Entry from October 12, 2004

As I did on each day of the Republican convention, I am writing poetry for broadcast on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” after each of this year’s presidential and vice-presidential debates. The poems are broadcast side by side with ones by Calvin Trillin, who is writing on the same subject but with a rather different point of view. The third of this series of poems, on the second presidential debate between President Bush and John Kerry, is titled The Temptation of John Kerry, or “Right into the Camera.”

“Senator Kerry. . .”
Said James Varner of St. Louis.
“. . .would you be willing to look directly into the camera. . .”
For the camera doesn’t lie.
For the camera is the window into the soul of the electorate.
“. . .and using simple and unequivocal language give the American people your solemn pledge. . .”
For to pledge is to commit oneself.
To pledge is to buy the ring and to meet the parents.
“. . .not to sign any legislation that will increase the tax burden. . .”
And faintly stirs the echo:
“And The Congress will push me to raise taxes.
And I”ll say no.
And they”ll push again, and all I can say to them is ‘Read my lips: no new taxes.’”
“. . .on families earning less than $200,000 a year during your first term?”
And so the young hero turned his face to the camera.
He did not hesitate, that one brave in battle.
“Absolutely. Yes. . .”
And yes I said yes I will Yes.
“. . .Right into the camera. Yes. I am not going to raise taxes.”
So passion’s debt was paid.
And so it fell to a man named George Bush to tell us that our wooer —
Ours and the camera’s —
Was “just not credible.”
Well, he ought to know.

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