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October 17, 2004: What changed with the final presidential debate? The folks from Venus bailed out.

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I found this too late to include it in last week’s review of the second presidential debate.  (See October 10, 2004 - This Week's Presidential Debate for that.)  Time Magazine noted an interesting shift.  In a before-and-after view, Bush lost the support of many women.

Before: Pre-debate, the TIME Poll found women split evenly, 44% Kerry, 43% Bush.

Now: Females now support Kerry over Bush by 12 points, 50%-38%...Bush is now up 16 points among males, 51% Bush, 35% Kerry.


What to make of this?


Ezra Klein says this (my emphases)  -


Bush yelled a lot.  He tried to compensate for last week's defensiveness with an abundance of aggression.  More than once, I thought he was going to sucker punch [the debate moderator, Charles ]Gibson, but he seems to have jammed the brakes at mere emasculation.  While it's certainly true that the last night's bully looked better than last week's dunce, it still speaks of a soft and unformed man.  That, I think, is the story of the debates.  The defining contrast between the two men isn't leadership, gravitas or intelligence, but simple maturity.  Whether Bush is seen hunched and scowling or stalking the length of the stage and shouting down the moderator, there's a serious sense that this guy is just not an emotional adult.  He veers wildly from one emotional extreme to the other, but remains, regardless of the day's visage and gait, a man consumed by his passions and frustrated by his critics.


I don't know George Bush, my judgments on him are produced by the weird entity transmitted by the cameras.  But the one thing I've found helpful in my viewings and evaluations is a simple thought experiment: if these guys had no handlers, no briefing books, no focus groups, but were stuck on a stage and forced to debate the issues, what would the outcome be?  When I run that scenario, I'm always left with two distinct images.  I'm left with a less concise, more unfocused, and zinger-free Kerry, and I'm left with Bush as a sputtering, angry fool.  Intelligent or not, this guy simply lacks an abiding interest in the art of governance.  Policy clearly bores him, competing arguments obviously tire him.  He's thrown himself into the exciting issues and cast them as heroic confrontations. Bush wants to be a president in the same way John Wayne was a cowboy -- he wants the power, the image, the glory.  And while Kerry may want that as well, there's no doubt in my mind that he's a man who delights in the policy meetings, who feels fulfilled when his legislation helps people, and who's decided that the path to history lies in the work, not the look, of governing.  And that goes back to the point about maturity: George Bush approaches the presidency as a child approaches law enforcement, and if the last few years and the last two debates have taught us nothing else, that's a dangerous way for our leader to think.


Man, that’s cold.  But I agree.  And it could explain the shift.  Women now think he’s a boorish jerk, and guys want to be just like him.


It’s a guy thing.


Our friend Dick in Rochester, New York?


I am not sure what exactly the parallel is here, but it seems like gender and pets: men want dogs - simple, one hundred percent obedient and non-questioning and utterly dependent; women prefer cats - annoyingly complex, independent and aloof.  John Wayne didn't need no damn nuance; Kathryn Hepburn did.


If you go to The Archive of Useful Pithy Observations... and scroll down to August 22, 2004 you’ll find these:


P.J. O'ROURKE: It's easy to understand why the cat has eclipsed the dog as modern America's favorite pet. People like pets to possess the same qualities they do. Cats are irresponsible and recognize no authority, yet are completely dependent on others for their material needs. Cats cannot be made to do anything useful. Cats are mean for the fun of it.


ROBERT A. HEINLEIN: Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.


WINSTON CHURCHILL: I like pigs.  Dogs look up to us.  Cats look down on us.  Pigs treat us as equals.


That will do.


Crude manliness wins some votes, many, and loses others. 


And owning a cat, or not, is as good a predictor of your political leanings as any other, at least in this particular election.



Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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