Republicans For Kerry, Chapter 2
John F. Kerry did himself proud in the debate yesterday. He did well enough to draw praise from two of Richard Nixon's aides, Pat Buchanan and John Dean.
Pat Buchanan called into Don Imus' show and said that Sen. John Kerry turned in an "almost flawless performance as a debater." He said he thought he looked "presidential," "poised," "crisp," and "effective." Buchanan said he thought Kerry was "dead in the water" going into the debate. But now he thinks Kerry's campaign has been "ignited" and that "his people are going to be energized and excited when Kerry goes out there."
"The President's problem is this: the man standing beside him did not look like the waffler and the fellow who is all over the lot & so the President was talking about someone who was not the same guy who was beside him."
"If this doesn't turn it around for him, I don't know what does," Buchanan added.
A lot of Americans don't know Kerry. They don't have a clue who he is, even though the campaign's been going on for months, and a lot of people were paying attention tonight and saw a man that they said, "Yeah, that man looks like he could be a President." He did himself some good just by the fact he was there and the way he handled himself. I think actually Kerry moved himself a little bit further as somebody that people can identify with.
I thought Bush was a little bit off-balance all night, whereas I thought that Kerry did in fact find himself comfortable in the situation he was in. I thought that Kerry, at one point, got very comfortable, and when I saw him slide his hand in his pocket (an old trick that prosecutors and lawyers do in front of the jury) you know they're in their stride at that point. I suspect that radiated that comfort to a lot of people as well.
I think you can never underestimate the intelligence of the American people. They say the same thing with a jury, or when you're writing, never underestimate your audience. You've got to assume that they're a lot more intelligent than sometimes we want to really believe they are. They are in fact more intelligent. Kerry played to their intelligence tonight.
Kerry was fairly explicit in his general formulation of what he would do in preemptive war. Bush dodged the question totally. Bush just sighed very deeply, and he didn't seem to quite know what he wanted to say and then decided to say nothing.
Other comments from US newspapers follow.
"Kerry delivered the goods."
- The New York Times
"John Kerry has reason to feel good about his performance; his much-vaunted debating skills were on full display last night. In contrast, President Bush too often rambled."
- New York Post
"Kerry won Thursday night's debate on foreign policy by a comfortable margin. Kerry's command of the facts didn't get in the way of his being lucid and direct. The senator and former prosecutor delivered a powerful indictment of Bush's foreign policy record. Bush seemed tired and annoyed at having to share the stage."
- Los Angeles Times
"Kerry turned in his strongest performance of the campaign in Thursday's debate. He was calm, assured, clear, forceful and articulate. His supporters must be ecstatic."
- Rocky Mountain News
"Kerry's debating skills surpassed Bush's presentation and may have appealed to undecided voters. But a concerned citizen might have hoped the candidates had offered them more, in detail and substance, about plans for the next four years."
- Sacramento Bee
"Sen. John Kerry shifted from defense to offense last night, and not a moment too soon. Kerry, slumping in the polls, aggressively challenged President Bush's administration of the war in Iraq and its aftermath."
- San Francisco Chronicle
"The political skeptics were wrong. The first meeting of President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry was far more enlightening than canned sound bites.... But there can be no doubt that voters were the real winners, because anyone who listened saw a reality Thursday night that campaign advertisements can never duplicate."
- The Tampa Tribune
"Despite rules designed to curtail direct exchanges, there were, under Jim Lehrer's skillful moderation, pointed and serious arguments about Iraq, the threats from Iran and North Korea, U.S. alliances, and the meaning of the war on terrorism."
- The Washington Post
"OK, given that we've already endorsed John Kerry, it would be fair to think we would view the senator's performance during last night's presidential debate with some positive bias. But the man smoked President Bush.... Bush was like a doll with a pull string. Ask him about Iraq, pull the string and the same words came out: 'It's hard work, it's hard work, it's hard work.'"
- The Philadelphia Daily News
"Bush seemed almost surprised by Kerry's focused jabs, as if he had expected the Democrat to flip-flop before his very eyes."
- The Denver Post
"The senator, who appeared cool during the debate, zinged the president for having 'outsourced' to feudal warlords the job of capturing bin Laden -- a clever turn of phrase with echoes in the domestic debates to come."
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"Mr. Kerry forcefully criticized that decision and the war's management and offered himself as a more competent commander in chief."
- The Washington Post
"Given the leaden expectations before another heavily scripted presidential debate, the country was well-served by the intense give-and-take last night."
- The Seattle Times
"The view here is that Kerry's analysis of Iraq is on the mark."
- USA Today
A Knockout for Kerry
Big John sends Dubya to the mat in Round One
Contrary to all the press predictions, John Kerry easily overcame George Bush in Thursday night's debate, taking the attack from the very beginning and never once losing control. It was a knockout—with Bush going down almost immediately and never getting back on his feet. The president appeared confused, left to mumble aloud on the subject of Iraq, "It's incredibly hard work."
In debating terms, Kerry controlled the floor from start to finish with one rapid fire attack after another. Bush never was able to break through. His famous frat-boy disdain was reduced to goofiness. Kerry made him look by turns ignorant, deceitful, churlish, and just plain out of it. Bush tried to use his campaign's flip-flop line against Kerry, but it went nowhere. Kerry had such a clear control of facts and argument that the charge fell almost immediately, a spent and useless weapon.
Now - if only Al Gore could have had this kind of success four years ago!
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