I know, John, that you and I, as McCainiacs,
were writing doubtfully in 2000 about Bush’s abilities to hold his own in
debate. In the end (Deo gratias) his lack of forensic skill didn’t matter in
his debate showdowns with Gore, a fact for which we are profoundly grateful.
Still, don’t forget that Gore lost those debates not because Bush beat him,
but because he didn’t knock Bush out like everybody expected. That, and
becuase Gore’s arrogant manner reinforced the suspicion many people had that
he is a smarty-pants know-it-all. In other words, Gore beat himself — and
still, he managed to win the popular vote.
The thing that gets to me after having read the MTP transcript a second time
is how buried in many of the president’s answers are solid points. I think
Bush has a knockout case for the Iraq war, and his handling of the war on
terror. I also know that quite a few people disagree with me. Bush, of all
people, should be able to make the case powerfully. If he can’t, that
telegraphs to people confusion and a lack of confidence in the case, I
think. This stuff matters. And because I thoroughly agree with you, John,
that the war on terror is the only thing that really matters this fall, I
urgently want the president and his team to master this stuff before the
Democratic attack machine, aided and abetted by the anti-Bush media, get
cranked up. There’s far too much at risk here.