After watching the debate last night, or more specifically the commentary after the debate, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am either more partisan than I thought, or the whole political punditing system wrapped around the debate is so rigid and automatic as to be practically useless.

I know that I watched the debate with a bias. I wasn’t really biased about Kerry – I was neither particularly impressed by him or worried about him. The whole business of him being wishy-washy is a non-issue to me, and it really feels like a straw man set up by the Bush camp – personally, I’d rather have a leader who changes his mind when presented with new information than one that is afraid of losing face, even when engining toward disaster.

I was definitely biased against Bush. It’s not because he’s a Republican (or at least I hope it’s not), but because I don’t think I can trust him. I almost voted for him in 2000 because he promised to be a centrist and one who would bring together right and left; instead, we seem to be in one of the most partisan periods in recent American history. He talked about how important international ties were, but now he doesn’t seem to think we need anyone beside the UK and Australia on our side. Oh, and Poland – we can’t forget Poland. Anyway, I’m sure you know what people say, and I’d just say the same thing, so I’ll move on.

If debates have winners and losers, I thought Kerry was the clear winner. Where Bush seemed to try to fit memorized multiple choice answers to the questions, Kerry answered the question with an essay that had both support and a point. Where Bush seemed confused and uncertain (several times asking for a 30-second extension, then spending 15 seconds staring blankly while he figured out what to say), Kerry always seemed to know what to say, and he seemed to mean what said. Bush said at least a dozen times, “It’s a hard job” and “Wrong War, Wrong Time, Wrong Place” – he sounded like someone in a little over their head in the Presidency. Kerry did not resort to gimmick lines or soundbites – personally, I’d prefer a President who would rather deal with issues than pander to the 5-second news lead-in.

But afterward, the commentators said that Kerry was unclear and uncertain. They said he hadn’t laid out a plan for Iraq. He very clearly did – the 4 things we need to accomplish, and if you want more detail on how to do it, go to johnkerry.com. Bush just said we need to “Stay the Course”, but does anyone know what “the Course” is? It didn’t really seem like any of the commentators had really watched the debate to draw conclusions – they’d watched it to find support for the conclusions they’d drawn earlier.

It’s very frustrating, because people listen to the commentators at least as much as the debate itself, because the commentators seem clever and have opinions that seem to make sense, and will make us clever if we agree. The commentators are not living up to their responsibility to elucidate the debates for those that need help following along; it seems more like they’re trying to build up a brand name and attract consumer-viewers. It’s not really democratic anymore, but it’s not really a mediarchy, either. I don’t know what it is, but I’m frustrated. Frustrated, and looking forward to the next debate.

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