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BYLINE BY M.J.AKBAR : MEXED MISSAGES
Four years in power and two years of war have improved George Bush. The last time he discussed foreign policy with a presidential opponent on television, he couldn’t quite remember the name of the guy from Pakistan. More to the point, he didn’t really care.
This time the phonetics department of the Oxford English Dictionary could have advertised his mastery of the syllables in the name of the Polish Prime Minister.
Bush also caught a potential fumble just in time. He was halfway through accusing John Kerry of sending a "mexed missage" when he drew away from the spoonerism and returned to "mixed message". At one point Bush did claim that he was "fighting vociferously" against terrorism, but Jay Leno and David Letterman are not going to be able to have as much fun with that. They would have put "mexed missage" on a slow fire and tortured it to death.
The problem, alas, is not Bush’s mexed missage but his fixed message. While Iraq burns on every television screen, the leader of the free world whistles in the dark. His recipe for the colossal mistake (Kerry’s phrase) is to condemn anyone with an alternative view, as unpatriotic or confused or possibly in secret dalliance with Osama bin Laden.
The first of the three debates between Bush and Kerry was not really a debate but a statement of partisan positions. In theory, this suited Bush fine because he has danced successfully to old tunes before and seemed to be swinging back to the White House again. Kerry seemed, in contrast, to trip over every phrase. Moreover, Bush can be dogmatic even when there is no dogma to lean on. That always energises his pre-programmed base.
Bush chose the dogmatic way out. He did not answer most of the questions that Kerry raised. It is possible that he was surprised at the main thrust of the attack. He may have convinced himself that Kerry could never be direct. Kerry however had all the clarity of a man staring at a noose.
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