An interesting stat came to my attention prior to last night’s debate. In 1980, when then-President Jimmy Carter was running against soon-to-be-President Ronald Reagan, over 80 million people tuned in to watch the first of their debates. That accounted for about 1/3 of the entire population of the United States. Fast-forward 20 years to the Bush-Gore debates of 2000, one of the most closely contested elections of all-time, and the amount of people that tuned into the first debate (where Al Gore famously sighed repeatedly while Bush answered questions) was just over 40 million. Now I don’t know how many people tuned in last night…I imagine that it was probably somewhere in the realm of 50-60 million (who wouldn’t with the Joey/Will & Grace lead-in), but you can be sure that I had my eyes glued to my big screen.
Both sides are now currently in spin-mode, trying to claim that they won last night’s debate. At the time, I thought that there were certainly areas where both candidates succeeded, and areas where both fell short. Kerry didn’t have a good answer for his ever-changing positions, but Bush didn’t use his best soundbyte more than once (“September 10 mentality”).
Kerry surprised me on some of his knowledge of foreign policy, particularly with North Korea. However, his continued belief that our “allies” (the ones that he believes are allies – France, Germany, etc.) will just fall into line once he gets elected is not only overly optimistic, it’s downright stupid. Both Chirac and Schroeder have openly announced that even if Kerry is elected, they will not enter into the ground fighting in Iraq. Kerry believes that he can just wave his magic wand and they’ll change their mind.
The reason that France and Germany didn’t go into Iraq was because both were receiving oil kickbacks from Saddam in exchange for weapons parts that they were providing.
Bush, unfortunately, at times came across like his 2000 opponent, visibly upset by certain points that Kerry made. He got flustered at times and he does not communicate nearly as well when he is flustered. I would have liked to see him push Kerry more on his plan for Iraq. Kerry very obviously doesn’t have a definitive one. A while back I heard that he was planning to increase our military enrollment by 30,000 troops in the next year. Did he say how? Not so much. He just said he would increase enrollment…where from? Thin air, I guess…