A while back, Kos of Daily Kos asked for readers to suggest debate questions for Bush. Now he’s picked out a few of them. Kos writes, “These are all tough questions, so I don’t expect anything like them to be asked at the debates.”
But the ones he’s picked, for the most part, aren’t that tough. Bush would have relatively little trouble spinning them back at Kerry, making himself out to be compassionate and sympathetic, Kerry as crude and scary. Here’s an example, along with my hypothetical Bush response:
Mr. President, in July of 2003 you said if anyone wanted to attack our troops in Iraq, they should bring it on. In March of this year you appeared at a reporters’ dinner and ran a video in which you jokingly stumbled around your office looking for weapons of mass destruction. Can you explain this behavior to the families who have lost loved ones in Iraq?
Heartfelt pause. Thank you for asking that. You know, being a president can be stressful. Sometimes I try to lighten the mood when I probably shouldn’t. But let me say this: No one feels more deeply than I do about the noble sacrifices made by our military families… (Followed by 90 seconds of trademark Bush hokum.)
Kos’ readers are informed, passionate partisans; they’ve offered questions that speak to the true sources of their animosity toward Bush. But that’s not what these presidential “debates” are about.
If you want to “win” in this venue, you have to play a different game. It’s a subtle, tactical battle. Let’s turn to Bad Attitudes’ Lead Balloons for an example of how it should really be done. From How Kerry can win the debates:
Kerry speaking: Yes, I’m for the Bush foreign policy — the foreign policy of George Bush Senior.
What is presidential leadership? Presidential leadership is being able to do the tough, patient work of forging a coalition for war — the way your father did, and the way you didn’t have the strength or patience for. Your father had the strength, wisdom, and courage to be commander-in-chief. He could’ve invaded Iraq, but he had the strength to show restraint and the wisdom to know it would have been a disaster.
Now, his own son has made that very mistake and proved the father right. I commit here to the American people that if I win this election, I will reach out to former President Bush, and seek his wise and strong counsel. Sir, your father was a big man who had the wisdom to know when to fight, and the strength to know when to show restraint. He was strong and wise, you are strong and wrong. You had the chance to measure up to that legacy, and you failed.
Man, I’d love to see that.