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Bush the Heavy

Was the president monarchical, or just above Kerry's nitpicking?

12:00 AM, Oct 1, 2004 • By DAVID SKINNER
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I JUST WATCHED MSNBC score the debate unanimously for Kerry. Andrea Mitchell pointed out how much the reaction shots hurt Bush--making him look impatient and irritable. Joe Scarborough reported that Bush said, "this is hard work" 11 times. Jon Meacham of Newsweek described Bush's performance as monarchical in its disdain. Ron Reagan said something else along these lines, I'm sure, but I tried not to listen.

Anyway, they're well-made points, except that what Bush had for almost the entire debate was an air of superiority that I think compared well to Kerry's nitpicking. The senator spoke well, quite a few times, and always sounded like he knows his way around a policy journal, but in high gear this quickly becomes a sort-of teacher's pet performance that reinforces his role as a mere challenger. Bush in turn made it look like it was hardly worth responding. And Kerry in my opinion was never so agile in his command of material that he made it necessary for Bush to follow him into deeper waters.

Frankly, I liked the Bush performance. His energy clearly flagged in the middle, as it often does for Bush about 20 or 30 minutes into a presentation. But he did a good job of depriving Kerry of the opportunity to make Bush look like he was sitting in his seat.

Contra MSNBC, Kerry may have won on points, but he didn't look much better than a pretender.

David Skinner is an assistant managing editor at The Weekly Standard/