Peering through our fingers at the debates
James Baker has once again done a superb job in negotiating the terms of these debates. These people are pros, and there's no denying that they know exactly what they are doing. Let's not forget that Baker was the one who supervised the Bush recount fiasco response in Florida and did a superb job there as well, outthinking and outfoxing the dems at every step.
Looks like they have thought of a lot of the little "tricks" ahead of time -- like who the camera will show when, whether one candidate can wave some "prop" or other in the other's face, or directly address or question the other. They have taken into account lots of details, including the fact that the audience is not allowed to respond to anything (we'll see if the moderator manages to enforce that rule).
I'm frankly amazed and encouraged -- I would never have thought of these things, but of course, these are important -- even down to the makeup person -- just leave it to the media to use their own makeup person who would make the pres look bad and Kerry look good (although making Kerry look good is a tall order).
I know we're all nervous -- at least I know I am, and will be watching these debates through my fingers, the way I used to watch horror movies as a kid. And we know that the MSM and Kerry Kamp will immediately claim victory over all odds, having prepped the field in advance with all their talk of Bush being a master debater (let's not get into the jokes that could be made of this phrase - I leave it to your imagination). They have attempted to lower expectations in the hope of exceeding same. But the initial claims of who did better are usually supplanted in a few days as the people weigh in with their own assessment of what they saw with their own eyes, and the perception quickly shifts as the people choose to believe their own eyes rather than what they've been spoon fed by the spin-doctors.
If Kerry is true to form and is nasty and tries to humiliate Dubya -- well - Dubya just acts like his nice self, and pulls a Reagan -- "Well, there you go again". I remember that Carter was immediately branded a nasty, play-dirty kind of guy after his encounters with Reagan. Most people don't go for that stuff. If they are banking on humiliating Bush, rather than presenting a cogent alternative view of their own policies (which has been their entire campaign so far and look how successfull THAT has been -- NOT) -- then they are making a big mistake -- because people will be tuning in PRECISELY to see where the two men stand and differ on the crucial issues of the day -- and they expect to see a spirited but HONEST and CIVIL debate. Heaping scorn and humiliation on Bush only makes Kerry seem like a small, vindictive guy -- and only appeals to his core group - the dedicated Bush haters -- they'll get some satisfaction -- but it's not going to sway the swing voters -- those pampered poodles who always seem to be stroking their chins thoughtfully and saying "I'm still not convinced -- stroke me some more." What do those idiots want??? How much clearer could the choice be???
Hang in there -- it's like a hurricane -- once it's over we can survey and repair the damage. They are also happening early enough to recover. And often, let's not forget -- the first impressions of a debate turn out not to be the ones that actually prevail and stay in memory. It takes a few days for the opinion and impact to really gell.