No Bombs or Slam Dunks


Most probably know that Ahmadinejad and Mir Husein Mousavi faced off today on live national TV at 3pm EST. It was the second debate in two days. The first was yesterday between reformist Karroubi and moderate principle-ist Reza’i. That one was boring, with the two basically agreeing with each other politely, just presenting their different divisions. Their chances are so slim though that even though the debate was professional it just doesn’t seem to warrant too much analysis.

Watching today live wasn’t as exciting as it would seem. Thankfully though PressTV, the Iranian state-funded English language online channel, broadcasted it with English dubbing so I didn’t have to think in a second language which I am much, much slower at, trust me. Still, the debate style is even more laborious than ours in the US.

Each candidate got about 10 mins to say whatever he wanted. There were no questions presented or structured 2 mins here to answer, with a 45 second response to answer back, etc. The moderator just sits there basically and tells the candidate when his time is up, gives the floor to the other, than tells them their total time spoken. So, as you can assume there was plenty of rambling on boring details, and often a candidate dodged details (as all politicians do of course).

While Ahmadinejad’s body language was fiery early, resulting in some smirking and uncomfortable fidgeting as the debate went on, Mousavi was calm early on, with a strong poker face that became more direct and fiery as Ahmadinejad became more personal.

As far as the substance, Ahmadinejad, a man whose points are made mostly with rhetoric and no structure to his arguments, had his details down. In fact both candidates were surprisingly good with details and substance. There was point/counterpoint debate.

A couple themes and particular points made:

1) Mousavi attacked Ahmadinejad’s foreign policy immediately, declaring his handling of the British Navy sailors and his trip to Saudi Arabia as failures.

2) Ahmadinejad did his best to link Mousavi with Hashemi Rafsanjani and Khatami to make several points: a) a vote for Mousavi is a vote for the same, b) a vote for Mousavi is a vote for the corrupt insider-elites, and c) a vote for Mousavi cannot be a moderate one since he is wholly reformist. He connected himself to the people, making the argument that the country was more respected, safe, and scientifically viable with the success in nuclear enrichment.

3) Mousavi accused Ahmadinejad of harming the country through “extremism”, “adventurism”, and “lawlessness”. He went on the offensive, invoking Imam Khomeini several times to declare that Ahmadinejad has strayed from his path. These were not just buzz words, but were used to accuse Ahmadinejad of bringing the country towards a “dictatorship”.

4) Ahmadinejad attacked Mousavi’s wife, arguing her academic credentials are false (going off on a tangent related to the handing out of PhD degrees). He also attacked Rafsanjani A LOT, even publicly accusing him AND his family of corruption.

5) Ahmadinejad pointed to Mousavi’s tenure as prime minister whenever Mousavi claimed Ahmadinejad was “extreme” saying once that back then Mousavi criticized media descent against him too and even took an extreme stance on Israel and the US then.

6) Mousavi attacked Ahmadinejad as un-Islamic inferring that when Ahmadinejad accuses others within and without the judiciary he is going against shari’a.

I am probably missing some, since I left my notes somewhere else. But these were the most striking things. The most dramatic was when Mousavi was declaring Ahmadinejad to be dictatorial. When Ahmadinejad tried to interrupt Mousavi got firey and declared, “do not take my time!”, looking him straight across the table.

In a nutshell Ahmadinejad was on the defensive the whole time, clearly perterbed, while Mousavi provided many accusations with back-up (for the most part) and a straight face. Ahmadinejad was better prepared than I though, and Mousavi was more passionate at times than he usually is in interviews. Nobody dropped any big bombs or slam dunks that wowed me, or the electorate I am sure. Mousavi got the last word though which Ahmadinejad couldn’t answer to.

I don’t think these two moved any large blocs of voters the other way and I’m torn as to who independents would lean to after this debate. Anyone else speculate?


~ by The Common Man on June 3, 2009.

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