John Kerry has to be happy. President Bush's stylistically lackluster performance in the first presidential debate put Kerry right back into the thick of the race, and while Kerry didn't knock Bush out, he certainly put Bush behind the eight ball. Unless President Bush can exceed expectations in the second and third debates, Kerry will hold the advantage as this election goes down to the wire.
Chances are good that President Bush will do a better job in the second debate than he did in the first. In the first debate, Bush scored some clear policy victories over Kerry -- in the debate itself, Kerry flip-flopped on key issues, providing the Bush campaign with material to use against him. The polls following the debate reflected an immediate swing toward Kerry based on style, but it is likely that the immediate effect will dissipate, since Bush still leads Kerry by a broad margin on Iraq, terrorism and leadership.
Debating is about exceeding expectations. Before the first debate, Americans expected President Bush to beat Kerry. But after Kerry exceeded expectations in the first debate, the onus shifted to him for the second debate. Kerry must now win the second debate in decisive fashion, while Bush must only exceed expectations.
With the topics of debate now moving to domestic policy, it's time for President Bush to take out the biggest unused political weapon of this election cycle. It's the elephant in the living room, the most vital domestic issue this side of homeland security. It is, of course, gay marriage.
The attack on marriage undermines the basis for the entire structure of Judeo-Christian values. When gay activists claim that they simply want the same rights accorded to straight couples, they truly ask for basic redefinition of marriage itself -- and for acceptance of homosexuality by the straight community. Gays and lesbians have the same rights as any heterosexual: They can marry someone of the opposite sex. Subjective desire has no place in redefining moral terminology.
The gay lobby contests that marriage has already been weakened by a high divorce rate. True. But destroying the concept of marriage as it has always stood does nothing to rectify that problem. Redefining marriage to include same-sex couples is about as effective in fixing marriage as renaming South Central Los Angeles was in reducing crime rates.