The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


It was hard for me to work up the will to start reading Al Gore's how-to-debate-Bush piece in today's NY Times. I was overcome by waves, sometimes blaming Gore, sometimes blaming the media whores for playing up trivialities. But when I came to, I got into it and decided I agree with much of what Gore actually says here. He makes a point so blatantly obvious that few in the media have even thought to make it:
While George Bush's campaign has made "lowering expectations" into a high art form, the record is clear - he's a skilled debater who uses the format to his advantage. There is no reason to expect any less this time around. And if anyone truly has "low expectations" for an incumbent president, that in itself is an issue.
(emphasis mine)

And I had forgotten that Bush expressed support for people buying prescription drugs from Canada in the 2000 debate.

But I must differ with President-Elect Gore on one thing:
The debates aren't a time for rhetorical tricks. It's a time for an honest contest of ideas. Mr. Bush's unwillingness to admit any mistakes may score him style points. But it makes hiring him for four more years too dangerous a risk. Stubbornness is not strength; and Mr. Kerry must show voters that there is a distinction between the two.
While I agree with the bulk of the paragraph, I am not of the position that Kerry should shy away completely from "rhetorical tricks". I'm all for Kerry methodically chipping away at Bush on the specific realities of Iraq, the economy, the continuing health care crisis, and so on.

But this is the nation of "There you go again". Our media wants pithy soundbytes, and when coupled with detailed arguments (which we're sure to hear from Kerry tomorrow) they are not inherently a bad thing. I'm not asking for Kerry to interrupt Bush the way Reagan did Carter. But I want Kerry and his campaign to come up with at least one line that brings out Bush's inner Quayle. This is not a requirement for tomorrow, but it would help. Hammer Bush methodically on the substance (which is, shall we say, a "target-rich environment"), but remember the media under whose rules we are, to an extent, playing.

This isn't a necessary thing for him to do, just something bumper-stickery for the chewy nougat center of the country.

Back to Gore: And it's just like him to top his piece off with a little humor at his own expense:
Comparing [Bush's] grandiose promises to his failed record, it's enough to make anyone want to, well, sigh.
Awww. Fuckin Jeb.


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