Debate Tactic: Agree, Then Say “But”

In the fruitless search to differentiate himself in the electorate, John Forbes Kerry seems to have found a groove. Via Blogs for Bush we find a round-up of Kerry debate quotes collected by James Taranto's “Best of the Web” column at OpinionJournal. They have a curious pattern where Kerry says something reasonable (sounding a lot like Bush) and then adjusting the position with the word “but.” Seems like a debate tactic because it is used so much.

  • “I'll never give a veto to any country over our security. But…”
  • “I believe in being strong and resolute and determined. And I will hunt down and kill the terrorists, wherever they are. But…”
  • “We have to be steadfast and resolved, and I am. And I will succeed for those troops, now that we're there. We have to succeed. We can't leave a failed Iraq. But…”
  • “I believe that we have to win this. The president and I have always agreed on that. And from the beginning, I did vote to give the authority, because I thought Saddam Hussein was a threat, and I did accept that intelligence. But…”
  • “I have nothing but respect for the British, Tony Blair, and for what they've been willing to do. But…”
  • “What I want to do is change the dynamics on the ground. And you have to do that by beginning to not back off of the Fallujahs and other places, and send the wrong message to the terrorists. You have to close the borders. You've got to show you're serious in that regard. But…”
  • “I couldn't agree more that the Iraqis want to be free and that they could be free. But…”
  • “No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to pre-empt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America. But…”
  • “I've never wavered in my life. I know exactly what we need to do in Iraq, and my position has been consistent: Saddam Hussein is a threat. He needed to be disarmed. We needed to go to the U.N. The president needed the authority to use force in order to be able to get him to do something, because he never did it without the threat of force. But…”

This will be explained away as nuance. To me it sounds like marketeering. “We can do everything that other product can do. But, wait, there's more!”

Josh Poulson

Posted Saturday, Oct 2 2004 08:04 AM

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