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Oct. 1, 2004

THE DEBATE

Last night’s presidential debate produced a surprising result. John Kerry thrashed George W. Bush on most counts. He was more charming, composed, eloquent and presidential in demeanor. Every “snap” poll declared him the winner. And yet, he lost in the significant sense that he made arguments that will prove his undoing. Ronald Wieck echoes my sentiments (or perhaps I echo his).

Moreover, Kerry’s Eurocentrism may take his party over the cliff. The incomparable Victor Davis Hanson explains.

The key moment occurred when Sen. Kerry insinuated that American foreign policy must be judged by what he calls the “global test.” He made it clear that if the world doesn’t like what we’re doing, we must be wrong. Had this test been in effect during the Cold War, we wouldn’t have fought back. If it had been in effect during the Reagan administration, we would have curled into the fetal position and permitted the Soviet Union to cannibalize human liberty throughout the world. This is not a posture of leadership, but insecure “followership” – dutifully kissing up to nations that have lost their way economically, politically, diplomatically and spiritually.
The problem with Kerry’s foreign policy is that it’s childishly naïve. His answer to ever crisis is to convene a summit: Bring me the French! Summon the Africans! Get Kofi Annan on Line 1! This is not the way to conduct a foreign policy; it is the proper means for organizing an Aspen Institute conference.

Meanwhile, U-S and Iraqi forces are getting serious about taking down terrorists in Iraq. The assault on Samarra marks the beginning of a campaign that could subdue terrorists within weeks – and dramatically alter the realities and perceptions of the military situation in Iraq.

Sen. Kerry has a bias not for action, but chatter. He believes that Abu Musab al Zarqawi will lay down his beheading knife if the president were to start chatting confidentially with Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroeder – just about anybody other than Iyad Allawi, the prime minister of Iraq. Think about this for a moment: The theory is that terrorists will embrace peace if a president can convene a conference call including nations that have no direct involvement in Iraq. James Lileks fillets this view brilliantly.

Democrats are ecstatic that their guy looked and sounded great, but they also realize that he didn’t dispel concerns that he doesn’t have a plan; only a posture. Joe Lockhart, chief spokesman/pit bull for the Kerry Team, told his colleagues after the event that Team Kerry viewed the debate as a draw. C-SPAN caught the exchange on tape. David Greenway, venerable voice of New England Liberalism, fretted that Kerry didn’t lay a glove on the president.

Furthermore, the debate – which was wonderfully genteel, and clearly the best of the genre since presidential candidates resumed regular debates in 1976 – doesn’t appear to have changed many minds, although it has inflamed passions, for instance, among members of a focus group in Las Vegas.

Parenthetically, the Democratic National Committee national committee also offended reporters by deluging them with e-mails proclaiming the triumph of Kerry. The e-mails, supposedly written by Average Joes and Josephines, were typical campaign tripe. Dana Milbank, no friend of the Bushes, describes his annoyance in this online interview.

Final observations: Team Bush has a bad historical habit of getting cocky, and seemed to commit it again before the debate. (You may recall that the Bush campaign stopped polling and slowed down its campaigning during the last five days of the 2000 presidential contest. Al Gore out-hustled them, and won at least two or three states he otherwise would have lost, turning what would have been a close but clear victory by George W. Bush into the mess that transpired in Florida for the five weeks following the election).

This time, the president spent much of the day touring sites of hurricane-related carnage and devastation, and thus showed up at the debate site over-tired and under-prepared. He spent most of the night repeating the same lines about John Kerry’s indecisiveness, rather than tackling head-on a series of gaffes and misstatements by the Democratic candidate. As many conservatives have pointed out, the president could have put his opponent away. Instead, he ran out of gas during the last hour of the debate.

And if you thought the controversy over John Kerry’s Vietnam record was over, guess again. Tom Lipscomb, who has led the charge on the reporting side, is at it again.

Two big, underreported stories:

1) Voter Fraud

I got a chance to read John Fund’s provocative, balanced book, “Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy.” Fund documents the growth of vote fraud as a minor industry, and explains how it has poisoned the democratic process. Most damningly, he lays out in detail the sheer backwardness of our balloting systems.

As if on cue, vote-fraud stories have begun to fill papers – and there’s a central thread. The George Soros-financed “Americans Coming Together” has become an absolute fraud machine. Here are some swing-state horror stories from suburban Detroit and Cleveland. Blogger Bill Hobbs has a good round-up (scroll down to read his many entries).

2) Fannie Mae, a Democratic Enron?

Fannie Mae, the federally subsidized mortgage giant, cooked its books, big-time. Is this the beginning of the next corporate scandal (but one in which more Democrats than Republicans are vulnerable)? Here’s a story.

Share your thoughts with Tony.  E-mail him at  tonysnow@foxnews.com.