Saturday, October 16, 2004

Gifts of the Magpie

On October 1, I posted an item which concluded that perhaps Sen. Kerry had won the tactical battle in the first debate, but that Pres. Bush could win the strategic war because Kerry had handed him the "global test" while doing so. I reasoned that Bush could beat Kerry over the head with it during the rest of the campaign, and that is how it has worked out.

Now the debates are over, and while the last two were much more competitive than the first, it is hard to dispute that Kerry won all three from a strictly forensic perspective. But there is a "but."

In retrospect, after examining the cumulative effect of the debates on the campaign, it seems increasingly clear that Bush trounced Kerry decisively. Kerry's "bounce" has proved to be small and ephemeral, and in the last debate he supplied Bush with a second valuable gift; that is, the calculatedly unctuous yet vicious aside about Mary Cheney's sexuality. When Kerry's campaign then attempted to defend the attack as "fair game," and Kerry himself was caught lying about the context of the remark, it compounded the damage. (According to the
Associated Press, Kerry claimed that he was characterizing the Cheneys' love for their daughter, but a cursory glance at the debate transcript indicates he was doing no such thing. Hat tip to Charles Johnson/Little Green Footballs for juxtaposing the links.)

Entering the last two weeks of the campaign, Bush will punish Kerry with the two gifts that his vastly more glib competitor has presented to him. The "global test" reveals the shallowness of Kerry's intellect and the weakness of his will; the "lesbian daughter" reveals his lack of character. They are the proverbial gifts that keep on giving.