Thursday, September 30, 2004

LET US GO ANOTHER WAY. The chess reporting wasn’t working for me – not without beer, anyway. Let’s try this in update fashion:

The point of conflict on international agreement is the same as has been portrayed outside here: Bush portrays his tough stand as more effective – as with the Korean talks, or lack thereof – and more noble, as when he challenges Kerry’s notion of a "global test" – Bush speaks of it as if it were some kinda candyass foofoo thing. That act doesn’t work so well with this Kerry guy, though, because he isn’t a candyass. Bush’s charges aren’t wilting him, and he made a great case about the decent opinion of the world (to paraphrase Washington) using the example of Kennedy and DeGaulle – which of course will be used in the blogosphere as proof of Kerry’s Frenchification. Might work there – doesn’t work here.

Bush shows surpising aplomb discussing the Korean discussions. First time he looks like a President all night.

Kerry is treating the Darfur question as a tactical issue, and this could be trouble because Bush is gonna go for outrage instead – which would expose his flank (i.e., he hasn’t done shit).

Do I win the pony? No, Bush is rattling off the financial contributions and diplomatic efforts for which he has been responsible. Cites also the African Union, even mentions the rainy season, which looks knowledgable.

Now they’re gonna talk character. Bush says, "Whoo! That’s a loaded question… Service to his country… great dad… 20 years in the Senate…" (Stop that!) Basically Bush works the flipflop angle. The idea is that Bush is strong, Kerry is weak.

Kerry begins nobly too – the compliments to Bush's wife, of course, point out that Bush said nothing about Mrs. Kerry. Kerry says certainty is only good if you’re right. That’s a key point and he should maybe repeat it three times, and during the next question too.

Bush says he won’t change his core values, or "wilt." Kerry says he’s never wilted and he’s never wavered. That will be fun for bloggers at some point, I imagine.

Getting to the end now… Kerry cites nuclear proliferation, and lauds his own work in that area, which is actually a salesman-politician trick and I don’t know it will go. He’s on the Russia case again, and that’s a fair cop – also a niche for him, if you will.

Bush hasn’t prepped as hard for this as Kerry, but he has an initiative and he’s trying to flog it. He refers to WMD instead of proliferation, which may not be such a hot idea. But the opportunity is not missed: Bush is more comfortable talking out his achievements, such as they are. Which is probably as it should be.

In close-out Kerry says he’ll do better, and Bush goes back to the Korean talks. Here is our Quemoy and Matsu.

The last question is about Putin, of all things. Bush is against Putin’s rollbacks of reform, and says he told Putin that. (Love to have been a fly on that wall.) Brings up Beslan, which is bringing up terror, and talks up his good relationship with Putin, which is of course a President’s prerogative. But the more he goes on about it, the weaker he seems – he’s actually acting out the role his people have assigned to Kerry – on-the-other-handing.

Kerry says he was in Russia at the USSR’s fall, and I’m sure Professor Reynolds will challenge this.

Kerry gets into the warm and thoughtful tone, then takes the first opportunity to return to the Korean exchange. This seems to throw Bush a little, because he scuttles back to Kerry the flip-flopper. That gives Kerry the chance to clarify his position on Iraq ("That’s not the issue").

Closeouts: Kerry is much better in conversation than in solo work (well, I’m better in scenes than monologues myself) but in this context his wooden, stentorian manner is not such a liability. "Freedom, not to fear" is a slogan that may or may not mean anything, depending on whether you believe him.

Bush is back on uncertainty and weakness vs. strength, and he begins with a list of things he’s going to do, more of them pretty formless. It’s a fireside chat, which, again, is what a President gets to do. Again, it depends on whether you believe him.

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