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Sunday, October 03, 2004

October 4. 2004

On the first Bush-Kerry debate.

I feel isolated right now. So alone. The weblogs and the talk radio shows have been alive with disappointment with Bush's performance in last Thursday's debate, and giving Kerry some grudging kudos for his 'style'. My low expectations for a debate between our current giants-in-the-running made me only reluctantly tune in to the debate after getting home from my evening class....and was I surprised by a very civil and relatively straightforward dual press conference with some actual moments of tension for excitement.

Long ago annoyed with Bush's off-the-cuff way with, um, with his way with and such and words, I barely even listen to his speeches now, just read the transcripts when I like. But still, didn't Bush show a command of direct info that he's constantly alleged to not have? And did he ever break through some of Kerry's platitudes with idioms of his own. He'll read better in transcript than he sounded. And no-blood-for-oilmen take note: in the heat of the debate, Bush pled on behalf of the Iraqi people, again and again. The Iraqi people.

And Kerry! The polls giving him higher marks than Bush for performance were well earned. Kerry's basso is none too profundo, but he had a real advantage in vocal presence. The whole thing sounded like a radio show. Kerry was the host and Bush was a petitioner. If last Thursday was the first time I'd ever seen Kerry, I'd have thought he was a cold-eyed bird-of-prey with Iran, the Sudan, and North Korea already visible through to him the underbrush. And without any of these deadly opponents of America having so much as pissed on a wall in our direction (yet). This new Kerry hawk might just act like that. He talked up some kinda resolve, except for this weird tic about Iraq. The whole subject made him go all squiggly, like a radio with signal drift. No need to post any quotes, 'cause Kerry supporters have heard it all before. From him directly and from Bush over and over and over and over and over and over and......

Still, it's truly impressive how Kerry never betrayed the splittest of seconds of regret for some of the stupid things he said during the debate. Bush's folks are wondering why he didn't burst out laughing - in all seriousness - at Kerry's comment about giving Iran nuclear material to sort-of test 'em, find out their true intentions. And it's comments like this that draw out the toxin in my posts on this election.

But thanks to a remarkable set of circumstances, by which I mean my actual prior reading about Kerry, I confidently say that Kerry didn't, can't, and won't win any honest debate on substance until he puts a little of his own on the line: What are his plans for Iraq? Screw Kerry's need for secrecy -at this point, he's seems to be angling to be either Lyndon B. Johnson, or Richard Nixon. Will his supporters really accept war's dirty work if done by an antiwar Democrat? So pry Kerry's mouth open with a set of jaws-of-life if necessary but get him to say how he'll handle Iraq! He didn't mind giving away his North Korea strategy, did he? Next thing we know, he'll ask for your vote for the same reason he talked of sending fissionable stuff to Iran - to 'gimme a chance. Don't be such a square. Then, and only then, you'll find out what I'm gonna do.'

One curiosity of Kerry's stance is that he's the only presidential candidate I've known of who claims direct access to the private opinions of foreign leaders. The status of Senator doesn't really count so much here - did Sen. Bob Dole run against President Clinton in 1996 on a basis of knowing better what Europe et al told him in private? Even if he had, why would I have taken his word? The way Kerry deployed his claim of info about world opinion, it's become a mere tactic of belittlement. A calm insistance that the Texan's administration had tried to shirtsleeve everyone to help out with regime change in Iraq and just wasn't good at getting help. If Kerry didn't turn around and then lambast the Texan for acting "alone" maybe the previous assertion would've stuck. Then Kerry could explain how the incompetant Bush and Co. got the UN Security Council to accept Iraq resolution 1441 in the first place.

One more thing about the whole 'allies' angle of Kerry's campaign. When the UK and Australia and Poland do something with the US, and countries who've kicked in money or soldiers also, they become an alliance. An insufficient alliance, perhaps; a 'phony' alliance, well, no phonier than the alliances among the Iraq insurgents. See below comment.

Yo, what if Iraq really is central to the War On Terror?

Thanks to the grievance system supported by the far reaches of the Islamic faith, the number of Middle Eastern countries represented among the insurgency constitute an alliance that is unique in the Arab world. Where else in the Western world's conflicts with the Muslim world have so many nationals fought so hard (so 'vociferously' - thanks a lot, Bush) on behalf of a Muslim country's turf? In Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia, did anyone from any ME nation or terror group help the Muslims against the Christian forces? No. How 'bout the Allied prescence in Kuwait in 1991, did terror groups or national army help Hussein then? No. Did they help fight off the subsequent US forces permitted to stay in Saudi Arabia? In Yemen, yes, but otherwise, no. Did they believe we were justified in these actions. No.

But for Iraq in 2003 onward, various and sundry groups go to the wall. By definition and for whatever reason, Iraq is central to the goals and security of the Islamofascists. And it's unlikely to have been a last-minute decision.
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