfortunately, it's not really a demonstrable hypothesis. Some think it's crazy, arguing that the low costs and requisites for terrorist attacks make it just too easy to fly to Atlanta and blow something up, even if there is craziness in Iraq. Much like the administration says that it can easily manage operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq, one could say that the terrorists can just as easily wage operations in Iraq and the U.S.

But ultimately, it's all speculation. I think it's plausible, and am more prone to consider the hypothesis than the guy I just linked to. On the other hand, I don't have any illusions that it couldn't be proven wrong any day now.

As for the Kerry stuff: I suppose you're correct that he's said enough for it to be legitimately interpreted in quite contrary ways. That's kind of the plague of running for executive office from a legislative office. You have to say a lot and vote a lot and it becomes easy for your opponents to reinterpret your history. That's probably why only two Senators were elected president in the 20th century (Harding and JFK).

Personally, I feel that Kerry has had a consistent stance. That's probably because I feel like I can relate to his method of decision-making and his means of presentation--it gives me the confidence to 'see through the veil'. But I know lots of other people can't relate to him and that makes it harder for them to conceptualize his positions, especially given the quantity of material that they have the opportunity to study.

Brian said...

Unfortunately, all antiterrorism strategies are based in speculation. This is for two reasons:

1. There's just not enough data to ever decide what works. What's more, we can't gather data, since proper experimental design (ie, using controls) would be extremely unethical.
2. Terrorists don't think like us. Their overarching emotions are hate, fear, and anger. It's very hard to game out their responses to strategies because it's very hard to realistically simulate their unpredictable decision making processes.

That said, I don't think an attack (or even a few attacks) in the States would prove that the "lightning rod" strategy is a failure. Unless, that is, you adopt a "zero defects" approach to these things. If you do use such a standard, then most of the alternatives (appeasement, criminal justice approaches, surgical strikes on known camps) have also been invalidated, since there were terrorist attacks against the States while we pursued each of these strategies.

I agree that terrorism is, for want of a better word, easy. But we should remember that terrorists are stupid. They almost always make things harder for themselves than they have to; that seems to be imbedded in their character. That's why I think the Iraq-as-frontline strategy is a winner. While it would be easier to attack the US at home, I think they just can't help but attack the more visible, more difficult targets: US soldiers in Iraq.

Cubicle said...

andrew,

"What he said (so perfectly) is that Iraq wasn't an important part on the war on terror until after GWB toppled Saddam and the insurgency mounted."

I missed that entirely from the debates, then i scanned back through them and found it. I agree that that is a good point. Kerry is going to have to live with Bush mistakes, but just because Kerry can point out bush's mistakes does not mean he can fix those mistakes (by that statement i an not conceding bush made mistakes :)).

In fact Kerry concedes that Iraq is now the central war on terror and I belive his ideas on iraq are no different than the present adminisatraions on Iraq.


"He cares about Bush having demonstrated poor judgment and about a looming world crisis that needs to be fixed (albeit because of Bush's poor judgment)."

I agree 100 percent with Kerry that this was the wrong war at the wrong time....it should have been finished in 1991, but that is another post.

"Some think it's crazy, arguing that the low costs and requisites for terrorist attacks make it just too easy to fly to Atlanta and blow something up, even if there is craziness in Iraq."

I would argue that it is cheaper to send a 100 guys to Iraq than 1 guy with a strong support network to america, but that is another post.



Brian,
" I can't escape the conclusion that people who think they've figured out Kerry's foreign policy are kidding themselves. "

Oh i might be kidding myself; that is true, but Kerry did mention a global test (I think he infact also did not mean to say those worlds, because those pharases don't nesscarry inspire confinedance that he would defend america to the death). I belive that statment sums up his forgien policy views, and how he would apporach world conflicts.

Andrew said...

'Global Test' was a poor choice of words.

But without putting my own words into Kerry's mouth, let me offer at least one way to look at 'global test' in a perfectly reasonable America-first way:

To pass the global test is to try to make sure that we do what we need/want to do without looking like an idiot. It doesn't mean that we need to act only when it fits with other nation's ideas, it means that we need to make a strong and sincere effort to manipulate other nation's ideas so that they support our actions before we act.

It's a matter of 'making the case', and is the way the United States has done it throughout history.

You want to invade Iraq and can't convince a oil-for-food corrupted Chirac? Covertly buy an ad campaign in France so that the French public supports it before we do it. Chirac serves the will of his people, and we made a shitty case to the French people.

You want to invade Iraq and can't convince Putin? Give him a go-ahead on Chechnya and wait for the Russian political machine to make its people happy with what Putin decides to do. Hell, he probably would have made an argument that Saddam Hussein supported the Chechyn seperatists!

Diplomacy is the art of doing what you want and getting other people to support you for doing it, not conceding your wishes to others. Colin Powell understood that, but the neocon wing of the administration railroaded him before he could finish the job. Kerry, we can assume, would have let him (or his counterpart) keep working until that job was done.

Cubicle said...

i think i am on brian's side.

If two reasonably informed people cannot agree on what Kerry's forgine policy is, he must be an "inkblot".

That is the only reasonable explanation that i see :)

Andrew said...

Sure. I guess. But I think I'm equally informed as the two of you, and I honestly don't know what Bush's foreign policy is.

'Stay the course', 'What needs to be done to protect America', and 'Until the Iraqis are ready' are all empty statements.

Any sufficiently large body of statements can be 'reasonably interpreted' in a thousand different ways. Have you looked at the difference between religious sects that use the same primary literature? Or the varieties of historical accounts that get published?

That's why 'flip-flop' works as a label on any candidate who has a reasonable history. You've all seen the 'flip-flop' analyses of Bush, right? Everybody can look like an inkblot if you want them too. What you need to do is give credit to them and evaluate the cohesive picture as they try to expand on it.

If you disagree with what John Kerry's cohesive picture looks like, fine. That's the subject of political discourse. But if you want to play the "lalala! he's a crazy man spouting endless contradictions!" game, you're just being a partisan hack and doing yourself an intellectual disservice. If everybody was doing what you're doing (and they could), substantive political debates would vanish and we'd be electing the guy with the most effective PR team...

Oh, damn.

Brian said...

Dude: I'm lots of things (not all of them flattering), but "partisan hack" is not on the damn list, OK? I haven't given any candidate money. I don't have campaign stickers on my car or wear buttons on my clothes. I don't celebrate "Wictory Wedneday" and I'm not listed under "Blogs for Bush." I'm just a smart guy who's worried about the safety of our country.

Look, man, President Bush doesn't make my nipples hard, OK? I hate the way he spends money. I hated his reluctance to end the violence in Liberia, and I wish to hell he could find a way to intervene in Darfur. His steel tariffs annoyed me. I think the stem cell funding restrictions are too severe. The faith-based initiatives bother me. His readiness to blame teachers for students' failures pisses me off. The Mars plan was just plain old stupid. In short, I was damn well good and ready to vote for a Democrat for President. Then the Democrats went and nominated John Freaking Kerry. Nice move, that.

Think about what we heard all spring: "Kerry is Electable." Which was to say, of course, that Kerry would say and do anything to get elected. Sure, there were other things (he was in Vietnam! and he's tall!), but that's what his "electability" boiled down to. Why, then, are you surprised that he now will say and do anything to get elected? Why do you want to pretend he doesn't change his positions? You know that he does; it's the reason you freaking nominated him in the first place!

Now, you claim that you don't know what Bush's foreign policy is. But that's bullshit. Everybody knows what Bush's policy is: Stay in Iraq until it's a free, democratic country. Stay in Afghanistan until it's a free, democratic country. Find terrorists and kill them, wherever they are, without regard to other countries' opinions. Promote freedom in the Middle East as the final solution to terrorism. Since 9/11, President Bush has not said anything that contradicts these maxims. Nobody disputes that these are the things Bush wants to do. People have legitimate discussions about whether he ought to do them, but nobody doubts that he will (at least try to) do them. It's true that they don't match his 2000 campaign rhetoric, but you know what? The world changed dramatically on 9/11.

So, if Bush wins, remember that you have the Democrats to thank. It didn't have to be this way. Democrats could have nominated Joe Lieberman. He has positions on issues and he sticks with them. He has clarity of purpose. In short, he has spine. Guess that made him "unelectable."

Andrew said...

Now, you claim that you don't know what Bush's foreign policy is. But that's bullshit. Everybody knows what Bush's policy is: Stay in Iraq until it's a free, democratic country. Stay in Afghanistan until it's a free, democratic country. Find terrorists and kill them, wherever they are, without regard to other countries' opinions.With the exception of the last statement, you could say the exact same thing about John Kerry. The only difference with the last one is that Kerry has said he would at least regard other countries' opinions first--which is the only sensible way to do it. But really those are all empty statements. It's like saying somebody wants to "improve Education", "reduce poverty", or "expand the economy". Well, duh! No credible politician would ever contradict those statements.

THe question, as always, is how...

And where the hell did you get the idea that 'electible' is equivalent to 'will say and do anything to get elected'. Honestly, I don't see how someone who 'will say and do anything to get elected' is electible in the first place. It doesn't make sense.

I apologize for insinuating that you might be a partisan hack. I certainly didn't even mean it as harshly as you took it, and I'll even go so far as to rescind it based on what you said.

You're not acting like a partisan hack, you're acting like a drama queen who doesn't view the election seriously. Ultimately, you don't care who gets elected or why, you just want to live in a world where one candidate looks like an idiot so you can say funny things and follow sensationalized commentaries. Your parellel from 2000 are the people who'd make fun of Bush for being stupid. That was stupid then, this is stupid now.

Somewhere in there you know that there's more to life than cheap caracitures of candidates, that the party vetting processes rules out people who would make ridiculously unqualified presidents, and that you may actually have to think for your goddamn self rather than giggle about how 50% of people aren't as observant as you.

So if you don't mind, I think discussion about these things would be far better off if you stopped making unfalsifiable and universalizable claims that distract from the facts of the matter:

There are few differences between JFK and GWB's foreign policy. The one marked advantage to JFK is that he bring fresh credibility to a negotiating table that personally resents GWB.

Their domestic policies are significantly different. If you like GWB's, great. If you like JFK's, great.

But for God's sake stop pretending that a national party would be stupid enough to nominate a candidate that was so obviously weak. That's a $500 million mistake that nobody with any experience would ever make.

Brian said...

With regard to your spurious personal insults, I'll say that you clearly don't know me very well. I'm not a drama queen, I'm not unserious, I'm not really one to "giggle." I most assuredly care who wins this election. I won't be more specific because I don't have to be; when you call me those things you're just devaluing your opinion. In fact, I feel like at this point it was a mistake to respond to your earlier "partisan hack" nonsense, since my response clearly emboldened you to call me more names in lieu of actual argument.

Now, do I think I'm more observant than 50% of people? Yes. Actually, I'm dead sure I'm more observant than 90% of people (if not more). That's because I'm a scientist; being observant is half of my freaking profession, OK? I'm more observant than most people for the same reason football players are more fit than most people. The other half of my profession is "thinking for myself," by the way. I can assure you I'm very good at both halves of my job.

Take, for instance, this business of "for God's sake stop pretending that a national party would be stupid enough to nominate a candidate that was so obviously weak. That's a $500 million mistake that nobody with any experience would ever make." As an observant free thinker, I have a whole series of foolproof responses to that line:

Bob Dole. Michael Dukakis. Walter Mondale. George McGovern.

Shall I go on? Nah; I guess those pesky facts are just too "unfalsifiable." Kind of like John Kerry's public record.

Cubicle said...

"that the party vetting processes rules out people who would make ridiculously unqualified presidents,"

Hmm i don't know about that. The state tropper thing with clinton failed, but look at the stains on the carpet. I don't know if they were discredited, but given how clinton's term played out, their accusations where proably right on.

In this case i don't know if the exception proves the rule.