David Brooks in the New York Times today writes a masterful send-up of the debates. Read it and you have the debates distilled to their finest essence. I've excerpted the first paragraph (hope Mr. Brooks doesn't mind)
Debate, Declaim, Debacle
By DAVID BROOKS
Published: October 16, 2004
SCHIEFFER And our first question goes to Senator Kerry. Sir, your spending plans will cost over a trillion dollars. Your combined tax plans will cost $500 billion. How are you going to balance the budget?
KERRY Bob, I'm glad you asked me that question, but before I dodge it I'd like to thank you for moderating this debate, I'd like to thank Arizona State University for being such wonderful hosts and I'd like to thank Dick Cheney's daughter for being a lesbian - in case anybody didn't know.
Bob, as you know, this nation is on the brink of an apocalyptic catastrophe. Civilization as we know it is hanging on by a thread. Our culture has collapsed, our economy is in tatters, the human spirit is extinguished, children never laugh, God is dead, and families like Dick Cheney's are ashamed of their daughters, one of whom is a lesbian. All of this is because of George Bush...
He makes some great points here with marvelous humor. So -- who won these debates? The Kerry spinsters (and God willing may they be left at the altar on election day) have been running around the Nutworks screaming "Kerry won all three debates!! Kerry won all three debates!! Nya! Nya! Nya!" -- with looks of maniacal glee on their faces. Unfortunately, like a coach holding a "winning game plan" as he stares at a 14-10 loss on the scoreboard, all it amounts to is sticking to the pre-arranged game plan after the cheering has stopped and the engineering maintenance staff is clearing the last of the spilled beer, mashed hot dogs, and sticky popcorn from the stands. George Bush appears to be steadily gaining in the polls since the last debate, regardless of the spin.
What indeed IS remembered from the debates?? For all the spinning until we are all dizzy, for all the game plan which was obviously set into motion months back when Bush was given a more than reasonable "lead" in the polls, only to be predictably suddenly "losing ground" to Kerry after the debates, the impressions of the debate are sinking into the body politic -- read "da people". And the impression is not of Kerry being a superior debater, whatever that means. No, what we are left with are "gut check" impressions.
When we meet new people for the first time, or see old acquaintances in new surroundings, what is remembered? All the dizzying facts they threw our way? Or some comment that registered with our gut? It is a well-known fact that humans tend to remember those events that have an emotional effect on the "gut meter". We remember our feelings long after we have forgotten our specific thoughts. Why else can we still remember some embarrassing incident that happened in high school and have it suddenly attack us with full fury at the most inconvenient time? You are up at the podium receiving a lifetime achievement award, and suddenly an image comes into your mind of the time a teacher embarrassed you in front of the class because you had forgotten to read the assignment.
And spin as they might, and for all the Nutworks declaring the winner, and for all those flash polls and instant polls (that were rigged by democrats voting by pre-arranged signals from Terry McAullife) people are remembering the debates in a haze of impressions and fleeting images and memories.
What do I remember about Kerry? I remember his dour face. His constant pronouncements of doom and gloom. I remember "Wrong war, wrong time, wrong place." I remember "Global test", I remember "summit", I remember "Mary Cheney", I remember he failed to find one good word to say about Theresa or his daughters except they "keep me honest", I remember that his mother chided him from her deathbed, "Remember John, integrity, integrity, integrity."
And what do I remember of George Bush? That he looked tired in the first debate but still won the debate on points, if not style. That he was consistent. That he was sincere. That Kerry was constantly criticizing everything he did. That Bush pointed out over and over that Kerry had no plan to defeat the enemy and that claiming to bring allies to the table while insulting the allies that we have is not the way to win friends and influence future alliances. That he enunciated a consistent plan to defeat terrorism by bringing freedom, democracy and openness to a part of the world which is currently mired in autocracy, darkness and repression and hatred. That he loves his wife and daughters with a disarming passion and honesty. That he is a good man. That he tries hard. That he cares about America. That he cares about our future. That he cares about the soldiers he is forced to send into harm's way. That he recognizes the enemy and the danger that we all face. And that he is even willing to suffer political damage in order to do the right thing.
And what do I remember of Kerry and Edwards? That they are arrogant and condescending elitists, who look down their noses at most Americans as being too stupid to know what is in their best interests. That we need the elites like Kerry and Edwards to lead us out of the dark abyss of our ignorance and stupidity. That they concocted a cynical and calculated plan to drag the innocent daughter of the Vice-President into a national debate to humiliate Republicans and to fire up their own base. That there are no depths to which they will not stoop in order to regain power. That they are not interested in protecting America, but are only interested in winning the election because of some sense of Divine Right. And finally, that they will subordinate my safety and freedom to the dictates of some Global Authority.
I think we've had enough debates. And the impressions are left. The gut impressions. Now for Bush to close this game out with some tough campaigning right up until the end. If it ain't close, they can't cheat, as Hugh Hewitt says.