I finally got around to watching the first presidential debate last night, and I have to wonder how Jim Lehrer could keep from rolling his eyes every time the president opened his mouth. I swear I heard George W. Bush say that the reason we’re having so much trouble in Iraq is that we did such a great job winning the war that we couldn’t kill enough of the enemy.
I don’t think every word the president said was a lie, but I think everything he said about Senator Kerry was deliberately misleading. There wasn’t much he could say about Kerry, was there? That he changed his position? From what I understand about Kerry’s position and his votes, he’s been consistent since the beginning. Bush never gave an example of Kerry changing his “core beliefs,” as he repeatedly insisted he had done.
Both candidates oversimplified the situation in Iraq out of necessity. You can’t go into details with such complexity and nuance in two-minute responses. Nobody can tell you in this kind of format exactly what’s going to happen over the next four years. In this debate, one candidate sounded presidential, and it wasn’t the president. Only Kerry sounded as if he knew how the world really works, instead of giving simplistic sound-bite answers, and the same ones over and over.
Bush’s foreign policy goals are not much different from Kerry’s. The difference is that Bush repeated them as if his policies will achieve them, while Kerry articulated both the failures of the Bush policy and record, and the vision he has to correct the mismanagement of the war and missteps in international relations.
At least, that’s what I heard, without the filter of talking heads and spin doctors, whom I have avoided like the plague they are.