Sunday, October 03, 2004

Dirth of Blogging Time, the Hell of October, and Did Kerry Break the Debate Rules?

If you've kept up with my blog this far, you've probably noticed that the regularity of my posts has dropped significantly. I can't even keep up with comments half the time - Majikthese and Thad made some well-placed objections to a post I made a few weeks back, and if I had just a little more free time, I'd be able to give them answers worthy their remarks. But for the meantime, my blogging time will be taking a serious crunch for several reasons I've already mentioned - two graduate seminars, one TA-ship (with responsiblity for 80 students and 4 discussion sections), a part time job of 20-25 hours a week. And a girlfriend. :)

But the month of October, and possibly November, may be even worse. Although with the election, there will be tons of stuff I'd love to comment about, I'll be taking on the additional burden of beginning, crafting and completing a term paper on Philosophy of Mind, so as to complete an incomplete that should've been taken care of ages ago. If you believe in the supernatural or a deity of any flavor, please pray for me, and apologize to that deity on my behalf for my lack of belief. And check here maybe once a week - that's probably about how often I'll post. And if you know my other more personal blog, check there more often, since that's updated more frequently with slice of life kind of stuff.

Before I crashed tonight, I wanted to comment briefly on a new brouhaha developing about Thursday's debate between Kerry & Bush. If the charges are true, Kerry is guilty of breaking the debate rules by using a prepared notecard to guide his speeches during the debate. See the video here.

For the sake of the argument, let's assume the charges are 100% true. (I'm not actually committed yet. It looks bad from the evidence that I've seen, but that could be because I'm seeing what my mind wants to see - the way people see Jesus or the Virgin Mary in tortillas. I also find it hard to believe Kerry would be dumb enough to pull something like that knowing that a huge national audience was watching him, scrutinizing every detail for something they could blog about. How long ago was Rathergate?)

I would advise Republicans to stay away from this charge, basically. It's small potatoes. It goes back to the same rule of thumb that I would've insisted for Republicans and Democrats alike months ago when various inconsequential, stupid controversies dating back to the Vietnam War arose: "Even if the charges are true, do they really matter in whether we should vote for this person?"

To flesh this out: if Kerry lied about his experiences in Vietnam so as to qualify for medals that he didn't really earn, that might've made him a bastard back in the day, but in 2004, the two things that should matter most are 1) his record, and 2) his positions on the issues, and how close they come to mine. Yes, as conservatives argue, character does matter, but character is demonstrated primarily by one's record, judgment, and one's leadership, or lack thereof, so character fits under #1.

One could argue correctly that Kerry's misadventures speak poorly of his character. Fair enough, but we're considering Kerry 2004, not Kerry 1971. Character is holistic, and it would be myopic to pick one event from so long ago and make it definitive over everything else he's done. One caveat here - the degree of the wrong the candidate committed could outweigh the passage of time. If Kerry or Bush were guilty of murder or war crimes, for example - if Kerry participated in Genghis Khan-type atrocities against civilians - then the issue would only be evidence, not relevency.

And needless to say, this same rule of thumb would cover the Bush National Guard controversy. Let it be true (I'm actually quite skeptical on that count, forged documents or not) - presumably the best reasons to vote for or against him would be record we have of his tenure as President, and platform he's put forward as the agenda he offers to implement if reelected. Even if true, the charges against Bush are about as relevent as Bill Clinton's draft dodging as a disqualifer from the Presidency. Liberals who supported Clinton and yet think Bush's National Guard controversy should play a meaningful role in the election are in a deep case of bad faith.

Back to the broken debate rules. Applying this same rule of thumb to the debate, let it be true that Kerry broke the rules. There comes a point where even if someone's guilty of something, making a big deal about it makes you look even worse than the guilty party. If, say, I take a cheap ball-point pen from the supply closet in my office that's worth 10 cents without getting permission, and a co-worker alerts my boss, the co-worker looks far more petty than I would look bad.

While breaking the debate rules would be far more serious than the pen example, a similar principle would be in effect. Right or wrong, Kerry is popularly perceived as the winner of the debate on Thursday. (I agree with this assessment, though it was a victory more of default and performance than of superior ideas). If Bush's camp, or even loosely affliated allies, try to make a big deal of this, Bush will look petty, guilty of sour grapes over his lost debate. Even the bloggers that broke story aptly point out they'd prefer not to "hyperventilate and claim that this violation influenced the outcome of the first debate, but it's certainly reasonable to request that the rules are followed by the Kerry Campaign and enforced by the Debate Commission for the remaining two contests."

Instead, Bush should lick his wounds, maybe take a moment to feel better about his loss knowing that Kerry's strength, at least in part, came from a violation of the rules, and put in more work on his own weaknesses. A) Drink some coffee before the debate if he's such an early to bed/early to rise kind of guy. Coffee is the Nectar of the Gods, I would assure him. I know from experience. B) Get an hour and a half worth of material instead of the 30-40 minutes he had to stretch out. Yes, perhaps Bush and Rove had a method to their madness, thinking "less is more" works better for middle America, and that repeatition plays a huge role in persuasion. And maybe it's only that I'm a former debate nerd and aspiring philosopher that this technique bothered me. But from the look of things, I wasn't the only one who thought this repetition looked like crap.

Otherwise, the only other thing I'll say about the debate is that it depressed me me about as much as the 2000 debates and the 1996 debates. Where, dear god, is the candidate I can root for? This time, I think he was across the street, debating David Cobb, languishing in obscurity and irrelevence, and even wrong himself about the issue he's making the centerpiece of his campaign. Given that politics are usually so depressing, I don't know why I bother sometimes...

Anyway. If you've read this far, I'll end by assuring you that by Wednesday, I should have something about my take on the "Iraq is wretched vs Iraq is peachy" debate, and why both sides are wrong.


Blogger Thad said...

Hey Kraorh,

I agree with you that this whole "debategate" thing is Stupid Stuff (big time), but since you mentioned it, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that Even The Murdoch-Owned New York Post reports that the mysterious object Kerry pulled out of his jacket was in fact a pen.

And, for what it's worth, Bush also pulled something out of his pocket. (I'm sure this makes you want to go all tu quoque on me an' shit, but I'm just sayin', is all.)

Anyway, like I said, I agree that this is an annoying and distracting triviality. (Unfortunately, annoying and distracting trivialities seem to be getting a lot of play in the blogosphere recently.)

Personally, I thought last week's debate was actually surprisingly substantial, certainly much, much moreso than the 2000 debates (I mean, the choice of questions alone was so much better this time), which were flat-out unwatchable. In fact, I only made it through the first one in its entirety, and that only because I was drinking heavily. I hope tonight's VP matchup and the next two presidential debates continue in this vein. They're still a far cry from the debates we shoud be having, mind you, but IMO they're (so far) a big improvement over the debates we had last time out.

At any rate, I sympathize with your time constraints. Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to your Iraq post, whenever you can steal the time. I don't think that issue's going away anytime soon.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004 12:42:00 PM  
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Saturday, October 08, 2005 4:43:00 AM  

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