After a day of trying to figure out what to do, the Republican spin machine is now coming up with the meme “Substance Over Style.” Bush may have looked like a complete goof at the debate on Thursday night, but his ideas and his leadership are more important than looking presidential, and John Kerry has a “long way to go” to prove he’s up to the task (Washington Times). They also have a story on Bush “honing” his debating skills. Now there’s a mixed message if there ever was one. And what a difference four years can make. Back in 2000, the Republicans hammered Gore on his style, making fun of his sighs and whispers (even while admitting that he beat Bush on substance) and that was reason enough to vote against him.
David Brooks picks up the same theme in his own cute/snarky way, suggesting that the best ticket for the country would be Bush/Kerry (of course he would keep Bush as president); Kerry is the wonk, Bush is the figurehead. That’s not really a surprise, since the Republicans have, since Thomas E. Dewey, run candidates that are more in the mode of corporate presidents who leave the details to their staff while the Democrats nominate candidates who know so much about detail and they don’t care much about doing the figurehead stuff (vis Jimmy Carter). The trouble with Bush is that he has proved to be both a lousy figurehead and incapable of sweating the small stuff. But he’s their guy now, and if they are going to put lipstick on a pig, he’s the pig of the moment. So forget the little mistakes (as in who attacked us on 9/11) and the tortured expressions at the podium (a friend noted that at one point he looked like the guy in the Imodium ad – “Where will you be when your diarrhea medicine stops working?”) Do you really want as your leader a man who is cool, calm, skillful in making his points, and knows exactly what he’s saying? What kind of president is that?