Hot air debate

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 2, 2004

Thursday night’s event lacked the theatrics and antics of the 2000 Bush-Gore debates.

For the first time, I actually missed Al Gore, self-proclaimed inventor of the Internet, whose ill-advised sighing and stalking inserted an element of entertainment into the debates that was sorely missing in this latest iteration.

This first debate between President Bush and Senator Kerry was so tightly managed, with negotiated rules big and small, it was as if the real contest was between the respective campaign advisors, each determined to avoid a gaffe by their guy, while trying to fence in the other guy.

The candidates couldn’t address each other and they couldn’t ask a question directed at their opponent.

They couldn’t walk from behind the lectern, which was a good rule, considering how Gore embarrassed himself by traipsing across the stage to Bush, who paused during his answer to acknowledge Gore’s nearness with a nod.

Gore couldn’t have looked sillier if his fly had been down and his shirttail sticking out, but I digress.

Kerry needed to make a good impression last night and he did.

His delivery was more polished and his arguments, sound or not, were parsed in carefully structured ways.

The President, not known for his extemporaneous speaking skills, stayed in character, sprinkling his delivery with pauses in which he searched for the right words to express himself.

Unlike a traditional debate, in an event as superficial as this 90-minute series of mini-speeches, delivery takes on a magnified importance.

The gist of the message from both candidates was the same old &uot;he said, she said&uot; finger pointing to which we’ve grown accustomed in this campaign.

Kerry attacking perceived errors in the President’s handling of the War on Terror.

Bush reminding us of Kerry’s change of heart from supporting to condemning.

While most pundits call Thursday’s performances good for both candidates, the edge in most analyses went to Kerry.

The book on Kerry is that he’s usually behind at this point in his campaigns, but that he’s a good finisher.

If this first debate is any indicator, perhaps he has stepped up the pace for the stretch run.

Bush’s strong suit is his ability to stay on point, something he did with startling repetitiveness this first time, the point being Kerry’s vacillating positions and perceived faulty logic on the conduct of the war and other world events.

While supporters will cheer his arguments, to advance his cause, the President needs to do better the next time.

When the prescribed format leaves no time to develop an argument or thoroughly explain a point, smooth delivery and lucid condensation are important.

The format differs for the next debate, a town hall meeting they called it, but the final debate will revert to what we saw during the first set to.

So there’s hope that we’ll yet see some fireworks.

Speaking of hot air, the Commerce Department’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, New Jersey, this week released a study predicting that, in addition to a period of increasing frequency, we are also going to see tropical storms increase in intensity over the coming years.

Global warming is the culprit they say after having fed millions of bits of climate data into their supercomputer, in an effort to model future weather in the tropics.

Under every scenario, the outlook is the same: more and worse.


Kerry Emanuel, a hurricane expert at Massachusetts Institute of Technology has stated the study &uot;clinches the issue&uot; of the relationship between global warming and the intensity of tropical storms.

What can we look for in addition to more of them?

On the average, twenty percent more rain.

On the average, a half step higher in category, meaning more category four and five storms, fewer ones and twos.

Global warming is also raising the level of the seas, which will increase the flooding of coastal areas during hurricanes.

Another thing to look forward to: high anxiety.