Much of the weekend discussion has been about Jacketgate, or videotape of what looks a great deal like Kerry pulling notes out of his jacket pocket when he thought nobody was looking. Notes were prohibited by the debate rules agreed to beforehand. Kerry, as usual, isn't explaining, and the tape is a little blurry. Still, it does look like a white something is in his hand, and it does look as though he's unfolding something at the lectern.
There are those who are argue that it barely matters, since the notes don't appear extensive enough to have materially affected the debate. I disagree.
Let's assume for the moment that Kerry did cheat. (If he didn't cheat, there's no story, and the whole incident really is nothing.) Let's further assume that whatever he had written down was trivial, something to jog his memory, or to make him feel more comfortable.
This seems to be perfectly in keeping with what we know to be true about Kerry's character: that he's a dishonorable man. Dishonorable men behave dishonorably even when the stakes are low and the actions not material. Dishonorable men cheat at penny-ante poker. Americans, to put it bluntly, can't stand men who cheat at penny-ante poker. Because cheating for cheating's sake says immeasurably more about a man's mettle than cheating when it might actually make a difference.
Kerry lies. He lied about his fellow servicemen when he came home. He lied repeatedly about his service and where it took place. He met with the enemy while in the Naval Reserves. He has never retracted any of this. He uses any criticism of himself to bludgeon his opponents as bashing the service of all Vietnam vets, while denigrating vets who criticize him as liars. He seemingly lies to his own diary, allows it to become to basis of biographies and films, and then refuses to release the text. He acts guilty, while denying us the chance to clear his name. In a million petty ways, Kerry shows himself to be a small man with small character.
The Bush campaign isn't going to say word one about this, and they shouldn't. If you're widely perceived to have lost a debate, regardless of the effect on the polls, you're better off not whining about a 3"x5" piece of paper. Especially when you're the President.
And we, the blogosphere, would be better off not making too much of it, either. The story has been out there for over a day, with the Kerry campaign producing neither the offending object nor a credible explanation. That seems to me to have the Clintonistas' fingerprints all over it, designed as a petty enough distraction to drive us bonkers. We can't let ourselves lose sight of the policy failings, which are many, to go chasing another character flaw.
Still, when you're not campaigning. When you're at home, alone, in your pajamas, just thinking about the type of man you want occupying the Oval Office. Does that man cheat at the weekly poker game?
No, I didn't think so.