Thursday night, Sen. John Kerry ’66 and President George W. Bush ’68 sparred in the first of three presidential debates. Before a worldwide audience, the two presidential hopefuls debated issues of foreign policy. Back on the ivied campus of their alma mater, the reaction among students is mixed.
According to a Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday, Kerry is ahead of Bush by 6 percentage points among likely Connecticut voters.
Jon Menitove ’07, secretary of the Yale Political Union, said he thought Kerry came out as the overall winner.
“I think I just saw an incredible contrast between the two candidates,” Menitove said. “Kerry achieved his goal in that he was able to draw the comparison between the two conflicting leadership styles: smart and not, engaged and not. Kerry is a heavyweight.”
But Alex Yergin ’07, Executive Director for Development of the YPU, said the president voiced clearer arguments than Kerry.
“Kerry made a major mistake because he said that Iraq was not part of the war on terrorism. It is clear to everyone right now that Iraq is one of the centers of the war on terrorism,” he said. “I think that the president was direct, he laid out what he thought, and he showed his conviction.”
Katherine Linzer ’08 said she felt both candidates made valid points.
“I was very interested in what both candidates had to say,” Linzer said. “Their arguments are very compatible in creating an interesting dialogue. Although I personally thought Kerry was the better speaker, Bush did a wonderful job of presenting.”
Mark Hanin ’07, an officer on Yale College Republicans, said while Bush was consistent in articulating his position, his rhetorical style was lacking.
“I thought that John Kerry, as a former debater, had a more sophisticated style and was able in terms of content to convey his message better. The President made the most correct and wise strategic political decision by sticking to the central thesis of his candidacy,” said Hanin.
Hanin said he considered Bush’s defining theme to be staying resolute on the war on terror.
Hanin added that the debates may represent the most powerful weapon in Kerry’s political arsenal.
“[The debates] may be Kerry’s best chance to even out the numbers before the election,” he said.
Nazneen Mehta ’06 , the campus coordinator of the Yale College Democrats — which sponsored a debate party in the Berkeley game room — praised both Kerry’s style and substance.
“The voters got to see Kerry in his element,” Mehta said. “A lot of times people criticized him for having long responses. He did take his time, but at the same time he said a lot of important things. He drew a lot of really good distinctions … by the end of the debate Bush kept saying the same thing. Tonight was especially bad because he really didn’t seem like he had enough ammunition.”
She said voters who are currently sitting on the face must digest the complex issues, and the debates will assist them in that process.
“I think a lot of swing voters are trying to grapple with all of this information,” said Mehta, who organizes voting drives on campus.
Yinfei Mu ’07, who admitted she was not well-versed in current political issues, said she thought Kerry was the clear winner.
“He was definitely more clear on his stand. I would have to say he made a lot of valid points,” Mu said.
Hanin said that he is looking to the upcoming debate matchup between Dick Cheney and John Edwards.
“I’m looking forward to the vice presidential debates,” he said. “[They] may have more of an impact than we think.”