Questioning the Conventional Wisdom

October 13, 2004

I’ve been reading the “experts” saying that President Bush, after his shaky performance in the first debate, and despite his much stronger showing in the second one, still needs to “come across as presidential.” NYU Professor Paul Light said, “This is the third and final opportunity to say, ‘I’m in charge of things and I know what I’m doing here.'”

Now hold on just a minute. Don’t give me this stuff about President Bush not being presidential. Since 9-11 no one imaginable could have behaved more presidentially. He has risen to the occasion and manifestly handled the job with mature leadership. The fact that President Bush sometimes stumbles over words, or seemed a bit tentative in the first debate, does not greatly detract from his presidential persona. Liberals and comedians have been making fun of him for four years on his verbal awkwardness; at least one book has even been written about it. But people do not have to be great debaters to be great presidents. And verbal weaknesses do not make one unpresidential.

President Bush has been resolute and decisive at least since 9-11. I know the liberals have been trying to paint the false picture that Vice President Cheney has been running the show and President Bush has been a mere puppet on a string. But as much as I love and admire Dick Cheney and as integral as he’s been to this administration, he is not — as he will readily tell you — the de facto president. President Bush is in charge and there can be no doubt about that.

What President Bush needs to do during the debate is to continue to take the fight to Senator Kerry, calling him on his endless lies and distortions and vigorously defending his own record by being prepared to unspin Kerry’s spin on it. Kerry and Edwards have brazenly lied about the $200 billion figure in Iraq, when it’s only $120 billion. They have no qualms about lying. Kerry will lie all over the place tonight.

President Bush doesn’t need to present himself as presidential. That’s a foregone conclusion. He’s been president for four years and it is precisely his leadership that the libs so violently object to. If he were less presidential — and thus less effective — they’d have far less to complain about. But this guy gets things done, from Afghanistan, to Iraq, to the tax cuts, to education (though I’m not too enamored with the education bill — but it’s a lot better than the one the Dems would pass if they were in control.)

President Bush needs to anticipate Kerry’s lies on the economy and respond crisply, forcefully, and consistently. He cannot allow Kerry’s lies to go unchallenged tonight. He got off to a good start in this regard in St. Louis and he needs to continue on that track tonight.

The president will continue to label Kerry as a liberal, which he is. Kerry will continue to be defensive about it, or at the very least he’ll snicker at Bush’s “conservatism,” pointing to the deficits. The president merely needs to respond with the facts he presented in St. Louis: he inherited a recession, the tech bubble burst, and 9-11 devastated the economy. But his tax cuts have rejuvenated the sluggish economy notwithstanding the extraneous factors dragging it down. And, on the matter of the deficit, he needs to take it right to Kerry. Under no circumstances — based on Kerry’s 20 year Senate record of profligate spending or his present domestic policy proposals — would federal spending not explode under a Kerry administration. And he couldn’t come close to making up for it by a tax hike on the wealthy. Indeed to do so would constitute another damaging blow to the economy and small businesses. Under any scenario — just considering Kerry’s health care plan alone — Kerry’s deficits would be greater than President Bush’s.

So my hope is that President Bush will ignore all this empty advice about being presidential and spend his time preparing for Kerry’s distortions and laying out the unadulterated facts about his own record and plans going forward.