Sighs, lies and videotape

The contest remains “more of the same” versus “anyone but Bush.”

Karl Marx once postulated history always repeats itself: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. Perhaps his dictum merits revision, as the second debate between President George W. Bush and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry featured tragedy and farce in equal measure.

After a deluge of sighs, stutters, sputters, frowns and fumbles in the first debate, Bush seemed mercifully restrained. Kerry exuded class and dignity, and next to his stentorian majesty, Bush still appeared a churlish schoolboy. Forceful and eloquent, the Democrat swiftly countered his opponent’s every assertion, developed a masterful argument and emoted effectively.

Otherwise, the confrontation devolved into a series of howlers.

Asked if he was an environmentalist, Bush replied straight faced that he was “a good steward of the land.”

Pondering Medicare, Kerry asserted his ticket would be uniquely capable of reforming the system because his running mate was a trial lawyer with a distinguished history of suing doctors. This is about as credible as claiming Johnny Cochrane would be singularly able to fight crime due to his successful defense of O.J. Simpson.

Addressing importation of Canadian drugs, Bush explained that “when a drug comes in from Canada, I want to make sure it cures you and doesn’t kill you.” Apparently our next target in the war on terror is the fertile land of hockey rinks and nefarious cyanide-laced valium pushers.

Critiquing Bush’s global strategy, Kerry asserted, “I’m going to run a foreign policy that actually does what President Reagan did.” This stretches the bounds of credulity insofar as Kerry vociferously opposed Reagan’s foreign policy and openly referred to his presidency as a period of “moral darkness.”

Bush actually evoked Dred Scott v. Sanford as support for strict constructionism. Kerry, when asked whether he would permit federal funding of abortion, rambled about how he would counsel abstinence but still allow funding because the Constitution demanded it.

For the second time in as many debates, Kerry parried Bush’s evocation of the infamous line, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it” by tartly retorting it was better to make a mistake in “talking about the war” than make a “mistake in invading Iraq.”

Yet in the first debate, moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS had asked the senator “Are Americans now dying in Iraq for a mistake?” Kerry’s answer: “No.”

In the world according to Kerry, invading Iraq was a mistake, but those who died in the invasion did not die for a mistake. Consequently, invading Iraq was a mistake, and it was not a mistake, much in the same way that Kerry supported the war and opposed it, or “voted for the $89 billion before he voted against it.”

Kerry’s explanation: “I’ve never changed my mind about Iraq.” The emperor still has no clothes on the most important issue facing the United States today.

So with a crash and a bang, nothing is resolved. A real man of real inadequacies spars with a masterful shadow, and the contest remains “more of the same” versus “anyone but Bush.”

Chris Oster is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]