The most important thing to know when dealing with Republican rhetoric is this: Every accusation is a confession. I've never known this simple rule to fail. They always attack other people most violently on issues where they themselves are most vulnerable.
This has been proved, once again, by the debates. After months of calling Kerry a "flip-flopper" who lacked "conviction," they had the gumption to thrust onstage a squeaky weathervane of a president...a fluttering windsock who changed not just his opinions and policies ("You can't trust Canadian drugs, and I'm working to get flu vaccines from Canada") but his entire personality from one debate to the next. And all the while, Kerry was...Kerry. While Bush tried on different faces and different styles depending on how he got reviewed in the previous debate, Kerry was consistently himself.
Ya gotta wonder where a psychologically delving wunderkind like Lowell Ponte stands on Bush's multiple makeovers. Here's what he had to say about Gore back in 2002, in an article for FrontPage:
Like a poster boy for Multiple Personality Disorder, Mr. Gore manifested an entirely different personality in each of those three debates.(If winning the popular vote by 500,000 counts as an "ignominious defeat," what would Ponte call Bush losing in 2004 by, say, a couple million votes? "Cheating," is my educated guess.)
His bizarre, schizophrenic "Three Faces of Al" performance left voters confused and wary, and turned what should have been an easy Gore election victory into ignominious defeat.
Anyway, it's conventional wisdom that Gore lost in 2000 because he "tried out a different personality at each debate." But this year's race, oddly enough, has turned the conventional wisdom on its head.
I hold these truths to be self-evident: Bush has an unstable personality that changes with the political winds, and he couldn't seem to avoid telling colossal and avoidable lies at each debate. But babbling dishonesty and 180-degree personality changes are not the moral outrage they used to be. The courage the media had in 2000 - when they bravely checked the titanic rampages of the archfiend Al Gore, displaying a selfless disregard for their personal safety - seems to have evaporated in the face of a spittle-flecked pipsqueak with a fake Texas drawl, who can't make up his mind whether he's happy, angry, or catatonic, and who'd lie for fifty cents even if he could get a buck for telling the truth.