The Education President

Well, they done sent George W. Bush to Demeanor Re-education Camp. He don't scowl no more. Don't shout, neither.

Not scowly, not shouty, ol' W. was powerful better in the third debate than in those first two. By the second half, as he was movin' away from the 98th recitation of the 98 times John Kerry had raised taxes, he was actually able to fill the full two minutes without resortin' too much to repetition.

They taught W. the secret: Change the subject to something you can talk about and just talk about that. No matter what that Bob Schieffer feller asked, W. just plowed ahead.

For a while, he answered questions by talking about his plans for education. Schieffer asked him about what to do with fellers and gals who'd been laid off 'cause their jobs went to China, and Bush talked about sending 'em back to school -- to junior colleges, where they could learn about computer-aided roofin', or maybe hi-tech plasterin'. Schieffer asked him about the minimum wage, and W. said something about the Mitch McConnell minimum-wage bill -- I'm not sure, but maybe it said that everyone in the plant except the foremen and bosses should be paid the minimum wage and not a penny more -- and then talked about sending workers back to school to learn computer-aided deep-sea fishin', except in Nebraska. Schieffer asked him about affirmative action, and W. said everyone should go back to school and improve their skills in ditch diggin' with computer-aided jackhammers. No matter what Schieffer asked him, W. said, “Send 'em to school.” And seein' what Demeanor Education Camp had did for him, he had a point there. He was all smiley, and didn't blink or chew on his coat none when Kerry said he'd been a flop.

Kerry nailed him good a couple of times on his doin' nothin' on health care and, come to think of it, doin' nothin' on education, either. When Kerry said how W. had eliminated after-school programs for half a million youngsters and given that money, and then some, to the richest 1 percent, he stuck him good. I thought Kerry could have stuck W. more on his smiley bullshit about his tax cut goin' to middle-income Americans, and Kerry could have used fewer numbers, too.

They both reached their bases. W. talked about prayer and wasn't sanctimonious, and even said there was a place for atheists in America, though he didn't specify where, exactly. Kerry put the biology back in homosexuality. (W. was discreet, but left open the possibility that bein' gay could be like wantin' a lavender jockstrap, just a crazy moment in a big store.) Kerry said he'd meet with the NAACP, which is no big deal 'cept that W. was always busy bonin' up on geese -- or tubas, or somethin' -- whenever the NAACP held its conventions.

Bush was probably the more agreeable feller, but after a time Kerry dropped the numbers and got more agreeable, too. Kerry let too many of W.'s lies go unanswered: Once he came up with numbers for how many times he'd voted to cut taxes, but W. ran through his own numbers at least four times and then I stopped countin'. But Kerry zinged W. on how people actually lived, how their health-insurance costs ate up their tax cuts, that kind of thing, and Bush seemed kind of clueless. Kerry had a better understandin' of how common people lived, and Bush had a more common touch.

So it was more of a wash than it should have been. If Kerry could have come off a touch more like W., he would have kicked W.'s ass. As it is, I'd be surprised if the last debate affects the pollin' one way or the other, and the pollin' seems to be movin' Kerry's way. But he might want to go to Demeanor Re-education Camp, too, and learn to talk and refute with a little less of those numbers.

Harold Meyerson is the Prospect's editor-at-large.

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