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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Opportunity Lost

A live debate between George Bush and Saddam Hussein? Man, this could outdraw "Joe Millionaire"! And is the debate team that prepped Al Gore for his three fascinating and varied performances against Bush ready to volunteer to serve their country one more time? If they could fly to Baghdad to "help" Saddam, well, it looks like peace in our time.

MORE: Both CNN and some other news show had segments on this. One CNN viewer wrote in with, roughly, the following question: Considering how much troublew we haev translating "Bushisms" into English, how will they ever be translated into Arabic? Good point! And a poor translation could trigger WWIII... but don't feel any pressure.

Another CNN viewer preferred a quiz show format, where the winner gets to keep his WMDs.

On the other show (Today?) Chris Matthews made some sensible points. Asked whether Saddam is winning the PR battle with Bush, he mentioned a Lee Atwater quip - after all these years, David is still getting good press for beating Goliath. As to the debates, the idea of Saddam proposing and Bush refusing actually makes Saddam look reasonable and Bush intransigent. Was it a serious proposal? Well, Saddam can't leave Iraq, and Bush is not going to Baghdad, so not really. Matthews' final point - Saddam appearing on the same stage with Bush gives them equal stature. Some may look into their hearts and decide that this represents an upgrade for Bush. However, Matthews suggested (right wing media bias?) that Saddam would gain stature in a joint appearance with the President of the US.

Now, to my own extrapolation (unless Matthews said it and I missed it, in which case credit him): The idea of a debate is absurd, but the White House still managed to blow it. Agree immediately, suggest as a venue the UN in NYC (as if!) or a site in Geneva, and watch the chips fall. If Saddam leaves Iraq there will quite probably be a coup (Matthews' point). If Saddam refuses to leave, then he is the one who appears unreasonable and unreliable. At least the US gets a PR stand-off.

Opportunity lost.

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