The Corner

My Take

I thought Bush did just fine last night. It’s possible to imagine a better performance with more emotional appeals about standing in the wreckage of 9-11, more eloquent rebuttals to a few of Kerry’s points, and more direct attacks on Kerry’s record of unreconstructed liberalism. But Bush clearly came to the forum intending to say a few simple things, and he said them well enough. His presentation contained the homespun simplicity that pundits always put down and the public always seems to appreciate. It’s a cliche to say Bush has a history of being underestimated, but I think it’s happening again–people are underestimating what he accomplished last night. He came in like a coach with a game plan, executed it, and left with a close victory because he scored enough points and didn’t commit any turnovers. The media wants an entertaining horse race, and we may get one yet. But if we do, it won’t be because Bush let us down in the first debate.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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