Friday, October 01, 2004

The Initial Debate Spin is Pro-Kerry. Will that Hold? Wait and See.

Flipping through the cable networks immediately after last night's Bush-Kerry debate, the buzz was that Kerry won the battle, but probably failed to deliver a knockout punch.

Ironically, among the punditry of MSNBC, CNN and Fox News, it was MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell who seemed the most pessimistic, only willing to agree that Kerry had re-established himself as credible among independents and soft-Kerry supporters. Others, such as Fox News contributor and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, were more positive in their assessment.

CNN pulled together a group of independent voters in Columbus, Ohio, and the brief segment I saw showed most of those voters found Kerry to be a viable alternative to Bush. That doesn't mean he won their votes -- but the impression I got was that they are going to pay more attention to Kerry in the remaining weeks of the campaign.

Ohio is a crucial swing state, with 20 electoral votes. Polls have gone back and forth, with Bush up by 2% in the latest Gallup survey.

CNN's Aaron Brown later talked with some independent women voters, and the reaction was the same -- Kerry scored some points, but not enough to win the voters over just yet.


The initial spin is important, because although an estimated 50 million viewers watched the debate, some will want to hear the pundits' views before deciding to believe what they've just heard. And other voters didn't watch the debate, but will rely on the television talking heads and their local newspapers to catch up.

After the first Bush-Gore debate in 2000, voters were asked for their instant impression of who won the debate, and those surveyed on average gave Gore a 10-point edge. But in the days that followed, the conventional wisdom shifted -- in large part because the pundits focused on Gore's sighs and minor errors during the debate.

Suddenly, the message coming from the debate was that Gore was an exaggerator, who mistakenly had said he met with the FEMA Director James Lee Watt when he'd actually met with his assistant. The pundits were all over that error -- so much so that Gore felt the need to apologize for his mis-statement. Meanwhile, mis-statements from Bush -- such as using the term "fuzzy math" to describe accurate assessments by Gore -- was overlooked.

So it will be interesting to watch how the pundits react over the next few days, as they themselves hear the GOP spin of the Bush-Kerry debate. Last night, I heard Karl Rove spinning how Kerry contradicted himself on the war last night and how he first "supported the war and then was against it." Karen Hughes was doing the same, and she also echoed a disingenous comment made by Bush during the debate -- that Kerry was somehow "denigrating" Poland and others in our coalition, when it was clear Kerry was denigrating Bush for allowing the U.S. to take on 90% of the burden, rather than building a better, broader coalition.

The worst bit of journalism last night came from CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who turned a Kerry diss at the president -- that he moved troops from Afghanistan to Iraq and undermined Gen. Tommy Franks -- into a diss against Franks. I don't know if someone in the GOP had Blitzer's ear before he offered that comment. The alternative is that he just wasn't paying attention during that portion of the debate.

By the Sunday talk shows, we'll know how effective the GOP spinners were in converting the television talking heads. I'm worried that we're going to hear a lot of misrepresentation of Kerry on Poland, and his "global test" remark.


Blogger don dzikowski said...

Kerry surpassed my expectations.
Three especially effective Kerry one-two punches were as follows:
1. When he noted that the U.S. was not attacked by Sadaam, but by Bin Laden. (It may have been even better when Bush embarrasingly fumbled the words on his rebuttal).
2.When he pointed out the differences between being decisive, and being decisive and wrong, while at the same time dangerously refusing to change course.
3. When he explained his side of the story for his flip-flop on the vote for military action in Iraq. Bush told congress he would only attack as a last resort, or until UN inspections and other criteria had been met. Kerry said he voted on the belief Bush would uphold his promise to the congress and to the American people, a promise he violated.
Notice Bush did not dispute this point. Bush repeated over and over and over again the soundbite of Kerry's flip-flopping, which sounded less and less and less convincing as the debate wore on.
I've been saying all along on this blog that accepting the Bush inaccurate spin on Kerry's vote was the main issue preventing people from supporting him. I think last night Kerry might have FINALLY broken through that spin.
The pundits of both sides have spoken. Kerry was "presidential, sharp, concise and tough."
Bush was "inarticulate, while appearing nervous, confused, uninspired, bored and angry."
America now has a clear choice for fighting terrorism:
It is a choice between Bush's stubborn policies of unilateralism, unpreparedness and preemptive action leading to problems later (read Iraq).
Or Kerry's plan representing smarts, foresight, planning, cooperation and aliance-building for a far more effective and longer-term result.
If whatever it was that Bush said at the Republican convention in August could cause the a sudden, lingering jump in the polls, we should see the same result for Kerry. I would be surprised to see otherwise.

6:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ALthough there were innacuracies that Kerry espoused in the debate (as he has done in past debates), Bush didnt jump in on them and stuck to his repetitive "mixed message" theme. Bad move. Kerry won this debate hands down, by far on style and by a bit on substance. Of course it is easier to attack the incumbent on his record (especially this incumbent) while promising a rosy future. That said, this was a serious step forward for Kerry-he needed this win because if he had lost convincingly, i believe the election was over. Now, the independents and centrists will give Kerry a longer look. In particular, Kerry appeared decisive and strong, poised and articulate. Bushies will disect what he said but it was how he said it that they will not be able to spin. I expect the most damaging spin that will come out of this will be "how do you promise allied help in a war you are calling a mistake." That will be a focus by Bush. In my opinion, the race will narrow and the next debate will be as important to Bush as to Kerry. This one was more important to Kerry and it showed by Bush's seeming lack of preparedness. Surprising to me.

8:07 PM  
Blogger don dzikowski said...

Here are a few points I'd like to offer:

If Bush cannot articulate himself in a debate with Kerry, how can he be expected to articulate himself before world leaders in regards to Iraq, global economic and terrorism issues?
Might his lack of oratory skills sell short U.S. interests abroad? Shouldn't this be a subject of discussion?

Plus, Bush and Bushies have been busy since the debate attacking Kerry for his "global test" comment.
Bush repeatedly smirked over the weekend, "American will never subject itself to an international vote when it comes to protecting itself against terrorism."
The problem is the U.S. cannot expect to ever fight the war against terrorism without being able to share and participate in foreign intelligence.
It is even more dangerous to suggest we should bypass global support on wars and surely shut off this critical pipeline of information.
Besides, the key to winning the global War against terrorism, while necessarilly maintaining world stability, is to pursue cooperation with the United Nations and other countries.
For Bush to state, "I've been to many World Summitts. They have never resulted in a policy to go after terrorists," to me is the ultimate acknowledgement of utter defeatism.
You mean, the only way to fight terrorism is to wage unilateral preemptive wars, that have the potential to rile up even more countries and have the potential to create an even larger problem, such as a mushroom cloud rising above the East River?
Secondly, Bush acknowledges with the above statement that it is indeed time for a new leader. And a fresh start. What the U.S. needs now is someone who is able to call summitts and establish cooperation with global dignitaries. That individual overwhelmingly is John Kerry.
I'd be interested to hear other arguments on this issue.

9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to comment on the blogger who said the Bush camp would have a jolly time spinning Kerry's position, "how do you get global support for a war you consider a grand diversion?"
Let's take a moment and seriously dissect the spin.
What the hell was Kerry saying that is not already widely known.
Almost every country in the world ALREADY recognizes the Iraq War as a huge mistake and diversion orchestrated by the U.S.. This is the popular feeling in France, Germany, China, Britain, the Arab countries and many other places.
I think the world view will appreciate Kerry for calling Iraq what it is. For this reason, foreign leaders will open the door for Kerry. They have already in large number slammed the door on Bush and his position of alternative reality.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's all be realistic here and not just create spin of our own. This is a political race and everyone spins every topic to create great sound bites. But lets not even pretend it is what will really happen. France and Germany will likely never help in Iraq, certainly not to the extent we would like to see--doesnt matter who is in office. That is, unless they are bribed. By the US. That is how it works. They didnt want the war in large part because it was against their national interests to depose Hussein. They wont help unless it is in their $$$ interests to do so. Chirac has already indicated his position wont change. Again, Kerry proved by his manner in the debate that he can be a strong "presidential" leader, even if much of what he says is spin or even factually inaccurate. He came across well and Bush had his worst day--combination results in a dead heat race now. From what I can tell, Bush is not saying he will always go it alone, simply that he is not ruling that out. Kerry is saying much the same thing although one tends to think he will look to global alliances faster than Bush.

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as dealing fairly with foreign governments, which is a complicated process.....does anyone in their right mind believe the UN is the means to do that. The UN has been shown to be inept at best, downright anti-west, anti semitic at its worst. While in concept I agree with it, we can no longer ignore the fact that this organization serves little purpose for our country. It is a farce, and has been for a long time. However, after being attacked as we were, it becomes more apparent that changes are needed there. Or ways of bypassing the UN and still dealing with our allies fairly need to be developed. The UN is pathetic.

Actually the one comment I found interesting in all the post debate material was made by a British journalist/novelist (cannot recall the name). Said that he considers Bush to not be capable of leading America. That said, he said he cannot believe that these two candidates are best America has to offer and feels bad the American public even has to make such a choice.

Think I tend to agree.

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes. But at one time it was against OUR OWN national interests $$$ to unseat Sadaam, so we tolerated him for many years. The U.S. surely has changed course in policy here.
I'm optimistic the right U.S. leader and the right dialouge could alter current positions of France and Germany, or at least make a stab at it. Kerry would be able to outline how it would be acting in their benefit to engage in Iraq, better than Bush ever could.
Besides, France and Germany aren't the only influential countries in the world.
I heard a report last night about a survey of top government officials Europe, Asia and Arabian countries abroad (I'd to conduct some research to find out where this survey came from) listed Bush among the three most hated and most destructive leaders in the world today.
Now who would have a tougher time making amends, Bush or Kerry?

10:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More defeatism that the Bush camp would surely appreciate.
It was said above that the UN is "pathetic" and all but worthless in ever acting in U.S. interests.
It must never be forgotten the purpose and intent of the UN when it was established early in the century as a world stage mechanism to prevent war on a global scale.
We need a leader who has not forgotten that purpose. If the UN needs to be reestablished from the ground up, Kerry would be the man to do it. The best interests of the world are at hand.

12:24 PM  

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