Bush Lost but Kerry Did not Win

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: Government And Politics Views: 4919

An Analysis of the First Presidential Debate

While the first presidential debate held no surprises for the pundits as well as those who care to follow the news, it surely had a clear winner. John Kerry won the debate and the poll among the undecided voters too.

Kerry was the underdog and many people did not know enough about him to be willing to trust him with the presidency during the time of war, a war that has reached our shores. They had tuned in to see if he would measure up.

Kerry measured up. He seemed Presidential and skillfully defended the "flip-flop" and "twisting in the wind" accusations. He also spoke about his own plan. The momentum from the debate will be on his side.

However Kerry failed to win a knock out victory. If he had at least knocked the President down even for a few moments on the battle ground of "war on terror" where the President is considered very strong, it would have been considered a technical knock out. But he did not. He came out with some great combination punches but seemed to hold back the knock out blows. He continuously attacked the President's judgment and Bush's own "flip flops", but he shied away from speaking of the ground realities on Iraq. The mounting casualties, the daily car bombings, the no-go areas and the lack of clear and consistent strategy about those areas. He failed to highlight the extremist agenda of the President's neo-con advisers or draw attention to the hiding of the once highly visible Rumsfeld and Cheney. He did not dwell upon Halliburton and Cheney's influence on the President.

In elections held during times of war, if anything is more important than winning the trust of the people, it is winning the fear mongering. Fear is linked to the survival instinct. As for winning or retaining the trust nothing is as important as owning up to ones mistakes. Here too Kerry won by owning up to his.

Had Bush stressed more on Kerry's vote against the funding for war, Kerry would have had to resort to a long winding and confusing explanation. The one time Bush did mention it Kerry owned up to his "mistake" of offering a "wrong explanation."

It is the owning of mistake that would help people identify with a politician. Everyone makes mistake and everyone goes through an evolution of his position with changing circumstances. Americans know that the war in Iraq was a mistake and is going bad. If Bush had said I made an honest mistake because of the intelligence provided just as Kerry did but having succeeded in getting rid of Saddam staying the course is the best option, people would have understood and applauded. He should have also acknowledged his failure in getting a substantial coalition and should have said that he is trying to build a better one. "We are wiser because we are learning from our mistakes just as Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt did," he should have claimed. 

The President had his own moments to deliver the knock out blows but he failed to deliver them. Bush came into the debate with the momentum on his side and the crucial first debate was about the war on terror where he held a substantial lead in the polls. His campaign which has harnessed the art of fear mongering had Kerry on the defensive about his "flip flops". They were able to paint him as an "untrustworthy politician." By relying too much on reiterating the "scripted reply" of "a great diversion" and "a wrong war at the wrong time in a wrong place" he came out looking as a "politician" himself and not as a "commander in-chief." or "presidential".

Bush should have anticipated Kerry's mentioning his father, Bush's senior's stand on the folly of trying to occupy Iraq and his success in building a real coalition. Bush the son should have been ready with a reply such as "Senator thank you for acknowledging the wisdom of my father, but Senator you voted against that war. Another proof of remaining consistent about your inconsistencies."

It is not only the undecided voters that Kerry was able to address more effectively but also to two other influential voting blocks - the Muslim and the Jewish vote. Kerry mentioned the security of Israel more effectively and then addressed the need to reaching out to the Muslim world. Bush relied on the patronizing stand of the neo-cons that Muslims also prefer freedom. If Kerry takes the next step and just meets with the Muslim leadership, the Muslim vote will be his for the taking and may win him the crucial states of New Jersey, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Florida and Missouri; thus leaving only Iowa among the closely contested state.. Bush had done precisely that in 2000 while Gore in spite of having the Jewish vote almost guaranteed refused to meet with the Muslim leadership. An overwhelming majority of the Jews support the Democratic Party and being the most mature voting block would not feel threatened by a candidate meting with the Muslims.

It would be interesting to see what spins the campaigns put on their candidates' performances and more importantly what the candidates learn from their first encounter. The Vice-presidential debate might provide the sight of the candidates availing the opportunities to deliver the knock out punches. The candidate who sticks to the slogan: "In times of war, it is the psychology stupid" will win the debates and this close election.

Muhammad Obed is a physician and a founding member of the Council of Mosques and Muslim Organizations of Nassau and Suffolk

  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: Government And Politics
Views: 4919

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Older Comments:
I wish doctors attend to the sick, but it doesn't happen this way. On the Bush-Kerry debate there are abound writers & columnists who have covered the debate in a more subtle way than what is presented here by our good doctor. I came across two articles about the debate in couple of web sites that I visit quite frequently for their fierce opposition to the war against Iraq, their fight for human rights, dignity & their opposition to tyranny were ever it existed.
Here are these two links

By Justin Raimondo, a fierce anti-war

By Sidney Blumenthal


American Muslims are not going to get anything from US elections. What did Indian muslim got anything from elections in India. All the parties in India, exploit muslims to get their votes and forgets them once the elections are over. The same thing is heppening in the US and will happen again. Neither Bush nor Kerry is seeking muslim vote, I think they do'nt even care for muslim votes. Bush knows that the muslims were cheated during the last 4 years and will not vote for them. Kerry knows Muslims will vote for him, just because, they have no other alternative and he does not care whom muslims vote.

Then why should muslims vote for Kerry? Just to avoid future wars with Iran and Syria. If Bush wins the wars are unavoidable.

I agree with A.R.Antulay. We never hear of any Jewish leaders begging with the presidential candidates to invite them for talks. These busy-body bumble-bee Muslim leaders should get out of politics and concentrate their energies in organizing and educating the community.Have you ever heard of any political jewish leader bargaining with the candidates for the votes of their community. Infact, we dont even know who the political leaders of the Jewish community are. The candidates themselves try to please the Jewish community. Where Muslims are concerned the candidates ignore them and their leaders sell their votes. Brother Obed get out of the vote-bank politics.

I agree with the analysis of the debate and from a purely technical point of view this is an excellent analysis.

I differ with the writer when he pleads with Kerry to invite the Muslim leadership for talks. I don't understand why the Muslim leadership is so eager to be invited by the candidates. For a photo-op? so that they can frame the pictures in their offices and claim to be in big league? Look what they did the last time around. In their desire for short term gains they went begging to Bush when he flicked his fingers and delivered the Muslim votes to him. The result? Muslims world over are suffering because of the short sighted and sycophantic attitude of self-appointed leaders of the Muslim community. When the African-American Muslim brothers did not agree with supporting Bush, our 'for-sale' self appointed, self important Muslim leaders called our African-American brothers all sorts of names and split away from them.

Let the candidates do positive things for all Muslims and earn the votes of all the Muslim citizens of USA. If we start indulging in Vote-Bank politics only the so-called Muslim leaders will benefit and they will not hesitate to sacrifice the interests of the Muslim community as they did during the last elections. The writer is most probably from the sub-continent where Vote-Bank politics have been perfected into an art by the corrupt and unscrupulous Muslim leaders for their own benefits and he wants to inject the same poison into the Muslim community in the US.
Because of the bitter experience with the Muslim leadership after the last elections Muslim in the US have learned their lesson and have been ignoring the self-appointed Muslim leaders during these elections. The so-called leaders are squirming and are straining to position themselves again to give their unsolicted advice to the Muslims and run to their political masters with their tails wagging. Brother Obed please leave the Muslims alone and let them decide who is good for

As salaamu alaykum!
I do not believe it was a debate. It was a
question & answer comparison. Bush
looked so uncomfortable and fidgity---it
seemed like he couldn't relax. Kerry on the
other hand appeared to be calm, cool and
collected with his thoughts. Sure of himself.
Some of Kerry's responses were critical of
the Bush administration and that made the
president defensive with his long pauses
and his "uh's". That gave the impression that
he had nothing more to say and wanted
to leave. At times Bush looked like a
little boy lost in the woods; trying to find the
right thing to say so he didn't appear to be
Peace and Blessings