Wednesday, October 06, 2004

For me, presidential debates are a really surreal experience. They show how totally out of touch I am with the American people. For instance, I thought Bush won the first debate. He came off, as far as I was concerned, like a smirking, idiotic frat-boy, but I always think he comes off like a smirking, idiotic fratboy. I assumed that most people must be ok with the smirk, the inarticulateness, the insincere pieties while talking about sending other people to their deaths, because I've spent the past four years wanting to hurl every time he came on my T.V., and there was no indication that your average American felt the same way. When I was trying to figure out how the ordinary viewing public would react to Bush's debate performance, it didn't occur to me that people would see him the way I always have. Since I thought Kerry was kind of inarticulate and all over the place, I assumed people would think Bush was better. They didn't.

Similarly, I thought Cheney won the debate last night. Don't get me wrong: I believe Cheney is pretty much the most evil person in American politics. But he's an articulate and authoritative debater, and he's incredibly adept at manipulating the truth. He doesn't generally come right out and lie, but he spins things in such a way that unless you really know about the subject, you'd come away with a completely inaccurate perception. He seems intelligent and credible. Edwards is a little too slick, a little too good looking, a little too vapid: he just doesn't seem to have any weight. He's like someone running for vice president of student government, not the United States. I think he scored some points last night: I was glad that he pointed out that Cheney himself supported the 1984 weapons cuts, and he certainly hammered home that there is no connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda. But if I didn't have strong views on the issues, I could see myself thinking that Cheney was more credible and presidential.

I'll be interested to see if the polls are with me on this, or if once again I'm totally out of step with the general viewing public.

Oh, and can someone explain to me why the major networks have representatives of the parties do the post-debate coverage? What, exactly, am I supposed to learn from hearing some professional partisans spin their candidate?

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