I watched the second presidential debate.
Audience Member: Loaded question?
Kerry: Spin Talking Point Spin Talking Point Whine Talking Point.
Bush: Accusation Spin Smirk Talking Point.
Audience Member: Softball question?
Bush: Talking Point Spin Talking Point Mumble Stutter Accusation Spin Talking Point Spin.
Kerry: Counter-accusation Spin Spin Patrician Sneer Talking Point.
[Repeat above for 90 minutes.]
Note that I wasn't impressed with the audience members' questions any more than I was with the candidates' answers. They seemed not to be asking for real information, but trying to either softball the questioner's candidate of choice, or embarrass the other guy. IOW, they sounded like questions from the press pool, by guys looking for a lede for their story, not for real answers. Maybe that's because questions were submitted by the audience, but which questions actually were asked was decided by the press.
My conclusions after watching three debates?
1. Debates are crap. They're crap because the qualities that make a great debater may have nothing to do with the qualities that make a successful president. Picking a candidate from a debate is like picking an airline because the flight attendants are cute.
2. They're also crap for the same reason presidential campaigns are crap: in a two party country, both parties, to win, have to build a coalition of many disparate interests. They have to appeal to people who want many different kinds of things, as well as not alienating their bases. This generates campaigns that try to conceal what the candidate actually believes, campaigns of vague generalities and vast unrealistic promises. This probably also encourages negative campaigning: it's easier to make your opponent look bad than to make yourself look good—because what looks good to one of your voters (Farm subsidies! Smaller class sizes!) is going to look lousy to another one of your voters (Eek! Higher taxes to pay for farm subsidies and smaller class sizes!).
3. They're also crap because the candidates are totally unable to admit error. They have to be all right, all the time, in everything they have ever done. Because if, god forbid, they admit they don't know, they're unsure, they changed their mind, the other candidate, his flacks, and his media machine will be all over it with attack ads.
Which is absurd, because everyone commits errors. This is a sublunary world, filled with chance and doubt and mutability, truth is murky, and everyone living has screwed up, probably within the past 24 hours. The candidates' inability to admit this turns not only the debate, but the entire campaign into a surreal exercise in denying the obvious. Bush bit off far more than he could chew in Iraq, his intelligence sucked, and his attempt to buy off Democratic interests by pork-barrel spending (e.g., appalling Farm Bill), and protectionism (steel tariffs) not only violated conservative and Republican principles, but DIDN'T EVEN WORK. Kerry, on the other hand, doesn't have a clue what to do with the Iraq situation and refuses to admit it, squandered two decades in the Senate doing next to nothing, and is a horrid little fawning social-climber, internationally speaking.
Don't count on either of them admitting it.
== shourai == future
|Etymology is a total confusion of miscopyings and borrowings. Top right radical is one of the radical forms of 'hand'; bottom right radical 'measure/hand' (寸). Henshall suggests taking the left radical as a 'bar' and the radical form of 'ice', and as a mnemonic: 'Commander's hand about to reach for bar of ice.'|