Democratic Underground

The Top 10 Conservative Idiots
(No. 173)

October 4, 2004
Top Ten Debate Moments Edition

We have a huge list this week which focuses almost entirely on last week's presidential debate. While expectations were high for both candidates, nobody quite expected the exquisite thrashing John Kerry gave George W. Bush for ninety long minutes, and while post-debate spinners tried their hardest to put lipstick on Bush's pig of a performance it was quite clear who came out on top. Many of the links this week are audio clips, so turn your speakers on (or turn them down if you're at work!), sit back, and enjoy. If you want to test your system to make sure the audio is working, click this link first. Also, if you want to watch the debate video or read the transcript, you can find them both on the C-SPAN website. No key this week, just enjoy!

1President Kerry vs. Baby Bush
The two candidates hadn't even gotten a word out before John Kerry stamped his mark of authority on the debate. After moderator Jim Lehrer's introduction, Bush bounded across the stage in an attempt to "win the stride" - that is, to get into his opponent's space and intimidate him, as Ronald Reagan did so effectively to Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Unfortunately it backfired when tiny Bush ran smack into man-mountain John Kerry, who pulled Bush in close to contrast the height difference between them. Kerry leaned down to whisper in Bush's ear, leading to the first great moment of the debate - Bush literally having to tear his hand out of Kerry's grip before retreating all the way back across the stage to his podium.

Hilarity ensued as TV cameras put up a split-screen of the two candidates, artificially raising the height of Bush's podium so their heads were level. And while Kerry looked like he was standing behind a podium, Bush unfortunately looked like he was sitting in a highchair. Check out these two side-by-sides to see how the split screen should have looked...

TV camera split-screen adjustment

Actual height

2Mexed Missages
It honestly appeared that George W. Bush's only preparation for the debate was to repeat the phrase "mixed signals" and "mixed messages" over and over again in front of a mirror. Funny thing is, when it came to the crunch he even fucked that up, at one point accusing Kerry of sending "mexed missages."

The purpose of all this, was, of course, to paint Kerry as indecisive. See, according to Bush, you can't be a strong leader if for one second you stop to consider your options. Staying the course is always preferable to discussing alternatives, even if that course is leading you towards the edge of a very tall cliff.

In fact, it's absolutely preferable to drive off that cliff - as long as you're resolute and steadfast while you're doing it. Unfortunately this gambit failed dismally as Kerry came across far steadier and stronger during the debate than Bush, who looked wobbly, defensive, and weak. Oh well.

3Mexed Missages, Part Two
But let nobody ever accuse Bush of being inflexible! See, while Kerry maintained strong and consistent positions throughout the debate, Bush appeared to be making up new policies as he went along.

First, he took on Kerry's suggestion that it would probably help the United States if the rest of the world thought we were credible. While rambling on about the International Criminal Court - which he actually appeared to be quite frightened of - Bush said, "I just think trying to be popular, kind of, in the global sense, if it's not in our best interest makes no sense."

This, of course, was after Bush had spent a good portion of time boasting about the "alliances" that he had put together with the United Kingdom, Australia, and, uh, that's it. Oh - Poland. I almost forgot about Poland. So which is it, Mr. President? Making sure we have strong alliances by ensuring that we remain credible in the eyes of the world? Or making sure we have strong alliances by not giving a damn about our credibility? Make your mind up.

But that wasn't all - Bush also insisted that Iraqi president Ayad Allawi "doesn't want U.S. leadership ... to send mixed signals, to not stand with the Iraqi people." But then, after yet another verbal thrashing from Kerry about the perils of blind certainty, Bush changed his mind. In fact, you might say he... flip-flopped. "I fully agree that one should shift tactics, and we will, in Iraq." He said. Oh, we will? Gee, don't tell Ayad Allawi. He doesn't want U.S. Leadership to send mixed signals.

4Excuses, Excuses, Excuses
The debate gave Bush a splendid opportunity to come up with yet another new excuse for why the war in Iraq is not exactly a success. And it's a good one! See, apparently we achieved victory too quickly.

"Because we achieved such a rapid victory, more of the Saddam loyalists were around," said Our Great Leader. "In other words, we thought we'd whip more of them going in. But because Tommy Franks did such a great job in planning the operations, we moved rapidly. And a lot of the Ba'athists and Saddam loyalists laid down their arms and disappeared. I thought we would - they would stay and fight. But they didn't. And now we're fighting them now."

Now we're fighting them now, indeed. Mind you, it's odd that Bush thought they would stay and fight, considering that just last week CNN reported that "Two classified reports prepared for President Bush two months before the Iraq invasion warned the war could prompt an insurgency in which rogue elements from Saddam Hussein's government would work with existing terrorist groups, sources said."

Want more? "The January 2003 reports from the National Intelligence Council (NIC) said an invasion would increase support for hard-line politicized Islam and result in a divided Iraqi society prone to violent conflict, the sources said Tuesday."

Don't blame Bush though. It's not his fault if he didn't read those reports.

5A New Leash on Life
"I appreciate enormously the personal comments the president just made," said John Kerry after Bush grudgingly praised his character, "And I share them with him. I think only if you're doing this - and he's done it more than I have in terms of the presidency - can you begin to get a sense of what it means to your families. And it's tough. And so I acknowledge that his daughters - I've watched them. I've chuckled a few times at some of their comments. And..."

Suddenly Bush interrupted, "I'm trying to put a leash on them."

Trying to put a leash on them? That reminds me...

"Well, I know. I've learned not to do that," replied Kerry.

One of Bush's very last lines of the night was also one of his most interesting: "We've climbed the mighty mountain. I see the valley below, and it's a valley of peace." The simplest explanation for Bush's sudden eloquence can probably be boiled down to: "Hey world, you listening? We're up here, you're down there. Suck on it."

But that doesn't sound quite right. A possible suggestion is that Bush was referring to Martin Luther King's "mountaintop" speech, where Dr. King said, "I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land." But let's face it, the chances of Bush deliberately paraphrasing the nation's greatest civil rights leader are slimmer than a supermodel on a hunger strike.

No, the best guess may be that the mighty mountain Bush was talking about is the Biblical mountain God took Moses up, just before Moses picked Joshua to lead the Israelites into the promised land. Incidentally, Joshua was a military leader who kicked a whole lot of nonbeliever ass, and the book of Joshua is widely cited as a justification for the Crusades. Oh yes, you know the fundies liked that one!

7Bringing Them To Justice
In his very first rebuttal, Bush bragged that "the A.Q Khan network has been brought to justice." For those of you not familiar with A.Q Khan, he's a Pakistani nuclear physicist who back in February of this year admitted to exporting nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea, and Libya.

Want to know how the Bush administration brought Khan to justice? Well, after owning up to his crimes, he was pardoned by President Musharraf. A month later, during a visit to Islamabad, Colin Powell designated Pakistan a major non-NATO ally - which allows them to purchase a wide array of U.S. weaponry - and refused to criticize Musharraf for letting Khan off the hook.

Why? According to the New Republic (or see Idiots 163), because the Bush administration was at the time putting heavy pressure on Pakistan to capture or kill "High Value Targets" - Al Qaeda leaders - before the election. Specifically, "it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July."

Those dates, of course, happily coincided with the Democratic National Convention.

So now you know how the Bush administration brought A.Q. Khan to justice - by letting him go free so that the Pakistani government would announce terrorist captures on dates which were politically convenient for George W. Bush.

Fortunately, even the Bush administration couldn't be this brazen, and the plan never came to fruition. Well, unless you count Pakistan's subsequent capture of a top Al Qaeda terrorist, which just happened to be announced the day of John Kerry's acceptance speech at the Convention. But that was probably just a coincidence.

8The Seven Faces of Bush
Those who watched Bush vs. Kerry on C-SPAN were able to enjoy non-stop split-screen action for the duration of the debate. This gave viewers an opportunity to concentrate on the body language of each candidate while the other was speaking.

While most casual viewers thought that Bush appeared to go from annoyance to chagrin to peevishness and back to annoyance, experts have agreed that Bush's facial expressions actually passed through seven distinct, recognizable changes during the course of the debate. And thanks to the magic of the Internet, here they are:





Sucking a lemon



9 Not This Time, Bucko
Of course, the biggest news of the night came when George W. Bush acknowledged that - hold on to your hats - he knows who attacked America on 9/11! Of course, he needed a bit of prompting from Senator Kerry, but there you go.

Ever since 9/11 the Bush administration has done all it can to confuse the war on terror with the war in Iraq, and Osama bin Laden with Saddam Hussein. This might have worked on the lazy mainstream media, who happily drilled it into the minds of the American people for two years, but it wasn't going to work on John Kerry.

When Jim Lehrer asked Bush about more preemptive military actions, Bush waffled about Iraq and then foolishly threw in his favorite piece of campaign spin: "I understand how hard it is to commit troops. Never wanted to commit troops. When I was running - when we had the debate in 2000, never dreamt I'd be doing that. But the enemy attacked us, Jim, and I have a solemn duty to protect the American people."

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

"Jim, the president just said something extraordinarily revealing and frankly very important in this debate," responded Kerry. "In answer to your question about Iraq and sending people into Iraq, he just said, 'The enemy attacked us.' Saddam Hussein didn't attack us. Osama bin Laden attacked us. Al Qaida attacked us. And when we had Osama bin Laden cornered in the mountains of Tora Bora, 1,000 of his cohorts with him in those mountains. With the American military forces nearby and in the field, we didn't use the best trained troops in the world to go kill the world's number one criminal and terrorist."

Well, you could have used Bush to clandestinely open an envelope, he was steaming so much. And when Kerry was done, Bush barged in for a 30 second rebuttal - his mouth running way, way ahead of his brain. "Of course I know Osama bin Laden attacked us," he fumed. Then, realizing how ridiculous he sounded, he trailed off with a lame, "I know that."

I almost felt sorry for the poor guy. It can't be a nice feeling, having your ass handed to you in front of 60 million people.

10Work Hard With A Vengeance
If there's one thing we found out last Thursday, it's that the presidency is hard work. So much hard work, in fact, that Bush used the phrase eleven times during the debate. I guess this must be why Bush spent 42% of his first eight months in office on vacation - I mean, he was even on vacation when he got that Presidential Daily Briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in United States." But, you know, Dubya was clearing brush that day, and clearing brush is, well, hard work.

It's odd, but from his statements during the debate it almost sounded like being president is simply too much of a pain in the ass for George W. Bush. Turning Iraq from a tyranny to a democracy is "hard work." Training Iraqi troops is "hard work." Having the FBI director come in his office and talk about security every morning is "hard work." Climbing the mighty mountain and seeing the valley below is "hard work." Trying to love Missy Johnson as best as he can is "hard work."

We get it already! Being president is hard work! You don't have to keep whining on and on about it! It comes with the territory! Didn't you realize that it was going to be hard work before you applied for the job the first time? What, do you want us to feel sorry for you? Suck it up!

The Best of the Rest
George W. Bush obviously wasn't the only Conservative Idiot of the week. Colin Powell was sending mixed messages; Pennsylvania Republicans were lying their asses off; Team Bush has outsourced its voter file database; and Jerry Falwell says that evangelical Christians now control the Republican party. Hang on, that's not idiocy - he's right.

Meanwhile, Ken Blackwell, Ohio's secretary of state, has been trying to suppress voter registration; Arnold Schwarzenegger (despite being a smoker himself) has banned smoking in California's prisons on health grounds (oh well, there's always heroin); Jim Bunning lied about his endorsements, and CNN and the Miami Herald allowed Republicans to pose as "undecided voters" during their post-debate coverage.

Elsewhere, Fox News had to pull TWO stories from their website when they were discovered to be fake - one story was about a website called "Communists for Kerry" which is run by Republicans (Fox reported as if it were a real organization), and the other was a spoof article by Fox's own Carl Cameron, who simply invented a bunch of Kerry quotes. Not that anyone cares about holding Fox News accountable.

While I'm on the subject, anyone in the media who called the debate a draw can kiss my ass - I mean, come on. These reports of a "draw" were frequently sitting right next to voter polls which favored Kerry 80%-20% over Bush.

And finally, (yes, finally!) let's end with some sex. Antonin Scalia announced last week that "sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged." So that's what he was doing in that duck blind with Dick Cheney! See you next week!

The Top Ten Conservative Idiots list is back on the radio! The Air America Radio Network's Ring of Fire show is currently broadcasting "Cuckoo Conservatives" - excerpts from the Top Ten read by 30+ year radio veteran Dean Randall. Dean has worked in broadcast markets from the Midwest to the west coast including an overseas hitch in Wellington, New Zealand, and most of his radio experience was spent as a morning show personality. He is currently employed by a local ABC TV affiliate and is active in politics on a local, state and national basis. Dean says, "My liberal roots went down and deep early when my father hosted a Minnesota state DFL rally in 1961. Ever since I have had a keen interest in politics and the Democratic philosophy and history." You can drop him a line at


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