October 01, 2004

A Call for Help

The Eleven-Year-Old asks for examples of people out there silly enough to be claiming that George W. Bush won last night's debate. I thought of Jonah Goldberg with his claim that last night was "the most articulate and confident I've seen Bush speak extemporaneously. Period." But that's not a claim that Bush won the debate--that's an evasive attempt to imply it without saying it. I also thought of Karl Rove's "It was one of the president's better debate performances and one of Kerry's worst." But that too is not a claim that Bush won the debate--that's also an evasive attempt to imply it without saying it.

I need help on this!

Posted by DeLong at October 1, 2004 05:56 PM | TrackBack

Hugh Hewitt. (Big surprise.)

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at October 1, 2004 06:06 PM

Jim Lindgren at Volokh Conspiracy (10/1 @ 10:28 am); David Frum @ NRO. that's all that i can find. the rest of the righties (more or less readable) either put it at a tie, or say that it doesn't matter . . . what matters is who gets the bounce in a few days from now.


Posted by: FDL at October 1, 2004 06:46 PM

I don't think it will happen, but if Bush wins in November, we'll all be saying he won the first debate.

I think the Democrats would be better served by concentrating on substantial points from the debate - the Republican blogs that I have seen are pretending to do just that - , rather than trying to have it judged like a contest from high-school.

e.g. Bush has not protected America. Bush prefers tax cuts for the rich to protecting America. Al Qaeda is stronger now than before the invasion in Iraq.

And there needs to be some kind of wrapper on this which has to be repeated over and over and over again. I think Bush (or Rove?) had the right idea in the debate of repeating over and over again some lines - it bores the Hell out of the chattering classes (I guess the 11-year-old already belongs to that category!), but eventually, if you say something often enough, it sinks in on everyone else.

Posted by: Andrew Boucher at October 1, 2004 06:58 PM

Dallas Morning News Editorial headline: "Bush won by not losing". I kid you not.


"The president also did a masterful job of characterizing Mr. Kerry's internationalism as weakness. Fair or not, Mr. Bush made his opponent seem as if he would make America's interests subservient to the international community's. Said the president, "Trying to be popular in the global sense, if it's not in our best interest, makes no sense."

That might not play in Paris, but it sure plays in Paris, Texas."


Posted by: Rebecca Graham at October 1, 2004 07:11 PM

Blogger Tacitus, under his real name Trevino (he came out for the RNC), wrote

Bottom line.

Bush won.

No, I'm not saying that because he's my guy. He simply came across as more of the common man, and frankly, much stronger and more direct. I'll have more on this later.

But yes, Bush won.

In this comment thread on RedState http://www.redstate.org/story/2004/9/30/11437/1596

He later changed his mind in this post http://www.redstate.org/story/2004/9/30/214322/392

Posted by: timshel at October 1, 2004 07:17 PM

Who "won" doesn't much matter. It is not a good predicter. What may matter is that Kerry managed to recast himself from 'loser' to 'credible underdog'

This was an election that Bush was setting up to win because the electorate, while it clearly did not think he deserved another term (see polls on the question "Does the president deserve another term?), did not view Kerry as a credible alternative.

In order to be a credible alternative, you don't need to win the debate. You have to look and sound presidential.

Kerry did quite well at that.

Somebody needs to suggest to Jonah Goldberg that he brush up on the difference between adjectives and adverbs.

Posted by: ursus at October 1, 2004 07:40 PM

David Skinner at the Weekly Standard is saying Bush won.


Posted by: timshel at October 1, 2004 07:46 PM


Posted by: John Thullen at October 1, 2004 07:53 PM

Clarification: Orwell didn't say it. He predicted it.

Posted by: John Thullen at October 1, 2004 07:55 PM

Rush Limbaugh, apparently. Big surprise.

Posted by: Brian Zimmerman at October 1, 2004 07:57 PM

From Saturday's *Guardian*:

"But the president also found support among swing voters who thought the rest of the world's views should not matter. 'George W Bush is the president of the United States, and to me, the United States should come first, rather than the world,' said Vaughn Hoovler, 36, the owner of a metal-pressing company in Mansfield, Ohio, and a rare example of an undecided voter who called the debate for the president.

"'I thought George did a wonderful job,' said Mr Hoovler. 'I was confident he knew where he was at, and what he had to do to move forward. Yeah, he looked angry, but he was clear and to the point.'"

Posted by: David at October 1, 2004 08:17 PM

Echo Andrew Boucher. These are not debates you win. They are raw material for the ongoing campaign. The DNC has something of the right idea in its funny faces video. But that's just to amuse the base. What it needs to do ASAP is put together an ad from the antiterrorism exchange with the punch line "George Bush thinks keeping a tax cut for a handful of the wealthiest Americans is more important than keeping the rest of us safe from terrorists."

Karl Rove is supposed to believe in attacking an opponent's supposed strength. There may be something in that.

Posted by: jam at October 1, 2004 08:21 PM

Sadly, liberal blogger Zwichenzug thought Bush won. Zwichenzug seemed to have wanted Kerry to dumb himself down, which I don't see the point of. The "who do you want to have a beer with" concept is, I hope, a last-election meme.

Posted by: TheSquire at October 1, 2004 08:21 PM

I give it Kerry on style and presentation. Kerry was articulate while at times Bush looked like a stunned bunny. Content is another matter. The content errors that Bush made have been amply covered by commentators here. In the interests of balance, let’s give Kerry a little deserved scrutiny.

“Right now the president is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to research bunker-busting nuclear weapons. The United States is pursuing a new set of nuclear weapons. It doesn't make sense.”
This first sentence obviously refers to the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator program. If the phase “is spending” means already spent or what we will spend in FY 05, then his statement is exaggerated. RNEP was projected to cost $45 million for FY03 to FY06, the updated figure is $71 million. http://www.downwinders.org/RS21762.pdf .

The second statement is not correct because the Earth Penetrator (an old concept around for decades) uses existing nuclear weapons technology. Moreover, we cannot design new nuclear weapons because the (unverifiable) CTBT does not permit testing. We couldn’t test even if we wanted to as our test program has been dismantled.

I contest the third sentence. There are circumstances where does make sense. In 1996 the US threatened to use the B61-11 (a crude form of earth penetrator) against Libya. See UPI: Libya halts chemical arms plant March 19, 1997.

Posted by: A. Zarkov at October 1, 2004 08:36 PM

Moreover, we cannot design new nuclear weapons because the (unverifiable) CTBT does not permit testing. We couldn’t test even if we wanted to as our test program has been dismantled.

Isn't most weapons "testing" done via computer simulation nowadays? It is my impression that most of the research involves solution of very complicated free boundary problems. AS Bush would say, it's hard work.

Posted by: CSTAR at October 1, 2004 09:20 PM

My friend Hank's younger brother Jimmy thought Bush won. But simply mark that up to the fact that Jimmy has newborn twins, is sleep deprived, and not getting enough oxygen to his brain.

Posted by: Cal at October 1, 2004 10:27 PM

My friend Hank's younger brother Jimmy thought Bush won. But simply mark that up to the fact that Jimmy has newborn twins, is sleep deprived, and not getting enough oxygen to his brain.

Posted by: Cal at October 1, 2004 10:27 PM

“Isn't most weapons "testing" done via computer simulation nowadays? It is my impression that most of the research involves solution of very complicated free boundary problems.”

If by “weapons testing” you mean nuclear weapons testing, the answer is a clear no. The idea that inertial confinement (laser) fusion experiments and computer simulation can actually substitute for field tests is still an unrealized hope. And yes very complicated hydrodynamics computer calculations need to be done even before you test.

Kerry declarative statements about this are incorrect.

Posted by: A. Zarkov at October 1, 2004 11:19 PM

The second statement is correct, unless you improperly assume that "new nuclear weapons" means "new nuclear warhead". Obviously, they're spending a lot of money on figuring out how to using existing weapons to do *something*- so calling that new something a "new nuclear weapon" makes perfect sense. Like spending a lot of money putting a turbine in an existing tank might reasonably be called a "new tank design."
That is to say, you can't take a statement, define the ambiguities the way that you'd like, and *then* call it inaccurate.

Furthermore, a little googling suggests that new nuclear warhead designs (at least, variations on existing warheads) have been created with exactly the sort of testing that you dismiss as insufficient:
Although the CTBT has not entered into force, States which have signed are generally obliged to adhere to their commitments under the treaty not to violate the principle provisions. Thus none of the signatories has conducted a nuclear explosion since signing. However, the US, Russia, UK and France have openly conducted other forms of nuclear testing including sub-critical explosions (i.e. where there is no nuclear reaction), fusion experiments, computer simulations and high energy experiments. It is believed that China has also conducted at least one sub-critical test.

One of the reasons for these tests is to upgrade existing weapons designs and test new designs. Following such tests under the “Stockpile Stewardship Program” the US, for example, has introduced a new weapon into its stockpile - the B61-mod11.

Perhaps you'd like to share the expertise that makes you certain that the above is incorrect.


Posted by: Carleton Wu at October 1, 2004 11:43 PM

Faux dem blogger Jeff Jarvis went from 75% likely to vote for kerry to 65% likely to vote for kerry. That's his way of saying Bush won. Faux dem blogger and Dem victim Roger L Simon says Kerry lied, was boring, and pandered to his Jewish roots. Faux dem blogger Michael Totten declared it a draw.

Posted by: jerry at October 1, 2004 11:52 PM

You should point out to the eleven-year old that the people who decide this election for the most part do not watch the broadcasts. He should also look up the Carter/Reagan debates. I just hope that this will not discourage him

Posted by: Eunoia23 at October 2, 2004 12:46 AM

So, Bush won the drunk vote? Heh.

Posted by: Elaine Supkis at October 2, 2004 04:31 AM

John Thullen


"Clarification: Orwell didn't say it. He predicted it."

Even your clarifications are fun.

Posted by: anne at October 2, 2004 05:22 AM

It is time to teach your kid that there are always a group of people out there that are in the school of " do not confuse me with the facts".

Posted by: spencer at October 2, 2004 05:27 AM

Not sure if this is fully an example, but inexplicably David Brooks keeps insisting that on the merits the debate was a draw and that it was a "tight, close debate, where they both did well."


And unlike the wingnuts, I don't think he's consciously spinning this to be better for his guy. I really think he believes it.

Posted by: Chris in Boston at October 2, 2004 05:55 AM

John Kerry will make a far far better President than George Bush, but the debate did not leave room for a developing distinct foreign policy visions. We do not have a snese of what to expect in Iraq from either candidate, other than a continued struggle for democracy. But, does that entail years of occupation?

Posted by: Ari at October 2, 2004 06:52 AM

Chris, Brooks spins a lot for his guy, and what you term (and I agree was) his "inexplicable" post-debate commentary is prima facie evidence of his intent, even if we can't read his mind.

Brooks's NYT piece this morning is interesting, though. At first, I thought he was going to be channeling Lionel Hutz (as in, 'Can you imagine a world where the president is rational and has focused policies that solve problems?' ), then he wrapped up not so much with the knife under Kerry's ribs but by saying that Bush can get away with being incompetent because his base is satisfied with platitudes. Go figure.

Posted by: Tom Bozzo at October 2, 2004 06:55 AM


Sense and Sensibility

Bush's language has a resonance with people who know that he is not always competent, and who know that he doesn't always dominate every argument, but who can sense a shared cast of mind.

Posted by: lise at October 2, 2004 08:09 AM

Local angle:

Debra Saunders is unequivocal.

"Bush won the debate with Kerry"


Posted by: Glenn Hammonds at October 2, 2004 08:23 AM

Re: Brooks's NYT column. What I found annoying and distorting about it was the _opposition_ it proposed between "execution" and "principle". He claims that Bush-Kerry would be a great combination because they had opposite strengths. But the fact that Kerry thinks about the real world and its complexities, and is willing to essay nuanced solutions, and that he actually has concrete ideas about how to execute those solutions, is NOT evidence that he is weak on the "principles" side: it is EVIDENCE of his principles. The idea that we _should_ take account of the world as it is, and act prudently and thoughtfully in a way that takes account of other peoples' possibly different values and principles (for better or for worse, acceptable or unacceptable) , are in fact the result of firm principles belonging to the system we can call "liberal pluralisim".

In short, the difference between Bush and Kerry is not "principles vs. execution", it is (conceding for the sake of argument that Bush possesses the principles he portrays!) "principles with no attention to reality" vs. "principles combined with prudent plans for execution"

Now which of those is more attractive in a political leader, would you say?

Posted by: PQuincy at October 2, 2004 08:25 AM

> More trustworthy, more believable, more likeable, tougher! Yeah, yeah, "Kerry won the debate", that's the ticket!

Eh? Not sure what you're getting at here (OK, except that you're shilling for your man.) Unless you can compare these impressions with what a similar group poll respondents would expect without seeing the debate, you have absolutely no data on the effectiveness of either candidate in the debate itself.

Posted by: Paul Callahan at October 2, 2004 10:03 AM

If it's silly the 11-year-old is looking for, may I present - Adam Yoshida.


Posted by: Tim Keller at October 2, 2004 10:52 AM

Carleton W: “The second statement is correct, unless you improperly assume that "new nuclear weapons" means "new nuclear warhead.”

In discussions about these weapons matters the phrase “new nuclear weapon” generally does mean a new nuclear warhead, and not putting a slightly modified existing warhead in a new delivery system. A new warhead means a redesign of at least the secondary also known as “the physics package.” The whole point of the CTBT was to prevent the development of new nuclear weapons.

One of the problems with googling the Internet on this subject is you generally retrieve material from ant-nuclear organizations that usually lack the expertise and the access to accurate information (often but not always classified). We don’t have any new warheads because you must field-test them. We had much controversy in the 1980s and early 1990s over the maintenance and verification of our existing nuclear stockpile. One side asserted that we couldn’t do this without field-testing, but lost out because that is what we do. But to my knowledge, we would not place a new design in stockpile without first field-testing it. The word “new” means more than a minor variation on an existing design.

The material at http://www.nuclearfiles.org/kinuclearweapons/testing.htm (a peace organization), which asserts that sub-critical explosions, fusion, simulations and high-energy experiments are nuclear tests is using it’s own fantasy vocabulary. You can’t test a new warhead with only a sub-critical experiment. They also seem to think that fusion experiments are nuclear weapons experiments. That’s not correct. The magnetic fusion experiments with Tokamaks are plasma experiments having nothing to do with any weapons development. Inertial confinement (laser fusion) experiments are sometimes promoted by the Department of Energy as a kind of nuclear weapons experiment because they think that the physics information from imploding a pellet might substitute for a nuclear test. They sometimes promote laser fusion experiments as energy research. But the so-called National Ignition Facility being built in California is many years away from completion. The design calls for 192 arms, and so far they have tested two arms with unspectacular results.

Kerry is anxious to placate the anti-weapons wing of his party, which is why he makes such ignorant statements. And remember Clinton appointed a black lawyer, Hazel O’Leary, as Secretary of Energy, someone entirely ignorant of what was going on at any level. She made a big issue out of the ID badges used in the DOE complex because they indicated the level of clearance of the holder. She considered this discriminatory. Bush appointed another lawyer as Secretary of Energy. This guy was beaten in an election where his opponent was dead. I guess they had nothing to do with him so they put him in The Energy Department.

Posted by: A. Zarkov at October 2, 2004 11:52 AM

The "who do you want to have a beer with" concept is, I hope, a last-election meme.

Dumbest. meme. ever. As Hesiod at Counterspin pointed out, if you're going to base your presidential vote on who you'd want to have a beer with, should you vote for Kerry, as Bush allegedly doesn't drink anymore? Having a beer with someone who doesn't drink is boring, yes?

Posted by: Jim at October 2, 2004 11:58 AM


Skewed Intelligence Data in March to War in Iraq

In 2002, at a crucial juncture on the path to war, senior members of the Bush administration gave a series of speeches and interviews in which they asserted that Saddam Hussein was rebuilding his nuclear weapons program. In a speech to veterans that August, Vice President Dick Cheney said Mr. Hussein could have an atomic bomb "fairly soon." President Bush, addressing the United Nations the next month, said there was "little doubt" about Mr. Hussein's appetite for nuclear arms.

The United States intelligence community had not yet concluded that Iraq was rebuilding its nuclear weapons program. But as the vice president told a group of Wyoming Republicans that September, the United States had "irrefutable evidence" - thousands of tubes made of high-strength aluminum, tubes that the Bush administration said were destined for clandestine Iraqi uranium centrifuges, before some were seized at the behest of the United States.

The tubes quickly became a critical exhibit in the administration's brief against Iraq. As the only physical evidence the United States of Mr. Hussein's revived nuclear ambitions, they gave credibility to the apocalyptic imagery invoked by President Bush and his advisers. The tubes were "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs," Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, asserted on CNN on Sept. 8, 2002. "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

But before Ms. Rice made those remarks, she was aware that the government's foremost nuclear experts had concluded that the tubes were most likely not for nuclear weapons at all, an examination by The New York Times has found. As early as 2001, her staff had been told that these experts, at the Energy Department, believed the tubes were probably intended for small artillery rockets, according to four officials at the Central Intelligence Agency and a senior administration official, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information.

"She was aware of the differences of opinion," the senior administration official said in an interview authorized by the White House. "She was also aware that at the highest level of the intelligence community, there was great confidence that these tubes were for centrifuges."

Ms. Rice's alarming description on CNN was in keeping with the Bush administration's overall treatment of the tubes. Senior administration officials repeatedly failed to fully disclose the contrary views of America's leading nuclear scientists, The Times found. They sometimes overstated even the most dire intelligence assessments of the tubes, yet minimized or rejected the strong doubts of their own experts. They worried privately that the nuclear case was weak, but expressed sober certitude in public.

The result was a largely one-sided presentation to the public that did not convey the depth of evidence and argument against the administration's most tangible proof of a revived nuclear weapons program in Iraq.

Posted by: anne at October 2, 2004 11:59 AM

I saw one of the Fox stooges suggesting that Bush's lame performance was possibly due to tiredness from all that "hard work" he'd been doing. The Bush-Cheney 04 slogan really should be "r u dum enuf?".

Posted by: Steve at October 2, 2004 12:22 PM

These evasions remind me of an amusing anecdote from the administration of Bush pere.

As I recall it, Bob Woodward wrote a piece claiming that the rap on Dan Quayle's alleged intellectual limitations was unfair. There was a newsmagazine cover asking "Quayle--Intellectual Lightweight, or Smarter than You Think?"

So a local Washington TV station went and did some street interviews, asking people whether their opinions of the VP had changed as a result of the story.

One woman pondered the question and said, grimly, "Quayle could be smarter than I think and still be a lightweight."

Posted by: mjc at October 2, 2004 12:48 PM

Where's Mr. Spidle now that he's wanted? I'm sure he'd come through smashingly.

Posted by: Barry Freed at October 2, 2004 01:56 PM

First, you miss my point completely with your parsing of Kerry's term "new nuclear weapons." While it is entirely possible that this term means what you claim that it does within the nuclear weapons community, applying it to words spoken by a non-expert to other non-experts is pointless and misleading.
If a layman referred to a scientific result as 'significant', it would be foolish to take him to task for misunderstanding the jargon. It would be even more so to claim that he was actually lying.

Second, if you're going to claim that the information I can find on the internet concerning nuclear weapons development is all inaccurate, then you're going to need to either cite some alternative evidence for us to examine, or your going to have to offer your credentials on the matter.
Claiming that all the stuff I read on the net is inaccurate because it's all liberal propaganda makes it sound like you need to check your tinfoil beanie, it may be coming loose.
I mean, you're free to state your opinion as authoritative, and claim that all the evidence to the contrary is hogwash- but don't expect to be taken seriously by anyone who doesn't share your taste in hats.


Posted by: Carleton Wu at October 2, 2004 04:04 PM


I am pleased to once again agree with every word of yours over the past two years, including "and" and "the".

Posted by: John Thullen at October 2, 2004 05:18 PM

I get seven Google results for the phrase "Bush clearly won the debate", and most of them don't seem to precede that with "I'd be nuts to say" ... even the non-freeper links.

Posted by: ArC at October 2, 2004 05:38 PM

If Rove believes what he said, that it was one of Kerry's worst performances and one of Bush's best, then he must be feeling pretty sick right about now. What happens in the next two debates when they both return to form?

Posted by: joe at October 2, 2004 07:01 PM

Carleton Wu:

I think we are at an impasse on meaning of “new nuclear weapons.” Generally in my experience even when a (non-expert) policy maker uses that term, he means new weapons that are significant changes in design. As to your second point, I don’t claim all sources on the Internet are inaccurate, that’s why I said “generally.” Nor did I use the term “liberal propaganda.” But it’s fact that peace organizations have an axe to grind about nuclear weapons. Nevertheless the stuff put out by the Federation of American Scientists is not too bad. You could also go to the Department of Energy Website or to the web sites of the national laboratories like Los Alamos, Sandia, Oak Ridge, and Livermore. Then there are a number of books and reports (you can get some of these reports at those web sites). For example if you want information of the effects of nuclear weapons read the old report by Glasstone, it’s unclassified. Try the Los Alamos by Primer Serber and Rhodes for some general stuff of designs. Finally I never said anything like “all the evidence to the contrary is hogwash.” But I did tell you specifically what is wrong with the web site you referenced.

Posted by: A. Zarkov at October 2, 2004 07:49 PM

I agree about the impasse- at this point we're arguing about semantics. Which is, I think, the whole point. If Kerry is guilty of calling a tank with a new engine a "new tank", that is at worst merely a layman's misunderstanding of a technical term- not a deception.


Posted by: Carleton Wu at October 2, 2004 08:46 PM

Carleton Wu

I agree. But I think Kerry owes it to the public to be accurate and use the correct terminology. He is making it seem that a much greater change in policy has taken place than actually has. After all many people might think a whole new generation of nuclear weapons is on the horizon.

Posted by: A. Zarkov at October 3, 2004 09:36 AM

I initially decided that Bush won, by the reasoning that I thought Kerry won but am essentially always wrong when it comes to picking debate winners. But I appear to have been wrong about being wrong.

Posted by: Matt McIrvin at October 3, 2004 06:18 PM