October 04, 2004

Miami Vices

Julian Sanchez on the presidential debate:

Surely it's important that Kerry is perceived as the winner in a debate on a subject - international relations and the War on Terror - where Bush's perceived advantage is greatest. The group for which the debates had the biggest impact will likely be the sizable swath of voters who've soured somewhat on Bush but found Kerry an uninspiring alternative. Though his central alliance-building theme sounds a bit thin on even minimal reflection - does anyone imagine that Jaques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder will be more willing to commit troops to Iraq now than they were a year ago, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office? - Kerry's choice to answer policy questions with relatively simple declarative sentences, delivered in a self-assured tone, may help him shed the flip-flopper moniker.


While Thursday's debates proved surprisingly substantive, a bit better than the "joint press conference" many wags had predicted, I doubt that policy details will be the most important thing conveyed in these exchanges. Anyone committed enough to sit through 90 minutes of candidate sparring already has a cornucopia of better venues in which to seek out concrete details on how the candidates would govern, from official and unofficial campaign websites to the political Niagra spewing from the cable news channels. In the last two debates, after all, the most serious blows candidates suffered were self-inflicted - an inopportune glance at a wristwatch, a huffy roll of the eyes. Someone who wants to gauge the impact of the next debate may want to try watching it on mute.