I rarely write directly on political matters. It is not that I do not have opinions, I do, and a Presidential debate is something I would enjoy engaging, but today my thoughts are on the funeral of a young friend and his unexpected passing has left me a bit washed out. However, riding to the rescue comes a letter from a friend detailing his thoughts on last night’s debate. Isn’t serendipity wonderful? Therefore, with his permission I am posting the substance of his missive.
His name is Mark Thomas and he is a partner in the law firm of Meyers, Young, Grove and Thomas in Hagertown, Maryland. Who better than a committed Christian lawyer to give their thoughts on a formal debate and as you will notice early in his editorial, Mark is an accomplished debater in his own right. I met Mark online as one of the first readers of my personal site, william.meisheid.com. We began corresponding and have developed an ongoing friendship. He reads this blog, so if you comment, he will see it and will probably respond to what you say. Alas, he does not blog himself, at least not yet. So, without further adieu, I give you Mark Thomas.
I confess that, as a former English major, I have sometimes been disappointed by W’s occasional inarticulateness and, though partisan, I have thought I was more objective than most people on most issues … Meanwhile, at the risk of sounding pompous, having once placed second in a national Lincoln-Douglas debate competition, I think I know something about debates. Among other things, classical debate favors people who can memorize and spout facts to support arguments. It thus tends to emphasize the trees rather than the forest. I would submit that if you pick a president based upon his ability to name the species of each tree in the forest, you get the likes of Jimmy Carter and John Kerry. If you pick a president based on his ability to see the boundaries and health of the whole forest, you get a Reagan or a Bush.
I sat through the entire debate and consistently believed that W was winning on virtually every point. I think he did an excellent job and that he won last night’s debate. While Kerry presented a classic, smoother debater’s style, the substance was entirely the same (and, as usual, flawed) and there seemed to me to be several deficiencies, characterized by a certain condescending, academic tone. More significantly, however, there was a glaring lack of intuition and insight.
In contrast, I now see more clearly that while Bush may not be gifted with spontaneous articulateness, he may well be profoundly gifted with a sort of visionary intuition–and that this is, in fact, the most significant difference between their characters. Regrettably, Bush’s occasional lack of eloquence may obscure one’s perception of this intuition. I do not think that I’m seeing something that’s not there; I think it’s there but one needs to see and listen carefully at a different level to pick this up. I suspect this is why I am convinced that he won the debate, while others, who may have viewed the debate at a different level, may have reservations.
It seemed to me, for example, that the most telling point in the debate was Kerry’s somewhat snide, condescending assertion that Osama Bin Laden was the enemy who attacked us, not Iraq. True, at a certain rigid intellectual level. However, this, to me, was the crystallizing moment of the debate–Kerry ostensibly thinks we should devote our resources to hunting down one man and one group based upon their manifest responsibility for one day–9/11. This is the “old way” of thinking and will never work, since the “enemy” has to strike first before we can “in justice” identify and attack them. This is the reason we have had the obscene, endless history of strikes and counter-strikes when we, and Israel, have dealt with terrorism in the past.
Bush, on the other hand, has finally, and definitively, identified the enemy–before it attacks again. He intuitively understands that our enemy is not one man or one group but all those who think and act in the same way–all those who are “moved” by the same spirit. So, for Bush, this is a spiritual battle, not a police action; it’s good versus evil, and as we are fighting evil in Iraq, we are fighting the very same enemy–regardless of their name, nationality, “political” affiliation or the battleground. And so, as Bush said, it’s our duty to control the terms of engagement, to take the offense, to not be deceived by their names, their lack of uniforms, their hooded anonymity (as they behead civilians) and to choose the battleground. This is why Bush has taken control of the war and made the “evil ones” come to our troops in Iraq (flushed the rats out of the walls), rather than wait for them to come to us and again attack unarmed and purely innocent civilians in our own cities. Maybe this was obvious to the rest of you, but last night’s debate helped me to see or understand more clearly (rather than merely sense) what Bush has for quite some time seen and understood, and to see and understand that Kerry and the Democrats simply do not get it. In this way, to see precisely how and why Bush won the debate, one may need to look beneath the words.
Kerry’s way of thinking is typical of how the West has handled the Middle East and terrorism for decades–and it has failed miserably. Bush’s new, intuitive way of dealing with fundamentalist Islam and terrorism seeks to cut off pure evil at its knees, for if, as he said quite well in the debate, we establish democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq, we will pull the rug out from under the fundamentalists. Kerry’s real goal is to get out of Iraq, when merely getting out will mean more of the same. Bush’s goal is to change Afghanistan and Iraq, and thus to change the Middle East and the world, and we will not leave until we have.
In short, Bush’s underlying view is spiritually informed while Kerry’s is not. Indeed, if, based upon last night’s debate, you asked which of the two really believes in God, I would say that, no matter what he says, Kerry either does not or is unacquainted with God personally. He certainly does not believe that what we do or don’t do should be informed by a broader sense of America’s role in world history as a force for good. I would submit that, though nominally Catholic, John Kerry is, in fact, an agnostic. Perhaps, then, this election is a poll on whether Americans still get this, whether Americans still believe in a God of history, a God who calls upon America to accept, not shy away from, its responsibility to be a force for good in the world. Or, perhaps this is making too much of a small thing?
Having said all that, I am puzzled that some I know may have been disappointed in Bush’s performance and would like to hear/read your own thoughts on the subject when you have time.
So, there you have it. As Mark said, what are your thoughts?