Tags: The | Not-So-Great | Communicator

The Not-So-Great Communicator

Friday, 15 October 2004 12:00 AM

And Kerry’s dance moves on the war looked to us like just stumbling, close to outright pratfalls, so any of his debating points on the war – delivered in that Ted Baxter sonorousness of his – would wilt next to those of Bush, who would appear on the TV screen all the more alpha, all the more authentic.

But, dear oh dear, the gnashing of teeth amongst us Bush fans as we noted the polling results giving the first debate win to Kerry! (He did much better in the second, though.)

So now we list and compare our most-likely-to-have-succeeded shoulda-saids: Like – God sakes! – the First Gulf War in 1991 did qualify indeed by Kerry’s advocated “global test” as a genuine coalition military campaign; Bush should have said that the senator also opposed and voted against it!

And there was a lost opportunity in Kerry’s canned cleverness as to Bush’s error about war being worse than his own “before I voted against it” error of speech about it. Bush should have used this as the perfect set-up for launching on the senator’s voting record as the worst of real errors. Bush should have said a batch of things, it turns out, any one of which might have accomplished that knockout blow we had reasonably hoped for.

But alas, the contents were lacking from the transcript when the debate was over, and style points (including those irritated facial reaction shots their agreed rules had prohibited) did the rest. Our guy accomplished no knockout in round one, and fought to a draw in the second.

After any sort of unsatisfactory verbal confrontation, what you should have said inevitably afflicts your mind, so we Bush supporters are plenty afflicted. And “style points” are still talked about years after the actual content of a bygone presidential debate has been forgotten, so we wish our guy hadn’t been caught looking so peeved.

Upon reflection though, if our guy can’t be a great communicator, in this election it may do nicely to have voters noticing simply a peeved president. Opposition to our following through on U.N. resolutions militarily in Iraq existed only in a vocal minority of Democrats as recently as a year ago, yet now (having little else the public will sink its teeth into) the Dems keep mixing it in ever larger portions into their anyone-but-Bush formula. As posturing, to large swaths of the electorate it’s getting tiresome; as sincere belief (if or where it is) it’s getting exasperating.

Because it’s so ridiculous to say the war on terrorism is on bin Ladin and al-Qaida and nothing and no one else, those saying it have just got to be saying it simply for the hope of putting their guy in the White House. The Bush administration has been asking the public to connect the dots in the war on terrorism for some time now, and because the more the public takes a look, the more they do connect the dots, the anything-but-al-Qaida-is-distraction line sounds ever more phony.

In his debates the president who seemed always to say what he should have said, and scored his style points too, was Reagan. So he is our canonized master on all this. It was he who noted that politicians have to be actors, he who learned politics through high-risk ideological fights in the Screen Actors Guild and later the California of the 1960s, and it was he who loved to study and champion such political ideology as he judged worthy and true. His love of and participation in politics was rooted in debate. For him, prepping included scripted lines and disciplined rehearsing.

Differently for our Dubya, politics is less about the persuasion and more about the practical. His will for it doesn’t seem driven so much by ideology and debate as by the satisfaction of getting disagreeing folks to find agreement and solve problems. The opportunistic choice by his opponents not to operate sincerely in addressing the problem of a multi-faceted enemy trying to cooperate worldwide in viciousness against us – this, I think, just smacks him up side the head. I think having to wonder whether his opponent in a debate is serious or just posturing hurts his heart, and he does get to looking irritable.

In the real voting, most Americans will have no trouble with this trait in their wartime president. Many will remember it simply as another sign of his real conviction. So, while it would make us conservatives less nervous if our guy seeking to hold the White House were quite truly a great communicator, we should worry about it not at all if (through a lense not supposed to have been on him) he was revealed to have been quite truly a peeved president.


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And Kerry's dance moves on the war looked to us like just stumbling, close to outright pratfalls, so any of his debating points on the war delivered in that Ted Baxter sonorousness of his would wilt next to those of Bush, who would appear on the TV screen all the more...
Friday, 15 October 2004 12:00 AM
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