Ben Langhinrichs

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Well, politics aside...

Tue 13 Apr 2004, 10:03 PM

by Ben Langhinrichs
Aside from the politics, I don't think I've ever seen a president look as flustered and awkward as President Bush did tonight in his press conference.  It was painful to watch.  Granted, he faced some tough questions that would not be easy to tackle, but he had lost his normal confidence and simply wandered... even having to ask a couple of times what the question was.  I remember President Carter in his last year during the hostage crisis looking old, and incredibly weary, and that is what President Bush is starting to look like, although even at his worst, President Carter was much more comfortable answering questions.  I guess it is no wonder that Bush has had so few news conferences, and I'm betting that John Kerry will have a tough time getting him to debate any more than absolutely necessary.  The open ended Q&A clearly doesn't play to President Bush's strengths, even though he had to have been expecting some of these questions.

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What has been said:

145.1. Rob McDonagh
(04/14/2004 07:56 AM)

I have a lot of trouble with this. I'm violently opposed to judging people based on their appearance, and when I say that I usually mean the visual aspects: looks, style of dress, race, sex, piercings/tattoos, and height/weight being the obvious ones. I also don't like to judge based on audible aspects, though: regional accents, vocal tone, and stuttering jump to mind. I tend to lump President Bush's difficulty with extemporaneous public speaking into the latter group. He's not famous for being an intellectual, but by all acounts he speaks quite well in small groups or one-on-one situations, so it appears to be a specific issue he has (I would almost call it a disability, but it doesn't seem to have a negative enough impact on his life to qualify). So I try hard to pay attention to the content of his words instead of the ease and facility with which he speaks them.

But then my principles run right smack into my political agenda. As a Certified Flaming Liberal, I don't want 4 more years of Bush/Cheney. I find myself hoping that undecided voters don't share my principles, and are turned off by that type of press conference performance. Doesn't make me happy with myself at all...

145.2. Ben Langhinrichs
(04/14/2004 08:25 AM)

While I agree about not judging people based on these factors, I worry greatly about the inability to communicate. I'm less worried about undecided voters (could you watch Bush and remain undecided for long?) than about leaders of other nations who would have to worry about the "head of the free world" who seems to know how to say "I have resolve" and little else. If, during the Cold War, there had been a televised news conference with the head of the Soviet Union looking that disorganized and incoherent (which, of course, there wouldn't have been), I would have build a bomb shelter right then and there.

145.3. Rob McDonagh
(04/14/2004 09:49 AM)

I hear ya. And I'm not saying the ability to speak clearly and persuasively isn't part of the job (Leader of the Free World). It would be a factor in my vote (if there weren't so many other overwhelming factors), but I wish it didn't have to be. I wish nobody made judgments based on appearances, but I know perfectly well that everyone does, including foreign heads of state. I would wish a stutterer could be elected president, but only if the rest of the world shared my principles.

In any event, any foreign government knows perfectly well that Cheney's in charge in this administration, not W.

I just wish I could live in a world where it doesn't matter what you look or sound like, it only matters what type of person you are. I wish people voted based on policies and issues instead of appearances. Of course, I also wish politicians could be trusted to tell us the *truth* about their policies, instead of picking the one the pollsters tell them is the most popular.

re: undecided voters: you'd think so, wouldn't you? What campaigns *are* those people watching?

145.4. Doug Powell
(04/14/2004 02:20 PM)

I'm satisfied with our progress since nine-eleven, and will reelect Bush. His opening remarks impressed me, and I understand the objectives and vision he put forward. The president is more than one person. I believe his cabinet is better than what the democrats would bring. Now that my grandfathers have passed away, and I'm in my 30's, my political views are much more conservative than before. I see too much bias in the media. The press core in Washington did not impress me. They needed to ask more questions about Iraq's plan for democracy. Instead they asked Bush about his guilt and personal responsibility for nine-eleven. This is definitely and election year.

145.5. Christopher Byrne
(04/16/2004 07:52 AM)


You said:

"I have a lot of trouble with this. I'm violently opposed to judging people based on their appearance..."

Rememember that one of the key reasons Nixon lost to Kennedy was because of his 'appearance" in that first televised debate. Bush does not fluster well, which can impact people's perceptions.

I have no doubt that he has good intentions and I am a life long Republican, having never votd otherwise in a presidential election. That being said and because of my education by the Jesuits, I do not care who is President (Bush, Carter, Clinton, Nader, etc etc), there is an accountability factor here. We are fighting a war where people are being killed and we did NOT have the adequate justification we thought we did for the invasion. Therefore it fails to meet the criteria for a just war. I am just sick to death of the Sean Hannity's of the world saying that we are evil to express these opinions and that we should be in there because we have 'liberated' Iraq. Well guess what, that was not our mission and, absent any inside information we are not privy to, the President needs to be help accountable for his actions. This accountability will play a factor as I ponder my decions for the next four years of leadership for my country and my childen's future.

At the same time, Kerry has to cut out his hypocrisy and be consistent in his words and actions. Otherwise how can I put any trust or faith in him?

Bottom line is that NO ONE could have prevented 9-11 (as Bush said, we were not on a war footing), our personal liberties ARE being eroded, and we DO face an uncertain future. And I do fear for my children's future as we go through these painful changes and painful times.

145.6. Rob McDonagh
(04/16/2004 08:41 AM)


Agreed, the Nixon-Kennedy debates were a huge turning point. And live press conferences and debates definitely play against Bush, for the reasons we've both discussed. I think it would be fascinating to see a sociology experiment about the importance of perception on elections. For example, have a "live" debate, but with actors portraying the candidates and a built-in delay so the real candidates could pass their answers to the actors. I'd love to see public reaction to Kerry's statements on foreign policy and protectionist trade policy if they were delivered by someone speaking in a Texas drawl. And how would Bush's social plans or tax cuts sound if delivered by a Boston Brahmin?

Re: Kerry and consistency, I have a suggestion. Consider that, over a long Senatorial career, each issue will have come up many, many times. Each time, that issue will have had amendments and riders attached to it. Sometimes, there will have been a party-line roll call vote to express displeasure (or approval) towards the sitting President. So my point is this: if you can name a Senator with more than 10 years of service, I will promise you I can produce a seemingly inconsistent voting record. Seriously, the 'waffling' claims are a smoke screen.

This does *not* mean I expect a lifelong Republican to agree with Kerry on many issues. Just that I know (being from Massachusetts, his home state) that the claims about waffling are nothing but PR manipulation. Kerry, at his core, is a liberal Democrat. Just like Bush, at his core, is a conservative Republican. They're both going to spend the next several months trying to convince us all they're centrists, but they're both going to be lying their proverbial behinds off. I think, in Presidential elections, there is so much spinning and dishonesty that you have to vote based on your core values, rather than believing too much in what any candidate claims.

Oh, and as a fellow graduate of a Jesuit educational institution, I know exactly where you're coming from on the just war issue. I haven't spoken to any Jesuits about the war in Iraq, but we both know what they'd say. It wouldn't be pretty, that's for sure...

145.7. Christopher Byrne
(04/16/2004 09:59 AM)

and which outstanding Institute of Jesuit education did you come from?

For those not in the know, Jesuits are the Intellectual Order (it takes well over 10 years and an advanced degree to be ordained), the Pope's Army (of old), the Priests Priests, tend to be very humble;-), and have the best wine collections!

Now back to my original thought. There is spin and then there is the Congressional Record. Everybody spins, it is a shame. And actually, there have been a number of studies done by political scientists about this effect.

I can name one Senator who has never been inconsistent: like him or hate him, John McCain!

145.8. Christopher Byrne
(04/16/2004 10:58 AM)

Lemoyne College in Syracuse (though I had a friend from HS that went to Holy Cross)...

The beer thing; The day our parents dropped us off for Freshman Orientation and left, we were ordered to attens a mandatory floor meeting that night at 8:00 PM. We were bummed cause we wanted to get drunk and stupid (no jokes here). When we got there for the meeting, Fr. "Yogi" O'Brien had bought two kegs of beer for us. You see, they knew we would get drunk that night (drinking age was 18 then) and he wanted to keep the stupidity on the floor and under his (and the RA's) watchful eye).

Good Friday that year, Fr. Kent, a wise old Philosophy Professor, took those of us that stayed to dinner and had us back to his room that night for wine, philosophical discussions, and logic puzzles.

145.9. Ben Langhinrichs
(04/16/2004 10:59 AM)

This has been Bush's most consistent strategy, and it works best because he has so little record to stand on. I like John McCain a lot, and would still argue that any long term voting record could be smeared this way. For that matter, Bush's own record in Texas could be smeared this way, as he had a tendency (and still does) to proclaim various positions as essential and then not fund them, which is also a form of flip flopping ("No Child Left Behind", except by Bush's funding).

145.10. Christopher Byrne
(04/16/2004 11:33 AM)

The truly sad thing is that this "Press Conference" really was not much more than a campaign event that commanded all 4 networks, using Presidential Power to get attention that Kerry could not (much like the presence of Air Force One when campaigning).

145.11. jonvon
(04/19/2004 12:19 PM)

whatever the intracasies of senate voting over a long period are, i'd rather vote for a person who *is* conflicted, especially about a topic as grave as war. it means that there is some sort of real and soulful cogitation going on inside the head and heart of that person.

being conflicted is not a bad thing, necessarily, as long as you can make a decision at the end of the day. politics is all about compromise, after all. every decision that is made is one in which more than one party is conflicted about the outcome, almost every time.

the whole "kerry is conflicted" thing reads to me like this, every time the bush campaign brings it up:

kerry has the brains and the good conscience to *be* conflicted, while george bush would rather take us to war, destroy the environment and give paybacks to every fat cat corporation who ever invested in his campaign in the name of "steady leadership" (or whatever they call it).

if there is one thing i can say about our current president, he has certainly been consistent.