I'm suffering from an overexposure to George Bush, but I struggled valiantly and have survived it. So far. The third and final debate is in the bag, Kerry's bag, that is, as expected. But Bush did quite well in staying awake and stuff.
The big disappointment in this debate were the questions. They were not very sharp or interesting, and there was absolutely nothing about the environment. Also, Bush was offered opportunities for both a) talking about foreign politics once again and b) for flaunting his faith. I do believe that the moderator may have tipped a little in his moderation...
Other than that, there was very little to learn from this debate that you haven't heard before. The same soundbites were repeated with one addition, by Bush, and that was the expected one about the archliberal Kerry. Examples:
Bush: I'll tell you what PAYGO means, when you're a senator from Massachusetts, when you're a colleague of Ted Kennedy, pay go means: You pay, and he goes ahead and spends.
Bush: As a matter of fact, your record is such that Ted Kennedy, your colleague, is the conservative senator from Massachusetts.
Bush: And secondly, only a liberal senator from Massachusetts would say that a 49 percent increase in funding for education was not enough. We've increased funds.
Why does Bush hate Massachusetts so much?
Kerry managed to bring in women's issues in a few places, Bush managed to assiduously avoid them altogether:
Kerry: I believe that choice is a woman's choice. It's between a woman, God and her doctor. And that's why I support that. Now, I will not allow somebody to come in and change Roe v. Wade. The president has never said whether or not he would do that. But we know from the people he's tried to appoint to the court he wants to. I will not. I will defend the right of Roe v. Wade.
Kerry: If we raise the minimum wage, which I will do over several years to $7 an hour, 9.2 million women who are trying to raise their families would earn another $3,800 a year. The president has denied 9.2 million women $3,800 a year, but he doesn't hesitate to fight for $136,000 to a millionaire.
Kerry: We also need to hold onto equal pay. Women work for 76 cents on the dollar for the same work that men do. That's not right in America. And we had an initiative that we were working on to raise women's pay. They've cut it off. They've stopped it. They don't enforce these kinds of things.
I'm not holding these arguments against Kerry, though I admit that his interest in the economic difficulties of women has seemed less central to him earlier in the campaign. Bush is silent on these issues, naturally. He's more prone to mention homes for unwed mothers when women's issues are on the table.
Though both men were asked by the moderator to praise all things bright and beautiful, including strong women. It seems that they all have a parcel of this rare breed at home. So each candidate was given an opening to show that they, too, are human, that they, too, are lovable and that they, too, regard women as an admirable invention.
Sounds grumpy, doesn't it? There's nothing wrong in this little chivalrous gesture, is there? Well, yes, there is. Women are introduced into the debate as some sort of a post-dinner toast.
But maybe this is all that can be expected given the current state of cultural understanding.