Like a lot of the people I know, I spent yesterday night inside watching the debate instead of being out on the town. Two few things about the President's demeanor and rhetoric particularly struck me as unsettling.
Firstly, President Bush called Senator Kerry "the most liberal senator in this nation's history" on several occasions. My knowledge of the candidates leads me to believe this to be patently false. A few weeks ago, Luis referred me to this site, which attempts to show where a person's political views fall in 2-space, rather than the traditional "liberal/conservative" line. (For the record, I fall in the lower, left quadrant, or about 180 degrees from both Bush and Kerry.) Notice how closely grouped Bush and Kerry are, based on their statements, campaign promises, voting record, etc... Based on your knowledge of the candidates, which of the following are true?
A) President Bush is misinformed/lying/expounding rhetoric.
B) Senator Kerry is pretty liberal, all things considered. If you're a liberal, you find this sad.
C) President Bush's campaign is misinformed as to where a true centrist lies.
D) The graph's information/method/premise is wrong.
E) One or more of the above.
Secondly, it seemed as though all nuance escapes the President. In his projected worldview, everything boils down to Yes/No answers, and it doesn't matter why you answered Yes/No on any particular item. Again, this may be pure rhetoric on the part of the President. For instance:
A) "Senator Kerry voted against spending $87 billion in Iraq." Indeed, Senator Kerry didn't vote for the President's $87 billion plan. He was in favor of another $87 billion dollar plan which was *nearly identical* to the President's, except that it drew that $87 billion by rolling back President Bush's tax cuts rather than incurring further deficit spending. Kerry's vote is not so much of a "no" as a "yes, but let's get the money from over here instead."
B) "Senator Kerry didn't vote for the partial birth abortion ban." Again, Kerry did not vote for this bill. Why? Because it failed to include a provision in cases where the mother's health is gravely at risk. Kerry's vote is not so much of a "no" as a "yes, but let's make this one extremely narrow exception."
C) "Senator Kerry voted against the Department of Homeland Security." Again, the President is correct. But only because as part of its charter, the DHS as sponsored by the President excludes its workers from joining unions. Kerry would have voted for the DHS if this provision were removed. Kerry's vote is not so much of a "no" as a "yes, but let's make sure that the workers in this new department have the same rights as other employees."
D) President bush called Senator Kerry a "tax and spend liberal", without mentioning that he himself is a "don't tax, but keep spending" conservative. Clearly, the President isn't conservative in the "fiscally conservative" school of thought, and what more, has never vetoed a spending bill from Congress. The days of Republicans wanting small government are truely over, and the Republicans I know resent that. I'm not an economist, but I'm highly unconvinced that tax cuts somehow lead to higher tax revenues and smaller deficits. If you're going to net less income, it seems as though you need to spend less, at least in the long-term. In the long-term, we as citizens all have to balance our checkbooks. Why should our government be held to a lower standard? Shouldn't someone with a MBA be aware of this?
I don't necessarily believe that President Bush himself believes this rhetoric, but his campaign is trying to convince you that the rhetoric is true in the interest of getting President Bush re-elected. Not that the Kerry campaign is innocent either. But in my opinion, the FUD spread in the debates thus far has been fairly one-sided.