There were no great moments in last night’s debate–but I’m declaring a slim victory for George Bush–he had some good (but never great) moments. His best remark was asking what “passing a global test” is. Kerry wants any U.S. decision to go to war to pass this test.
Both candidates played it safe. Bush was obviously tired, but he held his own with Kerry, who is more skilled with words and had a better manicure. Kerry had obviously looked at enough Al Gore tapes to know not to condescend to Bush.
Bush’s foreign policy is on display daily. Kerry’s foreign policy, as displayed last night, boils down to wanting to be more popular and hold more summits. Lots more summits. So he’d bore not just America but the world. Bush, who fumbled for words, failed to ask him just how he plans to enlist more help from Old Euro countries, especially pertinent since leaders in several of these countries have said in the last few weeks that they will not be able to help more even if Kerry wins.
One of my liberal friends, who will vote for Kerry, her hero Dean not being available, felt Bush had won big. I felt he had won small.
I was surprised at how differently other observers saw the debate.
Real Clear Politics (one of the best sites on the ’net): “I don’t think there is any question that John Kerry helped himself with his performance tonight. Just how much, and how much it may matter in the polls is a different story altogether.
“Nevertheless, as a practical matter Kerry not only survived this debate and avoided being knocked out of the race tonight by President Bush, he’ll probably emerge in the coming days with a reenergized base and a few undecideds in his column. The early spin among the punditry seems to be quite favorable for Kerry.”
Robert Novak, a conservative who tends to be very hard on Bush: “John Kerry was more glib than George W. Bush, more on the offensive and more precise in making his case. On debater’s points, the Democratic nominee won a narrow victory. But he needed more than that.”
Republican Pollster David Winston compares the impressions made by both candidates: ‘On the day of the most im portant debate in their political lives, President Bush was in shirt sleeves consoling Florida hurricane victims, patting some on the back, hugging others and shaking hands with the tired relief workers. John Kerry had a manicure.
“If ever there was a metaphor for the difference between these two candidates and their respective relationships with the American people, it was this. As The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes put Kerry’s problem so succinctly last night, ’This is a man who really needs to go bowling.’
“For all the back and forth between the two men, the debate did nothing to change that reality. Kerry’s pontifical performance was light on specifics, heavy on criticism and plagued by the inconsistencies that have characterized his positions on Iraq for more than a year.”
Walter Shapiro of USATOAY thinks that Kerry won by not being Al Gore: “Snap judgments are risky in the immediate aftermath of a presidential faceoff, but, given Kerry’s strong performance, the immediate impulse is to predict that this race for the White House is far from over.”
Fred Barnes says not being Al Gore isn’t enough: “While Kerry did the best that could be expected of him in the 90-minute debate, he didn’t elicit the sort of gaffe from Bush that might have altered the race. Sure, Democrats are bound to be more excited about the Kerry campaign today than they have been at any time since the Democratic convention in July. But that’s not enough, by itself, to lift Kerry back to parity with Bush.”