Friday, October 01, 2004

The Presidential Debate (I): Foreign Policy

Most of you know that the first of three debates between the Republican and Democratic candidates for President of the United States took place last night. For what it's worth, here's my contribution to the discussions now taking place.

The first question, for some bizarre reason, is always to ask, "Who won?" Not that it was a real debate, mind you; but rather, the question of the winner is based on an evaluation of which person made the better impact. But, in the absence of a clear and decisive event -- either an incredibly brilliant presentation, or an incredibly terrible gaffe -- such a decision is highly subjective. Last night's debate had neither brilliance or disasters.

Some commentators, beginning immediately after the debate had ended, were awarding the "victory" to Sen. John Kerry, the nominee of the Democratic Party. I must admit that he came off better, at least initially, than I had expected, based upon what I had seen from the small part of the Democratic National Convention, and the sound bites on the news from the campaign trail. For at least the first part of the debate (say, the first 30 minutes), he spoke with a clarity that seemed almost uncharacteristic. President George W. Bush, however, was clearly not as polished in his style; but I felt that he believes what he is saying -- and I didn't get the same "read" from listening to Sen. Kerry. I found, and find, myself wondering if people are going to make their decisions, not on the basis of what was said, but rather on how it was said.

At one point, Sen. Kerry accused the President of having sent soldiers into combat without the best equipment, such as body armor to protect them. "Strange," I thought, as I seem to recall that Sen. Kerry voted against the appropriation that supplied that armor to our troops. Sen. Kerry also said, more than once, that, regarding the decisions to go to war, especially in Iraq, he "would have done better." Unlike Presidnet Bush, however, he gave no details of his "plan to end the war." I also recall candidate Nixon making the same claim with regard to the war in Vietnam; he also had a "secret plan" to end the war.

Well, I could say more; but much of the "bottom line" for me is that I still don't know when the "real" Sen. Kerry is speaking, or where he stands. Sure, right now, he's opposed to the war in Iraq; but I don't think he can truly have a plan to capture Osama bin Laden, as he claims; or that he grasps the terrorist threat to our national safety and security. I think placing any decision about possible action against terrorists on hold, pending the approval of the United Nations, would be a disastrous mistake. I almost laughed at his, "I will hunt down and kill any terrorists" statement -- I just don't believe him to have such a resolve.

I do not think that President George W. Bush is perfect; or even that he will one day be considered among the greatest of our Presidents. But, when it come to foreign policy, I am far more inclined to prefer the course he has followed than that suggested by his opponent. Maybe the polish was lacking; but, for me, the first round goes to President Bush.

Two debates remain...