John F. Kerry On Meet The Press
When I wrote this, I had just finished watching Senator John F. Kerry on Meet The Press, and on the whole I have to say he did a fair job. Tim Russert asked some tough (and mostly fair) questions of Kerry, who gave as good as he got.
The only critiques I would have for Kerry would be to tighten up his answers, and to be more expansive on what his programs would entail. For instance, he's made the claim that he can cut the Bush deficit by half and still give 98% of Americans, along with 99% of American businesses, a tax cut. This I certainly want to hear more about!
Tightening up his answers will be the tougher of the two, I think, because Kerry would have to change the way he thinks. It's too soon for me to be able to get the transcript (forcing me to go by my scribbled notes), but I can recall lots of answers where Kerry used a lot more words than necessary, especially in setting up his answers to Russert's questions.
The one major faux pas Kerry made was in reference to a question about Social Security going broke.
Kerry showed he was prepared with his answer, citing an interview Russert did with Bill Clinton back around 1990, during which Russert asked Clinton about how to deal with a Social Security fund that was going broke about then (didn't quite catch the date). Kerry reminded Russert that Clinton managed to not only eliminate that deficit, but to also secure funds for SSI well into the 21st Century - a surplus squandered by the Bush tax cuts. When Russert reminded Kerry of some comments he had made back in the '90s, where Kerry claimed that a higher retirement age and a means test would be needed, Kerry disavowed those comments, but shortly afterward was making the case that both he and Russert were not going to need any SSI distributions considering their respective fiscal luxury (my term, not his). Now, I may not be on track totally with this, but if you don't need SSI when you get old, that sounds to me like grounds for a means test. If this is what he means, then he is open to a counter-attack. If he has another idea, hearing about it would be a good thing. Right now, he's created some doubt - at least in my mind.
Kerry mostly stayed with the issues when criticizing Bush, even stating at one point he supported Bush's policy toward Palestinian land and Israeli actions, demonstrating that he's not sinking to the level of personal smear attacks that the "GOP media attack machine" is aiming at him.
Kerry also made some statements that show some vision, such as how he would mend US relations with the coutries of the UN, programs he wants to implement to reduce domestic consuption of foreign oil, and what to do about Iraq. I didn't hear anything that turned me off immediately, but there is a lot left to discuss about all of these issues, and more.
Kerry also demonstrated a little blue-sky thinking, especially when asked about the Bush deficit reduction. He's made the claim that he can reduce the deficit by altering certain tax provisions, which would raise about $200 billion across four years of a Kerry presidency. Projected program expenditures, however, would total about $280 billion in costs. When Russert asked how this balances with financial expert analyses, Kerry got a bit optimistic, saying that he would reimplement the Clinton fiscal policies, which he says are demonstrably workable. He says he can create 10 million new jobs through his policies, citing Clinton's goal of 8 million jobs and a realized total of 11 million jobs. Thus, there would be a 'bigger economy' to cover the difference in costs. He also mentioned some accounting differences he has with these experts, but as time was short, I'm sure he couldn't go into much detail about these differences. This is thus another issue Kerry could speak about in more detail.
One of the first questions concerned the Bush ads portraying Kerry as a flip-flopper. Kerry admitted that these ads are working to an extent, but he feels that as he gets out and tells his side of things, the effect of the $50 million spent on these ads would be wasted. Considering the major flip-flop Bush performed this week over the Israeli-Palestinian land issue, George has nothing to sneer about.
For the most part, Kerry has a handle on the issues. He now has to get a handle on the delivery. There's room for improvement, but he's got a good start.
Speak for yourself, John!