It was annihilation. Complete destruction. Kerry was the atomic bomb and Bush was Hiroshima. Kerry was Miami and Bush was Louisiana Tech. Or how about this: Kerry was Bush, and Bush was the English language.
Oh, sure, we had “reporters” after the debate, on the Rock and the UC Patio, saying it was a Bush victory or at worst a draw. Of course, those were people like Bush adviser Karen Hughes and RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie. Now, there were Democrats saying Kerry won too. But the difference is, he did.
Consider this: Before the debate, Newsweek put Bush with an 11-point lead. Saturday, its new poll revealed a Kerry two-point lead in the debate. That’s a 13-point swing! Or how about this: 61 percent of those polled said Kerry won. That’s an awful lot more than Bush’s 19 percent. This wasn’t a tie. Bush looked like he couldn’t care less and Kerry, to quote John McCain, “came out slugging.”
I, like most of the rest of us unlucky souls, watched the debate on the Patio, right behind Wolf Blitzer and Carlos Watson. And if anyone was watching CNN before the debate, you would know there was quite a large Bush contingent there, and they weren’t the silent type. But after the first few minutes they looked more like Bush himself: Staring blankly, silently, stupidly.
One of the most important things Kerry had to do in this debate was to answer – succinctly – the flip-flopping charge. He did. And he even managed to do it with some levity. When referring to Bush’s changing positions in the Department of Homeland Security, he said, “The Bush campaign has a term for that.” Later, when Bush yet again repeated yet another catch phrase about a Kerry flip-flop (man, that’s a juvenile term) on Iraq with the 87 billon dollar vote, Kerry had an answer ready: “Well, you know, when I talked about the 87 billion, I made a mistake in how I talk about the war. But the president made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse?” Zing! And then he caught him in his spin trying to link Saddam Hussein to Osama bin Laden by saying we were in Iraq because the “enemy attacked us.” Kerry, no slouch on common sense, called him out on it and pointed out who was really responsible for 9/11. The response from the leader of the free world? “First of all, of course I know Osama bin Laden attacked us. I know that.” Makes you feel like you’re in good hands, huh?
For once, Kerry was to the point. And finally, Bush came off as whiny. He repeated “wrong war, wrong place, wrong time” seven times. You got nothing, George.
The only disappointing thing about this debate for a Kerry supporter was watching Saturday Night Live’s spoof of it. The show didn’t have much to spoof about the tall senator from Massachusetts.
Patrick Gibbons can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.