Monday, October 04, 2004

If a Tree Spins in a Forest, and No Media Are Present, Does It Make a Sound?

Get your fresh (well, it was fresh on Sunday) "post-debate about the debate" spin right here! I'm doing my part to help my side win the debate-about-the-debate, but it raises an interesting question--if you tell people that you're spinning them, are you less effective, or more effective because you acknowledge your bias and disarm them? There's some interesting research that if you disclose your conflict of interest, you're actually likely to be more biased in your presentation--as if disclosing the conflict means you're now off the hook and it's buyer beware, and that having been warned, the recipients of the advice tend to drop their guard. I read about this in an article about stock analysts, and whether they could be independent and whether their advice should be followed. It may be that disclosure alone, without more, means you get worse information. How very post-modern.

Hey, but that's theoretical. This week, I just want people to recognize that Bush is defensive. Annoyed. Arrogant. Record of failure. Words speak louder than action. Did I mention arrogant?

Online version here.

East Valley Tribune, Oct. 3, 2004

In 2000, snap polls and pundits right after the first Bush-Gore debate showed a narrow Gore win. But then the cable TV-talk radio-RNC media operation spun into action, irresistibly convinced that never mind the merits, Bush won on style. As Al Gore later said, it’s enough to make you sigh.

So this year, Democrats know that the only way to affect the future is to stay on message about the recent past. Yes, it’s vital that we stay on message about the recent past. Our nation’s future depends on staying on message about the recent past. So, here’s your debate-about-the-debate talking points, staying on message about the recent past:

Officially-approved words describing Kerry: Strength, conviction, fresh start. Presidential. Steady command. Facts.

Officially-approved words describing Bush: Defensive, annoyed, arrogant. Repetitive. More of the same. Shallow promises. Record of failure.

Best use of restrictive debate format: Kerry says on Iraq, “my position has been consistent.” He sounds firm and sincere; Bush can’t respond. For those scoring at home, on the debate rules negotiations, that’s Janet Napolitano 1, Karen Hughes 0.

Comedic table-setter: Kerry first thanks host university and salutes “pluck and perseverance” of hurricane-ravaged Floridians. Bush then also thanks university, pauses; after two beats, Democratic wag in audience shouts out, “Florida!” Bush then resumes, saying “our prayers are with the good people of this state, who’ve suffered a lot.” Proving, again, that the secret of comedy is -- TIMING!

Biggest non-sequitur: Bush tells affecting anecdote about meeting with military widow, then dissipates emotional force of story by saying, “You know, it’s hard work to try to love her as best as I can.” Right. (That howler may compensate for Kerry’s reference to a “global test” for preemptive war; he leaves it unclear if it’s essay or multiple choice. If so, then “moolahs” tips the humor balance irretrievably against Bush.)

Best one-liners by a gay Republican and a happy Libertarian: Andrew Sullivan (R), reacting to Bush’s joke about trying to “put a leash” on his daughters: “No president who has presided over Abu Ghraib should ever say he wants to put anyone on a leash.” Jesse Walker (L) says George Bush is to “hard work” as Al Gore is to “lock box.”

Style pointers: How many Bush eye-rolls and scowls equal one Gore sigh? And please, please: Don’t forget Poland.

Overnight polls on who won: CNN/Gallup/USA Today: Kerry 53, Bush 37. CBS: Kerry 43, Bush 28. ABC Kerry 45, Bush 36, tie 17. And the best part about this newfangled Internet thingy is that we’ve got all the initial thoughts of GOP partisans down in pixels, to wave in their faces when they start reciting the different RNC talking points.

Off the talking points, remember that there were three countries in the “Axis of Evil” -- and Bush chose to invade the only one, Iraq, without an active nuclear-weapons program. On “Let’s Make a Deal,” if you pick the wrong door, you lose. Bush had it easier than the average contestant; two doors would have worked, but he picked the only wrong door. But instead of Monty Hall giving him a parting gift and sending him home, Bush insists he’s won.

Bush is a Peter Pan president; he tells us that the way to victory is “hard work” -- the hard work of speaking clearly and consistently, but not the real hard work of actually getting anything done. In the novel, flying to Neverland was hard work, too; you really, really had to believe, with childlike faith, to get there. Adults couldn’t do it. But maybe that’s not because we’re not working hard enough at believing the words; maybe that’s because what Bush oh-so-sincerely says isn’t what’s actually happening.

Maybe all you ‘wingers really want to be Lost Boys; maybe you are up to the real Bush “hard work” of believing what isn’t so, on both Iraq and Bush’s untested (and similarly expensive and unrealistic) missile defense system. But please remember, before you really mess up the country and our future: Peter Pan was fiction. Electing a president is reality.

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