Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Over a long season, they say the bad calls even out. After the first debate I thought Kerry won a clear but competitive decision. In the days following, the media turned it into something resembling a rout.

Last night, Kerry absolutely punished Bush and basically mopped the floor with him. It was close for maybe 15 minutes and then Bush fell off the map entirely and essentially just died up there. It was almost painful for me to watch, and, in case you're just joining us, I cannot stand the man. But I was really feeling sorry for him as he stood up there just looking terrible and letting everyone on his team down.

So today, I'm seeing coverage basically calling it a close but clear decision for Kerry. I guess at least we've all got the same scorecard now, one Kerry UD 12, one Kerry SD 12, and one Kerry TKO 5.

There were two really, really awful things about Bush's performance. One was Bush's horrible handling of the really easy questions. I remember watching baseball with my Dad when I was younger, and when one of his rotisserie players was up at the plate, and he would take a second-tier fastball down the middle on a 3-1 count, my dad would say "that was the pitch to hit, Tim." And then the next pitch would be some offspeed thing low and away and the guy would ground out to second.

To me, that was Bush on the "how does your faith affect your decision making?" question. I had just then begun to believe that Bush had absolutely no way of clawing his way back into the debate. Then when that question came, I thought "oh, no, here it is. He's going to knock this one out of the park."

And yet Bush's answer was rambling and uninspired. How hard is it to be passionate about religion when you're a fucking religious fundamentalist? Just off the top of my head, here's an answer. "Bob, I'm glad you asked that question, because it's important to recognize when you have an important job like President of the United States, that there is something that's bigger than even the great responsibilities that come with that hallowed office. When I have to make a tough decision, like my decision to put troops in harm's way, after I've weighed the evidence and decided that military action is right for America, I go into a quiet room and I pray. I pray because even though I know in my head that committing troops is the right choice, the only choice, the awesome responsibility still leaves me with a heavy heart. I knew that some of the brave men and women I sent to Afghanistan and Iraq wouldn't make it home. And so I asked God to give me the strength to do what was right, and I thank God every day for giving me that strength to keep America safe from harm. But it's also important as President to recognize that everyone's beliefs are different, and no matter whether we are Muslim or Jew or Christian or Atheist or Hindu or Buddhist, we all want what's best for America and we all have to find the strength in our own hearts to do what's right. And that's what America is about, all different kinds of people, different faiths and backgrounds, coming together with one goal - to lead the world in hope and strength."

See how easy that is? Now obviously an answer like that is not going to focus-group well with Atheists. But what percentage of the Atheist vote is Bush expecting, exactly? Shouldn't he have taken that opportunity to get in that zone that he gets in in front of purely friendly audiences, knowing that a huge percentage of the country is going to identify with that "I'm just a regular guy but I get great strength from God" schtick?

So that's one thing that was really bad. The other was the closing statement. Kerry's took fifteen seconds or so to really get off the ground, but he turned it into something at least approaching good TV. Bush's closing statement was one of the worst pieces of crap I've ever seen. I was literally flopping around on the floor with laughter as he was delivering his wooden, somber "I'm optimistic" hogwash. That's the last time a large number of people are going to see Bush on TV answering questions. And what did Bush do with his last two minutes, when he was allowed to say WHATEVER he wanted? He did what he'd done for most of the previous 88 minutes - he looked like a boy trying to do a man's job.

In college football games, there are a lot of bad matchups on the schedule, and usually there is a moment about the middle of the second quarter where you start to realize that one of the teams brought a knife to a gun fight. I got that feeling last night from Bush. It's like I've being saying, amid the howls to the contrary from the right wing - John Kerry is a first-tier candidate, and Bush just isn't.

Kerry in a walkover. Have I mentioned that before?


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