A conservatory of Ldotter blogs.

Monday, October 04, 2004

The French have invaded. . .

. . .the GOP. That's the only possible explanation I can come up with for the rush to hand victory to a hostile power at the first sign of adversity -- no, make that work.

For the past week, you couldn't wave a white flag without some Republican grabbing it to wipe away his tears and flop sweat. Words like "disastrous" and "stunk up the place" were used to describe a debate performance that, at worst, could be described as "uninspired".

So, the President seemed a little distracted. He didn't dazzle us with rhetorical footwork. He didn't rope-a-dope his opponent into an early-round knockout. He didn't send Kerry to the corner with the words "No mas!" on his lips. He didn't tear him limb from limb until nothing was left but a quivering stump. Big deal.

Here are the facts: Bush is the sitting champion. Sitting champions win decisions unless there is a clearly lopsided performance. That goes for politics as well as boxing, where scorecards are influenced by the stature of the combattants. No matter how officious and exacting the methodology for scoring, there is always subjectivity, and Bush's performance in that debate will be viewed in the greater context of his presidency and the events that have defined it.

Kerry may have elevated himself in the estimation of the part of the public that lends great weight to debating skills, but the net effect of that was to destroy the sense of complacency that existed among far too many Bush supporters. Unfortunately, the fickleness that seems to strike only Republican voters at times like this caused many to go from an "it's-in-the-bag" mentality to one closer to that which strikes Cleveland Browns fans about two games into the preseason every year.

The. Debate. Is. Over.

It had practically zero impact, other than to dispirit those who tremble at the feet of Master Spin. Those very same people are now grasping at straws, looking for something -- anything -- to convince themselves that their man got screwed. Right now, they're digging feverishly to find out how Kerry managed to answer those questions so smoothly, without pause. Many are convinced that he had an unfair advantage. But before you rush out and buy this particular brand of tissue, imagine the following scenario:

You're sitting in a local restaurant with a couple of friends from work. One of them is a liberal Kerry supporter, the other is an undecided independent, and you are, of course, a conservative Republican Bush supporter.

Talk turns to last week's debate. You're fully aware that the general consensus is that Kerry outperformed your man on points of style. Your liberal friend is beaming with pride, feeling as if his every opinion about the President has been confirmed. Your independent friend feels that Kerry did better than he expected, and is now more willing to listen to what the man has to say. You, on the other hand, are dejected and can't imagine how things managed to fall apart the way they did.

Of course, your liberal friend takes some delight in your despondency, and says, "So, what happened to your buddy George the other night." You grow indignant, and through clenched teeth, inform the liberal and the independent that you "read somewhere on the internet that Kerry cheated." What do you think the reaction will be?

Well, I'll tell you. Your liberal friend is going to have a nice little belly laugh, and your independent friend is going to nod politely and exchange a knowing glance with him. And, you won't be able to enjoy your meal because you'll be sitting there stewing over the fact that you're still thinking about a week-old debate, and no one is taking you seriously.

And, purely for the sake of argument, let's assume that Kerry somehow "did" cheat. There are 29 days left before the election, and two more debates. Those debates are going to soak up a lot of press coverage. One of them happens in three days.

Are you going to spend the next 29 days crying "cheater-cheater pumpkin eater" to an unhearing, skeptical press that has an election to cover, two more debates to report on, and a lot of soap to sell? Or, do you want to get to the substance of the matter (as the President did in the debate) and be ready with some actual "facts" to counter the smooth, polished delivery of John Kerry?

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