Jewish World Review Oct. 4, 2004 / 19 Tamuz, 5765
Why John Kerry 'won' the first debate
When I watched the first Presidential Debate, it was very obvious to me that President Bush had easily bested Senator Kerry. I didn't think Kerry performed poorly, in fact I said that I felt he had done the best he possibly could have under the circumstances that his previous statements on the issue of Iraq had created for him. As for the President, I thought he was unspectacular, but strong and made most of the points he needed to make, while being just hard enough on Kerry to make it clear that his opponent has no business being Commander in Chief but without making himself vulnerable to being see as too "mean."
The post-debate polls clearly show that the majority of Americans disagree with my assessment. So, why did this happen? Well, since I essentially predicted exactly this outcome before the debate I think I have some insight into this phenomenon.
One of the many reasons that O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder charges despite being undoubtedly guilty was that there was TOO MUCH evidence against him. Because of all the massive proof of his guilt the prosecutors had far too much evidence to defend and the case became too complex to explain to dimwitted jurors who desperately wanted O.J. to be innocent.
Similarly, the evidence of John Kerry's manipulation of his convoluted and nonsensical Iraq policy calculated purely for political gain/survival, is so voluminous, and the examples of his contradictory statements on the issue are so many that they bizarrely actually work in John Kerry's FAVOR. They do so because it is nearly impossible (especially for the verbally challenged Bush) to articulate in a short period of time how utterly ridiculous Kerry's many positions on this issue are. Also, much like in O.J.'s case where the revelation of his blood at the scene had almost no impact by the time the jury finally "officially" heard about it, by the time the debate came around it was no longer "news" (at least to the media) that Kerry had in indefensible history of contradictory positions on Iraq.
Add to this the reality that huge portions of the debate audience have not been following the election closely enough to be educated to the many details of Kerry's numerous flip-flops and the countless examples Kerry's argument being contradicted by his own past statements, and it is not difficult to understand why Kerry's "current" position on Iraq would be greeted by largely ignorant independents with favor. When Kerry finally articulated his hindsight-aided and focus-group crafted position on Iraq at the debate, he was like a golfer who had hit five or six tee shots out of bounds and finally hits one down the middle and pretends all of the mishits didn't really count.
Amazingly, though not surprisingly, the news media went along with Kerry ruse and largely ignored even Kerry's NEW contradictions while even cheering Kerry's ability to finally articulate what he supposedly believes about what should have happened in Iraq. After all, to them it was no longer "news" that Kerry was contradicting himself on Iraq, so why even bother to point it out, especially when they want him to win in the first place?
How is it that Kerry could say the Iraq war was a "mistake," but that the soldiers there are not dying for a "mistake,' and THAT not be a major story? How can Kerry rip and distort how much money is being spent on the war when he said previously on "Meet the Press" that we should be spend "more" money on the war, "as many billions as needed to win," and THAT barely be worthy of mention in the post debate analysis? How can Kerry say during the debate that the war was a "colossal error in judgment," when he also said previously that anyone who doesn't believe that America is safer with Saddam captured doesn't have the "judgment" or "credibility" to be President and THAT not be a huge story? How can Kerry get away with saying in the debate that knowing what he knows now he would NOT have voted for the war, when he said just a few weeks ago that he WOULD vote for the war again, without THAT being front page news?
In a world where truth or logic had any value or where the news media was not almost completely in the bag for Kerry, any ONE of those dramatic contradictions would had been a death blow to Kerry's campaign. As proof, just ask yourself what the media reaction would have been had Bush come close to saying something that didn't jive with a previous statement or position. But partially because there are SO many Kerry absurdities and because his contradictions have already been built in to the media's matrix, Kerry was able to get away with the equivalent of intellectual murder. We have reached the bizarre point where because Kerry is already known as a "flip flopper," when he flip-flops it is no longer even worthy of mention.
So while Kerry was allowed to commit numerous verbal felonies without reprimand, Bush got universally chided for having the gall to "smirk" while having to endure Kerry's insults not only to him and "his" troops, but also his opponents many assaults on logic and the truth. In a sense, Kerry crapped all over the stage and Bush got blamed for making funny faces at the stench.
There is no greater proof of the basic truth of what I am saying than that the Democratic Party website had a post debate film of Bush's facial expressions, while the Republican Party website had a video of the top ten Kerry flip-flops. And yet Kerry "won" the debate?
Of course it didn't help that nearly EVERY question from liberal moderator Jim Lehrer was focused on something that the President had allegedly done wrong. While part of that is understandable because the President obviously has made the decisions that were a large focus of the "foreign policy" debate, was it really unreasonable to expect at least ONE question about Kerry's record? Why was Kerry not asked about his vote against the first Gulf war (the President has been rightly criticized for not bringing it up, but it was not irrational for him to have expected that the question would have been asked by Lehrer)? Why was Kerry not asked about his stance against Ronald Reagan's fight during the Cold War? Why was Kerry not asked about his Vietnam protest and his allegations of war crimes against himself and his fellow vets? Why was Kerry not asked about his statement during his first congressional campaign that the United Nations should have veto power over U.S. military action? Why was Kerry not asked about his now debunked accusation against the U.S. that he was illegally in Cambodia during Christmas of 1968?
After further review, I guess John Kerry actually did "win" the debate. After all, considering the fact that the unwritten "rules" as well as the "referee" and the "judges" were all so dramatically in his favor, it is difficult to comprehend how he possibly could have lost.
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JWR contributor John Ziegleris a talk show host on KFI 640 AM in Los Angeles. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2004, John Ziegler