Saturday, October 09, 2004

LOPSIDED At least I thought it was. More later. Here's your transcript.

UPDATE: Looks like Mort Kondracke and I agree again. Here are a list of comments from talking heads, as assembled by Daily Kos:

Mort Kondracke: "... I think Kerry won this debate as he won the first debate I don't think... I thought that Kerry was much more aggressive and the president was basically on the defense and didn't have new arguments didn't have...wasn't as facile as he should have been." [Fox News Channel, 10/8/04]

Bill Kristol: "I guess I think if you think the President was doing okay and didn't need a win in this debate, he did fine, but I think, if one thinks that Bush missed an awful lot of opportunities to go after Kerry in the first debate he had to make some of them up in this debate, I'm not sure he really succeeded in doing so." [Fox New Channel, 10/8/04]

Jonah Goldberg: "On the question of whether Bush did everything he needed to tonight, I don't think so. I think he helped himself, but Kerry leaves these debates energized." [National Review Online, 10/8/04]
And here's one-time Bush supporter Andrew Sullivan:
But [Bush] was also evidently flailing at times. Throwing around the old "liberal" label was hackneyed and seemed a substitute for argument. His distortion of Kerry's healthcare plan didn't flirt with being mendacious; it was an outright lie... He had absolutely no answer on his spending spree. None. If you're a one-issue voter on fiscal responsibility, Kerry is obviously your man; and this debate rammed that point home...

Kerry was as strong and as presidential as he was in the first debate, and effective, I think, in countering the flip-flop charge...

Stylistically, Kerry seemed, well, calmer. When the camera cut to him during Bush's walkarounds, he was generally serene and respectful. His parries were cleaner than Bush's; his mind seemed more complicated--but not to the point of complete paralysis. Far from it. The contrast between a man who can make an argument and one who can simply assert what he believes to be a truth was striking.

If we have learned anything these past three years, it is that conviction is not enough. Skepticism, openness to other arguments, thinking outside the box or against a bubble mentality: All these are useful in a war leader and Bush has none of them. In some ways, Kerry seemed more experienced than Bush, which, of course, he is. All in all, I'd say that Kerry had a minuscule edge in both the substantive and stylistic contest. But the fact that Bush seemed alive and kicking as a candidate will help him regain some initiative as well.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.