The Talking Dog

October 1, 2004, Kid Kerry Hangs Tough; No Gentleman George Holds Belt

Your talking dog scored the bout for Kerry, maybe 7 rounds to 5, with a 2-1 aggregate judging score. Last night's debate was surprisingly entertaining... the President was surprisingly well-prepared and articulate (for him), and his knowledge of world affairs (Sudanese leaders, the existence of Liberia) should hurt him among his base ("I wouldn't want to have a beer with this wonk"). Kid Kerry was loose, rested, tannned... what was with that hair, though... and as expected, the far superior debater.

While the polls of actual voters are all that will matter, we can assume that by Sunday morning, somehow this will be spun as a major, decisive victory for "No Gentleman George" Bush. The irony is, it could well have been just that: Bush fanned on some key punches that could have put Kerry to the mat. As ably pointed out by Jim Henley, on the matter of North Korea, a one-liner would have drilled Kerry into the floor: "Oh, I see. Multilateralism is great for Iraq and everything else-- but in NORTH KOREA, we have to go it alone... perhaps we'll make ANOTHER great deal like Carter and CLinton did the LAST time we went unilateral there..." The other time Kerry left his mid-section open to a potentially lethal pummeling was on the basic Iraq posture: "Senator, just weeks ago, you said that even knowing there were no WMDs and Al Qaeda ties in Iraq, you would have still voted to authorize the war. Now you insist that the war was a mistake. On January 20th, whichever of us is sworn in as President will be in command of 145,000 American troops in Iraq. There is no question that you have no enthusiasm for this mission, and I believe the American people need to know that having the resolve to carry out and win this mission are essential to it."

For his part, Kid Kerry failed miserably in some key counter-punching opportunities. Bush's oft repeated statements about "100,000 trained Iraqi soldiers" is... a lie. Nearly 40,000 of that number are not troops, but police. Further, tens of thousands of these "trained Iraqis" have been dismissed for links to the insurgents. The other was "missile defense". Against whom? Oh yes: North Korea. The country that acquired NUCLEAR WEAPONS during the Bush II Administration, so that now... we may actually NEED THE MISSILE DEFENSE NOW! And the last point Kerry missed a clean shot at Bush's jaw, specifically, Secretaries Rumsfeld and Powell have both basically said the situation in Iraq is untenable in the last week, while Bush insists it is rosy, rosy, rosy.

In the end, the similarities between the two on foreign policy issues proved to be far greater than the differences. At one point, we came close-- not too close-- but close-- to a love fest, as the two complemented each other's daughters. Again-- a surprisingly high minded approach... Bush scored his point with "I am steady-- he changes his mind". Kerry scored back with "consistent but wrong is not a virtue."

What matters now is whether polls shift. I do suspect the Kerry bleeding just stopped, and we got ourselves a horse race.


good call.

One reason Kerry held back: I think that the his team wants their man to look like a "good-times fella" - rather like Clinton's image.

Remember when Gore and Dean got labelled as "angry". They lost.

JMHO! Peace!

Posted by Jonathan at October 1, 2004 6:59 PM

As ably pointed out by Jim Henley, on the matter of North Korea, a one-liner would have drilled Kerry into the floor: "Oh, I see. Multilateralism is great for Iraq and everything else-- but in NORTH KOREA, we have to go it alone... perhaps we'll make ANOTHER great deal like Carter and CLinton did the LAST time we went unilateral there..."

Whatever one might think about the potential costs or benefits of negotiating with N. Korea, the "you want us to be unilateral there" attack against Kerry makes no sense on its own terms. Because ALL of our putative allies in that situation--the Chinese, whom Bush apparently wants to defer to, and his bosom buddy Vladimir and the Russians--want us to negotiate one-on-one with N. Korea. For us to refuse to do that is unilateral, in spite of the administration's charade about being truly multilateral by insisting on having everyone at the table at once. When nobody else at the table agrees with what you're doing, that's unilateralism.

Posted by Haggai at October 3, 2004 11:20 AM

I hold no brief for Bush's handling of NOrth Korea, Haggai.

My point is simply that all I'm hearing from Kerry on that score is quibbling about the shape of the table. And I think the shoe DOES FIT on North Korea: why IS unilateralism per se good there, as opposed to asking China to carry our water?

Kerry hasn't offered an alternative, except that "what Bush does is wrong." Worse, Kerry proposed extending the same absurd deal that Carter/Clinton made with North Korea in 1994 to Iran!
And Bush let that crazy appeasement talk just go-- something ELSE he could have KILLED KErry with (if he weren't a complete dumbass).

No, what matters re: DPRK is not whether the message is mutlilateral or unilateral, but what the message IS. The message has GOT to be: there's something in it for you if you give up your nuclear (and generally hostile military) ambitions and play ball; and if you don't, we will isolate you further, and quite possibly, start targeting you for "regime change".

Anything else is, in Bushspeak, "a mixed message."

Posted by the talking dog at October 3, 2004 11:35 AM

I agree that nobody is making any sense at all on Iran, although I don't see a lot of good options there. On N. Korea, I pretty much agree with Kevin Drum's latest post. There's no way we can further isolate N. Korea unless we have allies on board, and they won't be on board if we don't negotiate directly with the DPRK. Although he hasn't been too specific of late, Kerry has previously sketched out some of what he would be willing to offer in a potential deal, with vague hints of a military option if negotiations fail (I'm thinking of a Washington Post op-ed he did a while back). But I don't really see what realistic military options we have there in any event.

Posted by Haggai at October 3, 2004 6:12 PM

This is the op-ed I was thinking of, from August '03. He outlines his preferred diplomatic approach and ends by saying:

"There is no guarantee that this crisis can be resolved diplomatically. But going to the table with a comprehensive approach based on the hard realities that confront us demonstrates a commitment to negotiation that this administration has yet to convey. It signals our allies that we are prepared to go the last mile to resolve this crisis peacefully, and, should our effort fail, it strengthens our hand -- and our credibility in the eyes of the world -- to undertake a military option."

Posted by Haggai at October 3, 2004 6:20 PM

Haggai, I like you. I let you decide table. You funny.
Talking Dog, he no funny.

Posted by kim jong-illin at October 3, 2004 10:23 PM