Saturday, October 16, 2004

US Presidential Debates, 2004: Points to Note

I'm glad they only plan three presidential debates and not more. The repetitiveness really gets to you toward the end. The same points were repeated over and over again: 95% of crates uninspected (why doesn't anybody do anything about that, Kerry's said it on public television like four times already), 75% of Al Qaida brought to justice (Bush was smart enough to actually paraphrase that to "three quarters;" hats off to his trainers), 90% of the cost of the war borne by American taxpayers, Kerry's consistent inconsistency, X-ray the cargo but not the cargo hold (any airport authority people listening?), 125,000 Iraqis trained, spread "freedom" and "liberty," et cetera.

A few points to note. First and foremost, Dubya improved markedly on the second and third debates. I bet he had to do a lot of homework for it, but he did a good job. The first debate was a joke, I think he was surprised John Kerry actually opposed him. He had a look on his face that spelled "Is this guy with me or against me?" But he improved in the second and third debates. He even used a long word in the third debate: he said the word "exaggeration," albeit after a dramatic (no doubt preparatory) pause. It's a miracle he didn't get a standing ovation from the audience that very moment, though I suppose the audience agreed to stay silent (where's the fun in that?).

Secondly, I don't know about other viewers, but Dubya's smirking was getting decidedly vexatious as the debate wore on. I have no clue what it is he finds semi-humorous enough to get him to smirk through the entire debate. I tried doing it myself, and I figured if I kept this up, I'd get face cramps by the first half hour.

At one point during the third debate, the questioner asked the President about homosexuality. He asked whether he thought it was a matter of choice or birth. George W. Bush's answer was a good one: he didn't know. His ambivalence reflects that of the scientific community, where definitive evidence for a genetic basis to homosexuality is yet to be found.

When John Kerry was asked about it, he mentioned Dick Cheney's daughter as a strong "it is a matter of birth" response. I winced when he did that, because I didn't think taking Cheney's daughter's name was a wise thing to do. Of course, that's just me and my naivete. The truth is the Cheney's have used their daughter to show their "compassionate conservative" outlook during their campaign for a while now. Although George W. Bush didn't mention anything about it after John Kerry made his response, there has been a public outcry after the debate.

I don't think anybody's going to raise the issue that George W. Bush didn't mention anything during the debate. Now, Dubya's come up with an official position on it. I don't see why he didn't make it clear during the debate, I'm sure many people would have liked that. I think this is a case in point: Dubya's plain slow. He's the pretty little doll, the ever-smirking simpleton. If anything needs a response, you can count on his speech-writers to include that in his next speech, or his trainers to teach him to make the point at a later date, but saying something on his own? Nuh-uh. This matches with Paul O'Neil's vicious indictment of the President's complete lack of participation in cabinet meetings.

One more point to note. Considering how much of a mess the United States is in, or any country for that matter, the sheer enormity of such a responsibility, how can anyone actually campaign for such a job? I wouldn't want such a job even if people begged me to take it and I knew I had the ability to carry it out properly.

In conclusion, I'd like to say that Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" was the highlight of these debates. I found myself intently looking forward to the 5-minute video clips they put up at their website after every debate. Jon Stewart, the host, is an absolute riot. It's a shame we don't have these back in Bangladesh. We have much more material than the Americans do.

Which reminds me of one of Sheikh Abdul Hakim Murad's "Religion & Ethics: Thought for the Day" that the BBC features. In his 8th July entry, he reminds us that jokesters offer a "healthy disillusionment [of] institutions that have grown cruel, or complacent, or corrupt."

As Sheikh Murad puts it, "by pulling our legs, they keep us on our toes."

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I write essays in my spare time on things that are important to me. The ones that I feel are any good, or make any sense, I put them up here. :)