Thursday, October 14


Oh, William Saletan of Slate is snarky about the debate:

Let's start with body language. Kerry's was excellent. He has improved on this score in every debate. I don't know why it took him 20 years in office and two years on the presidential campaign trail to look into the camera. Maybe that guy with the tax question in the second debate got him over the hump. Whatever the reason, Kerry is now doing it in the debates and in his ads, and he turns out to be damned good at it. Tonight he explained in simple terms the good things he would do and the bad things he wouldn't. "Medicare belongs to you," he told the viewer. "I don't force you to do anything. ... You choose your doctor." I caught him shaking his head just once. Another time, he grinned inappropriately when Bush was talking about abortion. The rest of his performance was flawless. His answers were crisp. His smiles recalled the good-natured confidence of Ronald Reagan.

Half an hour into the debate, as Kerry spoke about respecting gay people, a look of sincere attention passed across Bush's face. I remember that look, because it was the only time I saw it. The rest of the night, Bush labored unconvincingly to look as though he was listening. He seemed to be trying to rectify his listless, annoyed performance in the first debate. Eventually, he confirmed that his wife had told him "to stand up straight and not scowl." But tonight he overcompensated, as Al Gore did after getting bad reviews in the first debate of 2000. Bush blinked, bubbled, giggled, and blurted at odd moments. He grinned strangely as he talked about tax increases, entrenched special interests, defeat in Iraq, and contaminated flu vaccines. He held his chin up and tried to smile each time Kerry rebuked him, but the expression on his face was that of a fraternity pledge struggling to look like he was having a good time in the midst of a spanking. The picture of the senior and junior Bonesmen cried out for the caption: "Thank you, Sir, may I have another?"


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