In his first at bat in the majors George W. managed to connect with the ball a few times, but he didn't fall down or commit major errors. So as presidential politics is now scored, he gets credit for a grand slam. How have we permitted our expectations of candidate performance to be driven so low?
As expected, George W. Bush got a base hit last night and crowed about his success as if he’d hit a grand slam. The Bush campaign played the expectation game so well that he was a success by merely being “good enough.”
But of course, if you remove all the advanced handicapping and compare the performances on the merits things look different. It is abundantly clear that Bush is a minor leaguer who in his first at bat in the big leagues managed to connect with the ball a few times. Did anyone come away convinced that he’s now a Major Leaguer? A future hall of famer? No. All Bush proved was that he could stand next to the Vice President of the United States and not embarrass himself and his party.
Gore is perhaps too earnest and deliberate to be called brilliant, but he showed command of the facts, the debate and even the stage. And he got the differences between himself and his opponent down to a few short words that everyone could understand rather than dealing in high level policy abstractions.
There were times, of course, when you had to ask yourself if they were in the same room. Bush seemed to run out of material and out of gas at the end as he strained to find a few final coherent sentences. And clearly, anything involving arithmatic is “fuzzy math” to George W. Bush.
The one moment you thought George W. was about to go spinning down the drain was when he excitedly told Gore that he would not ask for help from the Russians to help secure a peaceful transfer of power in Serbia if they did not agree with our position. “They don’t” was all Gore was able to get in as a last minute comment. Regretfully the moment passed before Bush had a chance to reveal to the world his lack of qualification to be our Commander in Chief.
Gore came across far more presidential. But then all George W. Bush is aiming for is to convince Americans that he can play a president on TV. We count ourselves amazed, as do most Democrats, that he’s successfully driven expectations of candidate performance down so low.