A correspondent writes about the debate:
Wouldn’t it be funny if Kerry benefited from low expectations? The right wing media has been on his case for months, mocking everything about him, his looks, his hair, his botox, his tan, his wife, his money, the way he talks, his flip flops, that he looks French, that he’s am empty man, that he’s arrogant, that he’s a gigolo, that he’s Lurch, that he can’t smile, that he’s cold, that nobody likes him, even his own supporters, nobody can really stand to be in the same room with him, or on the same planet, or in the same universe, and Bush bought all that, and thought, I’m such a regular nice guy, people like me, they see how decent I am, everything I’m doing as president is self-evidently great, I’m consistent, he’s a flip-flopper, this will be a cakewalk. And he got fooled. The old story, pride cometh before a fall.Ha ha ha! My correspondent’s withering comment is directed at me, among others, not that I am a Bush supporter or a GOP triumphalist, but that I’m among those who see Kerry as a uniquely unpleasant public figure and the biggest phony in American history, with no realistic chance of being elected president despite Bush’s staggering failures and inadequacies; but I’m laughing anyway.
The truth is, all contests, whether sporting events or wars or political campaigns, involve dramatic reversals. Not that the debate last night means a big reversal in the campaign, but it has certainly set the Bush supporters back and given the Kerry people new energy. I wrote to pro-Bush blogger Hugh Hewitt earlier this week warning him against triumphalism. As for dramatic reversals, it was only back in July that the Democrats were sure they had the election sewn up. Pride cometh before a fall.
To sum up the debate, Kerry gets credit for improving his unbearable personality, for appearing polite instead of arrogant, and for speaking concisely instead of verbosely. On substance, Bush could and should have destroyed him, over and over. I do not mean that Bush could have destroyed Kerry by showing that his, Bush’s, policies are succeeding, since they are so evidently failing. I mean that Bush could have destroyed Kerry by exposing Kerry’s repeated lies, gross contradictions, and total absence of a coherent alternative policy. But Bush in his odd distraction and grumpiness failed to do any of these things. He just kept repeating his own mantras, ignoring the huge targets that Kerry kept presenting to him.
So Kerry is the winner, not because he improved his flawed substance, but because Bush failed repeatedly to expose him on it.
It’s amazing to have a U.S. president who seems to have virtually no intellectual resources. Back in 2000, I said that Bush would be able to perform the duties of his office, but only barely.