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The first debate was a bust…or was it?

By Frank Salvato
web posted October 4, 2004

The first presidential debate has come and gone. All the hype and all the spin has seeped down to the talking heads and spin merchants declaring who they think won the first round and why. From substance to style both camps heralded their candidate as strong and communicative. I, on the other hand, don't see it in such a cut and dry manner. I believe the American public was cheated out of an opportunity to see who the candidates really are. Or were we?

I was a bit disappointed in the performances of both in the sense that we the people received nothing but rehashed talking points regurgitated under the guise debate. The candidates offered nothing new and they definitely didn't debate any issues. How could they? They were too busy trying to remember the catch phrases and talking points that filled their heads courtesy of their handlers, marketers, advisers and spin-doctors. To say a debate took place would be an overstatement because the event was void of any true singular human, a necessary element in a debate.

I am sure there are many reasons the two candidates weren't on their 'A games.' There was a lot of pressure to perform, perhaps a bit more so for John Kerry than the president. It was evident from the safe approach both of them took that chief among their concerns was "not screwing up," giving the media that all-coveted sound byte that could determine the outcome of the election. But I know of at least one element that could have contributed to the performance of one of the candidates.

George W. Bush testy and annoyedMany people who commented on the proceedings said that President Bush looked tired and sometimes agitated compared to Senator Kerry. While one can only assume neither of the candidates got a good nights sleep prior to the big day, the differences between the president's day and John Kerry's day were dramatic. While John Kerry was busy relaxing, going over talking points, conferring with advisers and busy getting a manicure – this is essential when preparing for a debate – President Bush was touring the hurricane battered areas of Florida's Treasure Coast surveying the devastation effecting all who live there. While John Kerry was soaking his cuticles in preparation for the most important event of his life, President Bush was consoling, praying with and pledging his assistance to people who had already experienced the most devastating event in their lives.

The contrast is stark, don't you think? John Kerry, narcissist, vainly having his nails buffed, was doing for himself while President Bush, our president, our man of the people, was selflessly reaching out to everyman. If there was ever a testimony to each man's character this would certainly be it.

My reasons for believing that Senator Kerry is not fit for the highest office in the land are based on a plethora of reasons, chief among them his 20 year non-record in the US Senate and his dismal attendance record in the Senate Intelligence Committee meetings. No one who truly believes national security is the most important issue facing our country today would miss so many intelligence meetings. (Personally, it would make more sense for the people of Massachusetts to fire the guy as senator rather than elect him president but then they keep electing Ted Kennedy.) Kerry exposed his true preference to place his needs, his aspirations and his interests over those of the people of a state which has been devastated by a series of natural disasters – sorry MoveOn.org, the president isn't responsible for the hurricanes, contrary to what you insinuate – all I could say to myself was, "The choice is clearer than it ever has been."

We may not have heard the candidates' visions for the future or their proposals for the next four years. And we may not have heard them explain and/or clarify their positions on certain issues – we needed to hear a lot of clarification from Senator Kerry and still do. But there are still two debates to go and we will most likely hear those things then. You can bet that their handlers will not allow another opportunity to pass without making sure these issues are addressed.

What was afforded the American public in Florida on September 30th, 2004 was a true, credible and candid look into who each of these men really are. It's clear that one thinks of himself before others and that the other thinks of others before himself. The latter trait is what I am looking for in my president.

George W. Bush sees the presidency as a vocation, a duty. John Kerry sees the presidency as an opportunity to further himself, as the next elected office to hold.

The choice is clear.

Frank Salvato is a political media consultant and the managing editor for TheRant.us. His pieces are regularly featured in Townhall.com. He has appeared as a guest on The O'Reilly Factor and numerous radio shows. His pieces have been recognized by the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention and are periodically featured in The Washington Times as well as other national and international publications. He can be contacted at oped@therant.us.

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