Blogs > Cliopatria > Ok, And Now About that Debate

Oct 14, 2004 12:37 am

Ok, And Now About that Debate

Dan Rather's poll says Kerry won over their test group of undecideds by landslide proportions.

I find this shocking. I found the debate boring and uneventful. Rather said the candidates both played it safe. He was right.

I thought Kerry the clear winner the first half hour not so much because he hit any homeruns as because Bush seemed to be stumbling badly. Bush appeared on the verge of going out of control. His facial grimaces were astonishing.

But he recovered and ended strongly.

Kerry's main hope has to be that most people found the debate so boring they tuned out after the first 30 minutes. If that happened, he may have picked up a lot of support.

But then again maybe CBS's sample is representative and voters really liked what Kerry had to say. If that is the case then Kerry may really have won the election tonight. This I find hard to believe, however.

I await the poll results with eagerness.

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Maarja Krusten - 10/18/2004

Nice idea, and I appreciate your thoughtful response. But, as Bush pere would say, "wouldn't be prudent." Check out how I start my post at
LOL. As a current Fed, I'm best off as just one of a gaggle of posters here at HNN. Although my posts mostly are retrospective, looking at events through the prism of the Nixon administration, I sometimes wonder if even that is safe for me to do as a Fed. Message discipline and all that. I'll either learn to live with solitaire--I don't hold the lack of response against anyone--or limit the way I post. Thanks for your kindness in replying!

Posted on personal time during lunch break

Jonathan Dresner - 10/17/2004

Have you considered a blog of your own? Someplace you could develop these thoughts on your own time and turf, and bring in readers who were interested in your specific ideas and expertise?

I'm not trying to get you off HNN, but it seems like you have some very specific things to say that aren't being adequately addressed here and for which the HNN comments are a pretty weak venue.

A sustained discussion of the relationship between administrative history and management theory, for example, would not just interest historians, but also administrators, management theory people, etc. Archival matters are also something that has a very weak net-presence, and which does not excite as much interest among the (mostly non-professional) HNN readership as it deserves.

I used to spend a lot more time commenting and debating on the discussion boards than I do now: having a blog platform has allowed me to be part of the discourse on much more my own terms, and I enjoy it immensely.

Just a thought.

Maarja Krusten - 10/15/2004

Undaunted, I'm continuing this thread on my own. Those who know me know I am very self actualized, I always march to be the beat of my own drummer, LOL. Here's an example of the type of voter who seems to have been left cold by the focus on No Child and Pell Grants in the third debate. This is extracted from a letter to the editor of the New York Times in the 10/15/04 edition:

[BEGIN LETTER EXTRACT] "Of the dozens of people I know who have been laid off, most have college degrees and all have years of experience in the high-tech industry.

Few have been able to find new jobs with comparable pay and benefits. Many have gone without health insurance (five months for me).

Some, including me, had to "transfer knowledge" to foreigners before we were laid off. Does Mr. Bush expect people in their 40's and 50's to retrain and start over? Just what are these 21st-century jobs? " [END EXTRACT]

Posted on personal time during lunch break

Jonathan Dresner - 10/14/2004

I would agree that the undecideds' apparent shift to Kerry was somewhat surprising. I thought the debate was a good, solid fight: both missed good points and both have weaknesses that were clearly on display, but they both made solid points, too.

As I just said over on Rebunk, Bush's domestic agenda has advanced remarkably well over the last four years (that friendly legislature helps, though those pesky courts keep getting in the way) and so he had a record to run on that was much more substantive than the conventional wisdom -- which said Kerry as a Dem. had an advantage on domestic issues -- credited. I think most of what he's accomplished is terrible, but it's relevant and apparently productive. Kerry did his best to counter most of that, but he had to present something positive, too, so he was running a tight balancing act.

Maarja Krusten - 10/14/2004

Stopped to take a brief coffee break and thought I'd add a couple of citations, in case anyone asks about the authenticity of the feelings expressed above by President Nixon. Nixon's genuinely kind, courteous behavoir towards low level staff and White House servants was noted on the public record by at least two aides. See William Safire, _Before the Fall_, page 286, and Charles Colson, _Born Again_, page 84. The aides do not speculate on the reason for good Nixon's behavior towards support staff. I would guess that it reflects his upbringing and his respect for his Dad, who, like many American workers, had change careers often and to scramble in order to make ends meet. The story of Nixon's father would have fit in well into the discussion of jobs (mid-career transitions and training) last night, and I'm sure RN would have used it, had he been one of the debaters.

See also some of the publicly released Nixon White House tapes. Note: as an employee of the National Archives, I spent 14 years working with the Nixon tapes and documents. I listened to some 2,000 hours of tapes during my career.

OK, enough solitaire, finished my coffee so it's back to work.

Maarja Krusten - 10/14/2004

Consider the very different vibes in President Nixon's famous farewell speech to the White House staff, given under extremely stressful circumstances as he resigned from office:


"This house, for example—I was thinking of it as we walked down this hall, and I was comparing it to some of the great houses of the world that I have been in. This isn't the biggest house. Many, and most, in even smaller countries, are much bigger. This isn't the finest house. Many in Europe, particularly, and in China, Asia, have paintings of great, great value, things that we just don't have here and, probably, will never have until we are 1,000 years old or older.

But this is the best house. It is the best house, because it has something far more important than numbers of people who serve, far more important than numbers of rooms or how big it is, far more important than numbers of magnificent pieces of art.

This house has a great heart, and that heart comes from those who serve. I was rather sorry they didn't come down, We said goodbye to them upstairs. But they are really great. And I recall after so many times I have made speeches, and some of them pretty tough, yet, I always come back, or after a hard day—and my days usually have run rather long—I would always get a lift from them, because I might be a little down but they always smiled."


"And I say to them, there are many fine careers. This country needs good farmers, good businessmen, good plumbers, good carpenters.

I remember my old man. I think that they would have called him sort of a little man, common man. He didn't consider himself that way. You know what he was? He was a streetcar motorman first, and then he was a farmer, and then he had a lemon ranch. It was the poorest lemon ranch in California, I can assure you. He sold it before they found oil on it. [Laughter] And then he was a grocer. But he was a great man, because he did his job, and every job counts up to the hilt, regardless of what happens."

Posted on personal time during lunch--ooops, time's up, gotta run

Maarja Krusten - 10/14/2004

Forgot to add that I am posting this on personal time dur9ing my lunch break.

Maarja Krusten - 10/14/2004

I tend to agree with polls that give Kerry the edge in this last debate. Yes, it was a pretty boring debate, but we'll see how it plays out in the long run. Not all the issues discussed have equal resonance with voters. Looking at the debate as someone who voted straight Republican tickets, at least during the 1970s and 1980s (I don't reveal my more recent voting record), and who now is an Independent, I think Bush missed some opportunities to connect with voters on some of the big issues.

Since Kerry's numbers have been rising on the "likeability" factor, this may be significant. I found myself cringing when Bush discussed economic issues (job losses, outsourcing, wages) in terms of No Child Left Behind and Pell Grants. Of course, he is right, education is the key to a good job, but his answers were too narrowly focused and lacking in empathy to be as effective as they might have been.

As I listened to Bush, I kept thinking, if I were a Bethlehelm Steel retiree over the age of 65, left with no pension and forced to start fresh, or a laid-off worker, age 50, worrying about how to feed his family while leaving behind all he had trained for as an adult and having to look for a new career, or an inner city Mom struggling to protect her kids from bad influences on the street and to persuade them to just GO to school, would the No Child and Pell arguments win me over? Or if I were a voter who was fortunate enough to have a good education and a comfortable income, but who thought about the people I've just mentioned, would I find reassurance in Bush's answers? One has to wonder how a Reagan, a Clinton, or a Nixon--all men who, unlike Bush, had actually experienced economic hardship--would have handled the questions. Certainly seemed like a missed opportunity to me. Republicans used to do better at addressing these issues, at least from what I remember from my younger days. Although I recognize that it always has been a pretty pro-business party, my vibe in the old days always was that it better conveyed being "big tent," before we knew what that term meant. I leave to future historians to sort out how Bush did compared to the Presidents I've mentioned.

What effect the dropped ball has, and how the economic issues balance against the foreign policy ones, only time will tell.