A Man Needs A Fish Like A Woman Needs a Bicycle
Thursday, October 14, 2004
Bob Schieffer Did an Excellent Job; Or, What does Bob Schieffer Think of His Country?

I read with a chuckle, Atrios' claim that:

"Tonight we can expect Furious George to screech that over and over again. We can expect Kerry to pretty much do what he's be doing. And, we can expect moderator Bob Schieffer to direct a volley of "wedge issue" questions at Kerry and a bunch of softballs at Bush."

He is going to be partisan--just you watch!!!! But I think he did a great job, and let me explain why.

As an article in today's Washington Post pointed out:

"The personal tension between the rivals melted at the end, when Schieffer closed with a softball question about the "strong women" Bush and Kerry had married."

A couple of observations:
First, I didn't think this was a softball question. Given the past tendency of the media and others aligned with the election of President Bush to paint Teresa Heinz as a "loose cannon" and an "emasculating she-bitch" (Excuse me, I am paraphrasing), this was definitely a danger for Kerry.
Second, I think it reinforced the observation I made below that Kerry showed that he could be more effective as a "uniter not a divider" than the President. How? Look at the last words spoken by either contender in the debate:

"And I'm blessed, as I think the president is blessed, as I said last time. I've watched him with the first lady, who I admire a great deal, and his daughters. He's a great father. And I think we're both very lucky."

Its a humanizing moment; a moment of recognition of George Bush, as a man, by his opponent, and not as a cut out figure. Having been preceded by some good humour on both sides, and what I felt was real sentiment by both men, it enabled the debate to end on a constructive note of agreement. And Kerry was the one who made this possible, by making the overtures.

And I think that those who think that Mr. Schieffer was just being sentimental missed the point. I do not know why Mr. Schieffer ended the debate with the question he did, but I offer a possibility. Mr. Schieffer loves his country. He is old enough to remember the way that this country was ripped apart by Vietnam, and wise enough to recognize that a divided country is a dangerous thing to have in a time of war. He knows he cannot lecture to the two men to "put aside their differences" so he allows them to have the opportunity to show the electorate and each other whether they can actually help unite this divided land. As I have already stated below, I think Kerry took the opportunity with both hands. The President didn't. This moment was extended by that last "softball question"-- a small moment of possible conciliation. The last impression of the three debates is of gentleness, humour, and dare I say it: love. I find that reassuring.

I am sure that this last impression will be buried in the cold blizzard of dirty snow to follow in the last days of this campaign. However, to all things their season. After the snows comes the thaw, the warming sun, and the return of life. Mr. Schieffer planted a little seed that might, with a bit of luck, germinate in the Spring.

My hope is that whoever is President next year will take the opportunity to nurture it...
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