September 30, 2004


Waiting for Kerry's Big Finish to Start (Tina Brown, September 30, 2004, Washington Post)

On the eve of the debates people are so on edge in New York that every gathering has become like a visit to the dentist. In this town of Democrats, Karl Rove's real or imagined brilliance has got people dangerously psyched out. Someone in a group always produces some new vulnerability of Kerry's to drill down on, some fresh tactical error to palpitate about.

An expectation reversal has been going on that's strange to find among a candidate's own supporters. Even without the goring Bush has given him all summer, Kerry has lowered opinions of his campaigning skills so far that he now has to make a comeback tonight just to keep his own side happy. With George Stephanopoulos on ABC last Sunday, the usually fierce congressman and former Clinton switchblade Rahm Emanuel looked so distracted and unhappy defending Kerry's war positions against Republican mouth Stuart Stevens that I half expected him to excuse himself in the middle of the show and catch a flight back to Chicago.

With all the mythology about Kerry's gift of coming from behind, New Yorkers are watching and hoping like fundamentalists awaiting the rapture. "What will it be like?" they ask one another. A mysterious subtle transformation of will that suffuses Kerry with winner's luck? A defining moment when he soothes his wounded honor with a shaft of killing wit that at last unmasks Bush? If so, could it please happen in prime time tonight? (Maybe, just in case, Kerry should wear cowboy boots to reduce the president still further to the size of Dr. Ruth.)

Among the big-donor crowd, the good-closer cliche has worn out its welcome. They have had it with reading in the New York Times that the past two months of flubs were part of some weird subliminal strategy. Who does Kerry think he is? Bob Dylan? Enough already with the near-death experiences. Mr. Closer, give us closure.

On the bright side, Mr. Kerry has lowered expectations so far in advance of tonight's first debate that the only way he can really mess up is to be himself.

Meanwhile, it's easy enough to close as well as he did in '96. Bump Edwards and take his vp slot. Put Bill Clinton in the presidential slot. After you win have Clinton step down--to avoid the constitutional problem--and take back the top slot.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 30, 2004 8:56 AM

Off the top of my head, I can't remember a debate in which the immediate conclusion in the media wasn't that the Democrat won walking away. We Republicans are dumb, you know. So, expect a lot of commentary tonight saying, [George Stephanopoulos voice] "John Kerry did what he had to do tonight. We may just have seen the making of a president." [/George Stephanopoulos voice]

Posted by: David Cohen at September 30, 2004 9:06 AM

David's right - the MSM will do what it can to have Kerry the big winner tonight. Tonight is more important psychologically - Kerry is trailing and if Bush slaps him down tonight it will discourage the Dem voters (as the article suggests) and make it harder for Kerry to catch up.

Posted by: AWW at September 30, 2004 9:32 AM

The MSM don't have the ability to tell people how to interpret a speech or debate anymore.

Those half-wits tried to tell us that Kerry's convention speech was a grandslam.

I chuckled, turned off the tv and started checking blogs, where I found that lots o' other folks thgought Kerry's speech a disaster too.

Which it turned out to be.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at September 30, 2004 10:26 AM

Donnie Moore?!? Please - let him go.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 30, 2004 11:52 AM

Who's Donnie Moore?

Posted by: Ken at September 30, 2004 12:30 PM

Every Red Sox fan is grateful for Chicago's National League team because it means that the Boston fan can tell itself that "Hey, at least we're only wasting our support on the second biggest losers in the Major Leagues.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 30, 2004 2:26 PM


Donnie Moore was a relief pitcher for the Anaheim (then California) Angels who allowed a game-ending game winning home run in 1986 which enabled the Red Sox to get into the World Series.

Posted by: Bart at September 30, 2004 6:25 PM

Bart -- OJ is crueler than that. Moore subsequently commited suicide, something that Bill Buckner never had the grace to do although all of New England devoultly wished it.

Rich Gedman was a key player in both fiascos which occured in the annus horiblus of 1986. Gedmen don't wear plaid.

Gene Mauch was the Angles manager. He was the Phillies manager in 1964 during the famous Phillie fold.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at September 30, 2004 10:37 PM