Monday, October 04, 2004

Blogging In Pittsburgh

I wrote the following post over the weekend in Pittsburgh, PA:

I'm writing this from a hotel room in Pittsburgh - my wife is here for a job related conference and I'm here just to hang out in a swanky hotel I guess. Last night, in a remote corner of a noisy, but mostly empty sports bar, we watched the first presidential debate. Sure, we could have watched it in our hotel room, but it just felt like we should be watching it out amongst the people.

I naively assumed that it would be on televisions all over the city. I was sure that all of America saw this a pivotal moment for our country, as I did. Needless to say, I couldn't have been more wrong on that one. We strolled around "Station Square” - a snazzy section of downtown Pittsburgh that used to be a railroad station but is now a shopping, eating, sleeping in snazzy hotels in between strolling next to the river kind of place - looking in desperation for a place to watch the debate with our fellow Americans.

Finding a bar with a TV was, of course, not at all the problem. Finding a bar with a TV, with the sound on AND tuned to a channel broadcasting the debate was nearly impossible. Everywhere we went, the TVs were tuned to football. It seems there was big college football game on so...I guess THAT's understandable. Actually, it was stunningly accurate display of the level of apathy for this election, and I guess politics in general. For those of us paying attention, this election is huge...the most important or our lives. Sometimes, I guess I forget that the people who really couldn't give a sh#t outnumber us. I did find out the next day that over sixty million people watched the debate so...maybe it's not as bad as I thought.

As it hit 9 pm and we knew the debate was getting underway, we made the reluctant decision to return to our hotel room to watch in seclusion. Walking back to the Sheraton, I happened to glance through the window of a sports bar across the street to see a television with the face of John Kerry on it. Huddled around the table I saw a group of fifty something baby boomers and thought "hmm...are they Kerry supporters or Bush supporters?"

We rushed in the bar, grabbed a nearby table and began straining to hear the debate. To our surprise, they noticed we were trying to hear and invited us to join them. It turned out they were staunch Kerry supporters so, no danger of fisticuffs.

Now.... the debate itself was very much a surprise. Although I hoped he would, I just didn't expect Kerry to step up and wrestle this debate away from President Bush the way he did. Up until Thursday night, this was starting to seem like it was Bush's election to lose. Now, Kerry is again energized and mounting a comeback in the polls and it’s George Bush who seems to be on the ropes.

It almost seemed as if the president had memorized a handful of phrases and was intent on saying them over and over throughout the night. This could have worked except for the fact that John Kerry's answers were clear, concise and to the point. This is the clearest he has stated his views on Iraq and homeland security and I think it will resonate with the American people.

He also remained composed whenever Bush attacked him. In contrast, the president often appeared annoyed and aggravated during Kerry's responses. Most of the time, Bush looked like he didn't want to be there.

Best sound bite for Kerry? Hmm...that's a tough one because he didn't really speak so much in sound bites as he did concise sentences. They were short enough to still be quoted everywhere but long enough to give his message more credibility. I did like his description of his four point plan to finish the job in Iraq and his use of "four words: more of the same," to describe Bush's plan in Iraq.

Funniest moment of the debate? That one is easy: Bush’s insistence that John Kerry not forget the mighty Poland in his description of the president’s “Coalition of the Willing.” Very surreal.

Well, more on all of this later. I have to go back to hanging around in my swanky hotel.

1 comment:

mr. grup said...

my favorite sound bite would have been that you 'must not confuse the warrior w/the war' when bush said that kerry's message was offensive to the soldiers. kerry was saying that the war was wrong, but the soldiers are bravely doing their duty. he, after all, should know.

by the way, days after the debate, the 'mighty Poland' declared it would pull all troops out of iraq by the end of next year.