Roger L. Simon

Debate Fever

Although I’m not sure debate success has anything at all to do with performance as President, I am getting debate fever and can hardly wait until Thursday. I’m especially keen on this first one because I’m a foreign policy guy. I no longer believe that hoariest of political clichés “All politics is local,” at least in its intended sense. In the modern wired world, everything is local. Beslan is local.

But leaving that aside for another post, I gobbled up William F. Buckley Jr.’s column today on the debates. Who better to opine on such a thing? Buckley begins by throwing a bouquet to another relative old timer on the opposite side of the aisle:

Richard Reeves, who knows politics the way Webster knew words, has predicted that the debate on Thursday will be “bloody and dirty, demeaning to all concerned.” On the eve of the encounter the odds have stabilized: Bush is ahead, Kerry is alert to this and is groping for riveting means by which to reannounce himself as an alternative to the incumbent.

Of course, in throwing this bouquet, Buckley is clever as usual. It allows him to refer to Reeves again at the end of his article:

Well, John Kerry is a skillful debater. In his column, Richard Reeves writes, “Kerry was called the ‘second-best’ debater he handled by the distinguished and revered Yale debate coach, Rollin Osterweis. The best, said Osterweis, was William F. Buckley.”

Well, Mr. Kerry should be satisfied to continue in his career as runner-up.

I’ll be watching to find out. I’m sure you will be too. Stay tuned. It should be fun, but if not fun at least “dirty and bloody.”

UPDATE: On a much less significant note, I was debater myself as a kid, for the Scarsdale High School team. We did pretty well, if I can remember, but it’s been a long time. This was my partner. I wouldn’t want to debate him now.