Monday, September 27, 2004

Prelude to the Debates: Bush Versus Kerry

All the talking heads this Sunday were chatting about the upcoming debates, saturating The Corsair's Cutty Sark addled mind with all manner of political arcana, so that, overflowing, he feels the need to vent. So, let's begin: George Stephanopoulos was particularly interesting -- although he is not always -- because of his history as a veteran of Democratic War Rooms.

How fascinating it was to watch George's barely controlled impish grin, in full flower, that dark gleam about the Greek eyes, as he chewed the fat with RNC political advisor and former K-Street cast member, Stuart Stevens. When The Steph noted that Newsweek polls show more people think Kerry will lose the debate, amoral trickster that he is, Stevens quickly concocted naught else but utter bullshit about how he "thinks" (wink wink) Bush, his own man, will not do so well (This, dear reader, is known in Washington spin, as "lowered expectations). Stephanopoulos was gleaming as if he were beholding the wily craft of the Greek God Hephaistos at work.

And The Steph lashed out -- like an effervescent mountain wind blast from Athos, suffused with the unsettling trill bleatings in a minor key of black Alpine sheep -- at (wink wink) Senator John Kerry's oratorical (Averted Gaze) shortcomings (exaggerated cough suggesting feigned detatchment), wondering aloud if, come the debate, the Massachusetts challenger will, "go off into the rhetorical wilderness," with his "filament-like language." Unholy images of flying buttresses of hot air were summoned by the uncommonly poetic The Steph yesterday.

Stephanopoulos has a point. Senator Kerry's largest fault, to date, is his inability to connect with swing voters who, economically speaking, should be firmly in his camp on this late date. Instead, like the suddenly-popular virgin at the last dance of the year, Kerry appears to be unable to close the deal with the popular cheerleader. Why is that?

Kerry's inability to establish himself among swing state Catholics, latinos, veterans and "Security Moms (married women)" fundamentally arises from -- my opinion -- a chief character flaw, and, quite frankly, it is the same psychological malady of Al Gore's, is The Ozymandias Curse, which appears to afflict, ironically (aren't the Repubs supposed to have unlawful ambition in their heart?), Democrats from Upper Middle Class preppy backgrounds disproportionately:

"I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert.
Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains.
Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

Ozymandias-Percy Bysshe Shelley1792-1822

Kerry has rehearsed being Presidential all his life, and it shows. The image of Kerry is so saturated with a Gilbert Stuart patina, that, on occasions, The Corsair actually notices trompe l'oeil cracks about the Kerry brow. Kerry is, very nearly, a perfect caricature of what a President should look and sound like from the point of view of a precocious kid from Andover with a hankering for Colonial American history -- the statesman with the sober, sagging face, the lofty self-important subordinate clauses leading into clumsy laugh-lines for the garrisoned troops along the Delaware. But it appears to The Slim Jim Munching Set as not unlike that extinct American cultural artifact, the Colonial American parson ("Who among us does not like Nascar").
Meanwhile, in stark contrast, the Republican Machine, with Karl Rove at the helm, is so well lubricated, so smooth, so in touch with the Nascar dad, the internet savvy, the soccer mom -- with, in fine, Americana. Like Kerry, Karl Rove appears to have been planning a Presidential run all his life, but, unlike Kerry -- and this is key, keemo sabe -- Rove is behind the scenes, in the shadows -- where such ambitions, perhaps, ultimately belong -- while the hapless, fresh-faced Dubya, who always appears to have planned his runs impromptu, rubs shoulders, unselfconsciously, with The Common Man.

A Moderate heavy convention inoculated the hesitant Swing State voter against Streptococcus Ultra-Right -- a charge, no doubt, the Left would like to have made against the Administration -- giving the Bushies a seemingly Teflon veneer. Like I said: Karl Rove, Smooth Operator.

Add the fact that Dubya is just a good ole boy, jocular, tossing throwaway laugh lines like there was no tomorrow (Dubya must have picked up the appropriate vernacular of the hungry man during the Lost Years, his West Texas State Bar Crawl Tour, Circa, 1976)

Dick Morris makes an interesting -- although, of course, characteristically caustic -- comment on the dilemma Kerry faces on this first foreign policy debate:

"... Since the only common denominator of (Kerry) backers is their animosity toward Bush, the Massachusetts Democrat is stuck waging a negative campaign that wears out his welcome with swing voters.

"This problem largely stems from the fact that Kerrys candidacy came of age in March and April, the worst months for Bushs war in Iraq. With maximum American casualties during the horrific months of early spring, Kerry sought to cast himself as having been misled into backing the war and disappointed in its progress.

"But all that unites his supporters is their agreement with that negative critique of the past. As for the future, they are split down the middle, with half wanting to stress bringing the troops home as fast as possible and a bit more than a third, according to the latest Fox News poll, wanting America to stay long enough to finish the job."

George Bush's rhetorical style involves simple talk, emphasizing key concepts, mostly emphasizing issues of Manliness and Christianity, like "stand," and, laughably, "will not falter," but often tailored Rove-like to the occasion, like, at his UN speech, when he, in his speech halts at unlikely throwaways like "Sergio Vieira de Mello," and "Aung San Su-Chi." Like conservatives lose sleep over those two humanitarians.

As a Gemini, and thus a man concerned with rhetoric and media and communication, I'd like to offer some advice, much of it covered by the Talking Heads on Sunday, to Team Kerry:

1) Sharp, crisp lines and sentences -- short, declarative sentences, nothing labyrinthine; eschew the labarynthine. Speak in topic sentences, Kerry, please.

2) Attack on The Saudi Royals. The Administration is very weak on this issue, it is personal with the Bushies, which leads me to:

3) Bush has a temper. Play with it. Only one who has a mighty will can suppress their temper. The Corsair does not believe that The President is such a man. Keep on the Saudi Royals, a legitimate target, as the debate is on foreign policy, and that famed Dubya temper might flame on.

4) Do not attempt humor in any instance, Kerry, it will not work, you are not funny; instead, go after the jocular; mention the Roy Jones, Jr. knockout, or the NFL game, or Survivor, something pop culture, but not too funny, like Avril kicking someone in the box or the Britney nups.

That's my advice right now.

Finally, George Bush will not use a "riser" under his podium. This is an interesting development, because, at his August 2001 physical, the President was 6 feet tall (some say he's 5'11), while Senator Kerry is 6 feet 4 inches.

Will they play with camera angles? I wonder.

I'm sure all those cosmetic things have been worked out by their respective teams.

Oh, yeah, and John Edwards does indeed have "pretty hair like a pont."


Anonymous said...

As a Bush supporter, I can only thank you for your suggestions for Kerry - especially your suggestion that he try to goad W into losing his temper. It's not that you're wrong - he does have a bitch of a temper, I've heard - but you're dreaming if you think he's going to be undisciplined enough to lose it, especially over (please) the Saudi royal family.

Good luck. You're a bright guy and I enjoy your blog, but if this is the best you can do, Kerry's cooked.

The Corsair said...

My Republican Friend: Awww. I really debated on this one, being so political. I know there are quite a few Republicans who read this blog -- and I thank you guys -- but sometimes I get the bug to travel beyond the Paris Hilton porno beat, you know? I hope you don't hold the advice-for-Kerry-on-winning-the-debate thingie against me. Not for too long, anyway -- Democrat, Republican, Naderite, I don't disciminate -- I want all your eyeballs on this blog. Well, maybe against the Naderites. Cheers, Ron