Instead of watching a bunch of teams who didn’t have red Cs on a blue background compete in the playoffs, I watched two self-interested multi-millionares compete for the presidency. Though my vote was decided coming in, and will for the first time go toward a candidate representing one of the two major parties, I must say I found these debates absolutely riveting. The greatest drawback was that it was held in front of a bunch of people who were probably St. Louis Cardinals fans. The rest I found pretty cool to watch.
I kept a tally on a notepad so that, when all was said (and nothing done), I could reflect. Here are the results:

QUESTION QUALITY:
This falls largely upon Charles Gibson, from whom I expected the questions to be as soft and straight as a Joe Borowski fastball.
CRAP: 7
MEDIOCRE: 5
GOOD: 5

I thought the question about the Patriot Act was the best question of the night. The question directed to W about the 3 decisions he “regretted” (paraphrasing) was good, and the last question of the night threw both politicians off guard. There were a great many slow-pitch softball questions, but all in all Gibby did better than expected.

POINTS SCORED:
This result will give away the politician for whom I am voting. I scored it as:
George W. Bush: 2
John Kerry: 6
Kerry had one salient comment that I think should sway more people than it will, and I paraphrase, about abortion:
“I have my opinions about it, but I don’t want to turn my personal feelings into legislation.”
That says it all, to me. The job of all branches of the government is to uphold the constitution and (open to interpretation) keep it up-to-date. Nowhere in the constitution is there anything about marriage, application of science, or whether a person should abort an almost fully developed child from her womb (to make the most extreme case).
Let it also be said that the statement was contradicted every time he said he wanted to put tax money or legislation in favor of or against any other issue, but it’s enough for me for the idea to be acknowledged these days.
There were fewer moments where the camera caught Bush looking like an irritated observer, but that’s the way it ought to be. I don’t claim to be immune to it, but we as voters make FAR TOO MANY decisions based on how a candidate appears to us, rather than what he represents or stands for.

GRAMMATICAL FOLLIES:
I expected W to run away with this one, and it’s unfair to compare the two given their styles. All the same, as a grammar nerd, I couldn’t help but take note. My standards were lowered because they were speaking rehearsed answers at the spur of the moment; a written debate would have been graded much more harshly.
BUSH: 7
KERRY: 2
Not bad. Republicans have to be breathing a sigh of relief that Bush’s grasp of the English language sounded better than usual.

JOKES:
Again, a stylistic difference between the two, but the number of jokes is usually inversely proportional to the substantiveness of the answers, in my opinion.
BUSH: 8
KERRY: 2
I’m as shocked that Kerry managed to get two jokes in as I am that Bush only told 8. I tallied this only because it was interesting, not because it has any actual merit.

USES OF CATCH PHRASES:
I counted the following as catch phrases:
“Wrong War, Wrong Place, Wrong Time” (Bush): a Kerry quote that he’s been using throughout the campaign.
“Win the Peace” (Kerry): A phrase he invokes to imply that Bush can wage war, but not win peace.
BUSH: 2
KERRY: 2
A surprisingly low number. Good job to both politicians. I say politicians and not candidates, because I feel that there should be more than two options presented to the American people in debates. Your tax dollars go toward funding any party which receives more than five percent of the votes; in other words, the two major parties. All others are left to struggle from the grass roots level.

All in all, my scoring system supported the decision I made coming into the debate: Kerry will get my vote. That’s probably the case for 90 percent of voters; humans tend to see only what they want to see. So I’m not saying that this sheds any scientific, or maybe even relevant, light on the debate. But it’s my opinion, and my opinion is the only one that counts.

I give credit to Charlie Gibson for not pitching questions like LaTroy Hawkins in a 3-2 tie and for the camera crew/producer for not making a single gratuitous shot of a minority in the audience.

Hurrah for the modern theater we call politics!

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