Missed Opportunities

Slate magazine has an interesting analysis of how Kerry blew the second presidential debate by William Saletan (link via nj). As much as I think Bush is an idiot as a debator, I have to say I agree that Kerry is even worse at taking advantage of what Saletan calls hanging sliders (and what I called pucks flying through the slot after the first debate).

Kerry gave interesting responses, but they often weren't the ones I expected. WHY, oh WHY is he incapable of explaining the "first I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it" remark, for example? (Bush even got the attack wrong this time, somewhat hilariously: "He said he voted for the $87 billion, and voted against it right before he voted for it. And that sends a confusing signal to people." Um, no, sir—I think it's you who are confused.) It's a simple explanation, one that Edwards gave in 30 seconds or less during the vice-presidential debate, but for some reason Kerry said the same thing he'd said in the first presidential debate: "I made a mistake about how I talk about [the war], the president made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse?" Yeah, ok, we know. Bad president. Now, TELL US ABOUT THE VOTE!

The simple explanation is that there were two versions of the bill to fund the ongoing efforts in Iraq. The first was actually supported by Senate Republicans—and Kerry—who were uncomfortable with the administration's version of the bill, which asked for $20 billion for reconstruction. As Glenn Kessler and Dan Morgan wrote in their Washington Post article GOP Prism Distorts Some Kerry Positions,

In a floor statement explaining his vote, Kerry said he favored the $67 billion for the troops on the ground -- "I support our troops in Iraq and their mission" -- but faulted the administration's $20 billion request for reconstruction. He complained that administration "has only given us a set of goals and vague timetables, not a detailed plan."

Of course, we know how much Kerry values a plan—and if the Bush camp wanted to make a joke out of Kerry's vote, they could certainly talk about Plans. And they'd have to, if Kerry would just say to the American people what he's already said on the floor of the Senate (and what his running mate said in the vice presidential debate). Something like this would be great: "I supported a different version of the bill, one that would have provided $67 billion for bullets and fuel and body armor while saving taxpayers the $20 billion the administration earmarked for unspecified 'reconstruction' costs—what amounted to a slush fund for Bush/Cheney cronies like Halliburton."

Posted by Lori in news/media and politics at 12:05 PM on October 12, 2004