(Advice for President Bush: Pretend to scribble something very important the entire time you are not speaking and flash an occasional fake smile towards your opponent even as he castigates everything you hold sacred. For some reason, if you do so, the media will consider you presidential material, even if four years of performing in the job, under extreme pressure, doesn’t afford you that consideration.)
I know why he smirked. President Bush. In the cutaways. With that annoyed, vexed, petulant expression on his face. The look that cost him the victory in the debate, if not the upcoming election. I know why President George W. Bush lost the first debate with Senator John F. Kerry, propelling the democrat’s campaign back into contention for the highest office in the United States—or in the world. Simply put, Senator Kerry is better at cutaways. His facial expressions and bodily posture defeated those of President Bush. Substantively, President Bush’s positions were preponderant. His passion for his convictions was evident. Senator Kerry was no slouch, but he incurred an extraordinary number of factual mistakes and limited his case to attacking Bush’s positions. That can be an effective debating tool, but it does nothing to qualify one for the presidency. Yet, there is little doubt to many that Senator Kerry helped himself in this debate and perhaps that outcome, more than anything else, speaks volumes about the political landscape today.
We laughed when we discovered that both camps had agreed on some thirty-plus pages of rules for the debate, one of which was that there would be no cutaway shots of the opponent while one man was stating his case. Who can blame the candidates? In the last election for the presidency, it was Al Gore’s sighing and peculiar facial responses to Bush’s words that caught people’s attention. In fact, who can remember anything else from those debates? Senator Kerry must be thanking his lucky stars that the media refused to abide by this gentlemen’s agreement. Who can name a single topic that the senator obviously won in this discourse? The fact remains, in the eyes of most Americans, the debate was a victory for John Kerry. The outcome of this most prestigious, significant, and consequential moment in American history was decided by cutaways.
If I was President Bush, I would be annoyed as well. He has to be wondering just how his opponent can keep getting away with making ridiculous, contradictory statements with impunity. He has to be wondering how his opponent can keep disparaging the cause of a current war in which American soldiers are still dying overseas. Imagine in the days following Pearl Harbor, as first the battle of Normandy and then other battles resulting in so many American casualties mounted. What if CNN or USA Today had taken polls every three days gauging the opinion of the public concerning their “feelings” about the rising body count? What if the media of the time had coddled a presidential candidate who constantly attacked every move President Roosevelt or General Eisenhower made during the war? What if the massive loss of life at Normandy, or the dropping of paratroopers into enemy gunfire, or the death by friendly fire that occurred in those early days of WWII had been covered live by 24 hour news? What if the liberation of France, Poland, and persecuted Jews had not been reported because it was deemed by the news media to be secondary to the body count and the destruction of local infrastructure? The American people may have loss the stomach for that war as well.
Senator Kerry is currently having his version of a Viet Nam “flashback.” He is once again reveling in the adulation of the liberal press who provided him a platform whereby he disparaged his fellow soldiers all those years ago when he returned home from military service. His message hasn’t changed. He’s just changed his faded fatigues for a coat and tie. He is back in his element: attacking a noble cause by harping on the unfortunate realities of war. President Bush must be wondering just how John Kerry’s verbal attacks against an American conflict, which, by most, were considered the ravings of a radical hippy during the Viet Nam War, are considered legitimate presidential conduct today. The look of incredulity in the face of the deflated president is the most natural reaction I can imagine for a man of virtue under such circumstances.
I have some advice for President Bush: Sir, please learn how to disguise your true emotions. Learn to hide your displeasure that Senator Kerry is allowed to attack the job our country is doing bringing freedom to Iraq and keeping the front of the battle against terror overseas. In the next debate, just copy the actions of the senator: pretend to scribble something very important the entire time you are not speaking and flash an occasional fake smile towards your opponent even as he castigates everything you hold sacred. For some reason, if you do so, the media will consider you presidential material, even if four years of performing in the job, under extreme pressure, doesn’t afford you that consideration.