Friday, October 1


I've been waiting all day for someone to articulate what I saw in the debate last night. Sidney Blumenthal comes through:

Kerry gains the upper hand in a debate as significant for its substance as for what it revealed about Bush.

John Kerry was set up beforehand as Bush's ideal foil: long-winded, dour and dull. But the Kerry who showed up was crisp, nimble and formidable. His thrusts brought out Bush's rigidity and stubbornness. The more Bush pleaded the case of his own decisiveness, the more he appeared reactive. Time and again, as he attempted to halt Kerry, he accused him of "mixed signals" and "mixed messages" and "inconsistency." For Bush, certainty equals strength. His facial expressions exposed his exasperation at having to hear an opposing view. As he accused Kerry of being contradictory, it was obvious that he was peeved at being contradicted.

Kerry responded with a devastating deconstruction of Bush's epistemology. Nothing like this critique of pure reason has ever been heard in a presidential debate. "It's one thing to be certain, but you can be certain and be wrong," said Kerry. "It's another to be certain and be right, or to be certain and be moving in the right direction, or be certain about a principle and then learn new facts and take those new facts and put them to use in order to change and get your policy right. What I worry about with the president is that he's not acknowledging what's on the ground, he's not acknowledging the realities of North Korea, he's not acknowledging the truth of the science of stem cell research or of global warming and other issues. And certainty sometimes can get you in trouble."
In response, Bush simply insisted on his authority. "I just know how this world works, and that in the councils of government, there must be certainty from the U.S. president." He reverted to his claim that Sept. 11 justified the invasion of Iraq because "the enemy" -- meaning Saddam Hussein -- "attacked us." A stunned but swift-footed Kerry observed: "The president just said something extraordinarily revealing and frankly very important in this debate. In answer to your question about Iraq and sending people into Iraq, he just said, 'The enemy attacked us.' Saddam Hussein didn't attack us. Osama bin Laden attacked us." In his effort to banish all doubt, Bush had retreated into a substitute reality, a delusional version of Iraq, ultimately faith based.

Watch the one-panel ad and read the whole thing.


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