In this day and age, quiet confidence is often mistaken as a bad quality. While some people seek outspoken enthusiasm in their leaders, I look for a man who is set in his core and able to convey his beliefs with clarity and in a few words. On Sept. 30, 2004, that man was George Bush. Those who say Bush lost the debate look at things from only one angle; namely, how each candidate sounded. A debate is not about what is said on one night but how each candidate embodies his words through his actions. While John Kerry spoke well, Bush spoke truth. Kerry may have seemed more confident and more presidential – depending on your definition of the word – but he did not win the debate; namely, because he was debating himself. Bush simply had no one to debate.
Kerry’s positions during the debate were in clear opposition to the many stances he had taken before. The magnitude of Kerry’s flip-flopping during the debate was so strong that it had to have caused earthquakes in China. For example, during the debate Kerry announced that America’s reason for going to war in Iraq “was weapons of mass destruction, not the removal of Saddam Hussein.” Some credit could be given to this statement – if Kerry had not claimed on “Face the Nation” during the lead-up to war that it went beyond weapons of mass destruction. Rather, he said it had more to do with what Saddam “may do in another invasion of Kuwait or in a miscalculation about the Kurds or a miscalculation about Iran or particularly Israel.” But this was a mere pittance of a flip-flop compared to when Kerry complained about all the money tied up in Iraq that could be spent domestically, since Kerry promised last August to increase funding to Iraq if elected “by whatever number of billions of dollars it takes to win.”
It is this amazing ability that Kerry has, to say whatever he believes his audience wants to hear, regardless of the stances he has taken in the past. These particular examples are only a small portion of Kerry’s debate flip-flops and an even smaller fraction of his flip-flops in the last 10 years. From NAFTA to No Child Left Behind to tax cuts to the war in Iraq to the security fence in Israel, Kerry has taken opposing stances on an unconscionable number of issues.
This is why Kerry did not win the debate; even when he says the right thing, it’s hard to pat him on the back for it without feeling duped or uneasy. Kerry’s job on Sept. 30 was not to out-debate Bush but to close his credibility gap, which he more than failed to do. This point was summed up well by a military friend of mine who said, “Bush didn’t lose the debate – he was just aggravated because he knew Kerry was full of crap.”
Of course, this leads to another of Kerry’s shortcomings: his lack of knowledge about the military. For a veteran, Kerry seems to know very little about the military. For example, his promise to double Special Forces is as illogical as it is foolish. Any member of the armed forces will tell you that Special Forces are special for a reason. It is not just training and equipment that make them what they are; it is the intellect and abilities they bring to the table. These things cannot be taught. Special Forces are a finite resource and the only way to double their numbers is to lower their standards.
The crux of the issue at hand is not whether Kerry won the debate but whether he convinced Americans that he had a real reason for wanting to be president. Kerry lacks a set of core values. He lacks the ability to stand behind his principles and let the public judge him for them. George W. Bush has this ability and he demonstrates it on a daily basis.
Daniel Rabinovitch is a sophomore political science major.