Weapons of Mass Obfuscation

By now you realize that I never finished my summary of the first debate. I probably never will. Trying to write my own loose transcript was a bad idea. Live and learn.

I took a different approach to this debate. I jotted down impressions and the occasional zinger. So, without further ado, here’s my take.

I am really freakin’ sick of hearing the same tired, old buzz words, catch phrases, and campaign slogans. There were times I felt like I was watching the first debate all over again. News flash, guys, we have greater attention spans than the children you take us for. Give us answers, not rhetoric.

When I say, "Give us answers" I mean it. For the love of all that’s good, stop going back to previous questions to get in the last word! These guys both acted like brats. Insisting on the last word, and not addressing the issues at hand is immature and egotistical.

I watched Bush carefully to see if he made faces. He certainly seemed to be trying very hard not to. He looked angry, impatient, and flustered. Kudos to the president for his joke at his own expense ("almost made me want to scowl"). However, I really thought he screwed up with his "I gotta answer that!" outburst. The irony is that the moderator seemed to be trying to say he was going to let him speak anyway, if he’d just wait a moment.

For most of the debate, Kerry was calm and poised. However, towards the end, he seemed ill-prepared and off-kilter. He stuttered, stammered, and otherwise fumbled for words through most of his answers regarding stem cells and abortion. A few times, I noticed him laughing to himself and shaking his head as Bush spoke.

Bush had some pretty snappy comebacks this time around. I especially liked his points about Kerry voting to reduce the intelligence budget by $7.5 billion right after the 1993 WTC bombing and that if Kerry was so concerned about medical liability reform, he should have shown up to vote for it!

Kerry effectively used the debate’s format to his advantage. He got to treat the audience like a jury and essentially try Bush for the mistakes he made. He wasn’t to be outdone in the zinger department, either. His "no lobbyist left behind" comment, while an ironic statement from any politician, was nonetheless a well-aimed jab.

I was relieved, nay jubilant, when the topic shifted away from war and national security. Aside from rehashing the first debate, it gave the impression that that’s all the candidates care about. They were so busy refuting each other’s international policies, they couldn’t think about domestic issues.

I thought Bush’s statements about liberals and what they supposedly do were foolish. Play to the middle when the election’s close. It probably would have hurt Bush more had Kerry not rebutted with cracks about compassionate conservatives.

On multiple occasions, the moderator tried to hold the candidates accountable for statements they’d made about reducing the deficit. Neither addressed any of his points. It was infuriating to watch.

Somewhere around the first time that happened, Kerry was asked to look into the camera simply and unequivocally promise to not raise taxes on the middle class. His bold acquiescence gave me flashbacks of Bush, Sr.’s "Read my lips: no new taxes."

Bush had very few uncomfortable pauses tonight. Kerry took that award tonight. His rebuttal regarding environmental protection, traditionally a strong area for liberals, was sloppy, disjointed, and padded with appeals to dropping labels and unrelated comments about welfare.

Bush made a comment that I found absolutely outrageous. He said that the air is cleaner since he’s been president. I find that impossible to believe from someone who’s weakened the Environmental Protection Act as many times and in as many ways as he has. If the air’s cleaner, I’d like to see the proof. Furthermore, I’d like to see how he’s responsible. The way he talked, you’d think he was the tree-hugger, not Kerry!

Kerry stated that India and China are producing more science and technology graduates than we are. Last I checked, those two nations accounted for almost half the world’s population. Kerry may have been referring to percentages or per capita numbers and still been right, but as spoken, it seemed like a statement of the obvious.

In the fact check department, both candidates goofed. Bush’s jokes about not owning a lumber company sounded good and lightened the tension, but they were misleading. According to his tax returns, he does indeed hold stock in a lumber company. Kerry’s mistake is a lot worse. He’s repeatedly referred to a general who was supposedly "retired" for disagreeing with the president. The problem is that that general’s resignation was effective the year prior to his contentious statements.

My heart leapt with excitement when one of the questioners pointed out the proven usefulness of adult and umbilical cord stem cells and the unproven capabilities of embryonic stem cells. Kerry’s appeals to emotion, complete with sad stories of suffering movie stars, obscured the essential question. Do the ends justify the means? Might embryonic stems cells some day cure a disease if given the chance? Possibly. Would such research be morally or ethically sound? No. Unfortunately, Bush’s response was rather timid and very disappointing. He had a chance to really take Kerry to task on his Mengelian aspirations.

As you might have guessed, Kerry’s bold statement, "I am a Catholic", given while answering the abortion question, sent my blood pressure through the roof. "I was an altar boy" doesn’t give you a free pass to disregard 2000 years of sound doctrine. Then he really irked me by implying that abortion can only be challenged on religious grounds. There are a lot of agnostic and atheist pro-lifer’s who’d take issue with that idea, to say nothing of scientists and medical professionals.

Also, since when is abortion a constitutional right?!? The founding fathers certainly didn’t enumerate it. It was made legal by a Supreme Court decision. That decision, like any, can be overridden, as Dred Scott was. Furthermore, the decision didn’t explicitly state abortion to be a constitutional right. It merely stated the government’s inability, scientifically and legally, to determine when life begins. That did not preclude future discoveries or technology from pushing the start backwards from birth. Nor did it explicitly state that life begins at birth.

Now I’m all riled up. >:{ Anyhow, I thought Bush made a smart move by mentioning adoption and other alternatives to abortion. Mention was made of partial birth abortion. Kerry said he’s against the practice but insisted on a clause to protect the life and health of the mother. Mr. Kerry, there is NO valid medical reason for partial birth abortion. It is infanticide.

Inevitably, the discussion came back to Iraq. Oy. Bush was asked to name three mistakes he’d made. He basically implied that he hadn’t made any major mistakes to his knowledge. He did allude to some bad appointments, but refused to give name. My curiosity is piqued…Kerry beat his drum again about mistakes in or about Iraq.

If memory serves, Kerry’s closing remarks were basically a repeat of what he said at the end of the first debate. Bush, on the other hand gave a much better speech than last time. He hit a good variety of points and tied them together fairly well. On the whole, I’d call the debate a draw. It was almost like filming take two of a scene. They replayed debate #1 and Bush made a respectable showing this time. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to his poll numbers. I have a feeling he’ll still be falling behind because he didn’t actually win, which most analysts think he desperately needed to do in order to undo the damage wrought by the first debate.