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Plastic Men


Remember Rock’em Sock’em robots? No, not the Playstation version, the little blue and red plastic toys
Well, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and President Bush slugged away Thursday night just like those robots. Only no one’s block got knocked off. It was just a slog. That makes it a real debate, of course, and Kerry did much better than Bush showing that he’s a thoughtful guy not some over-sized jock with a taste for expensive outdoor hobbies.

Which is to say that Kerry and Bush — who gets to fly around in Air Force One and is, like it or not, the president — are evenly matched. That’s good for Democrats but, in these trying times, it doesn’t inspire confidence. This is the best this country can do? Part of the problem was that on Thursday the nominees were talking about what was, not what might be, and, particularly in foreign policy, the future – that “vision thing” as the President’s father used to describe it – is everything.
This could change with the domestic policy debate scheduled next week. But, well, it’s more important with foreign policy. If you’re going to be a beacon on a hill, well, you better know where to shine your light, no? But the U.S. doesn’t elect presidents on foreign policy unless, like Vietnam, it becomes a domestic issue. Iraq is close to doing that but Bush’s insistence that the wars on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq are the same is only beginning to sound hollow.
It made you long for the straight talk and one-two punch rhetorical that a Howard Dean (who was on Charlie Rose Wednesday) could deliver. Dean is funny and smart and his political gut is dead on. If Kerry loses, he will lead one branch of the Democratic Party the way John McCain leads a branch of the Republican Party. Watch that space. Dean’s out there plugging his book, admitting mistakes during the campaign, and generally positioning himself to be part of the mix. He’s doing a good job, too.
UPDATE: Debate reaction is pouring in. Jim Fallows hoes a bit more in the John v. George field he plowed earlier this year and now available on-line. It’s all worth reading either here at The Atlantic’s site or here — with lots of other commentary, rounded up from around the web and annotated here — at Brad DeLong’s site.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 12:07 PM | Permalink

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