Bush vs Kerry I

Tonight, Bush and Kerry debate for the first time in Miami, Florida. Discuss. (Use the comment link below.)

  • Miles (unverified)

    Well I thought Kerry did OK, and I found Bush as insufferable as I always do.

    As I watched I drank a beer and tried to "think like a normal American" which I'm certainly not.

    What do I remember.... as I channel my inner middle American.

    Kerry said the big problem was something long that begins with a P that I can't pronounce. Bush was smarter because he said it was "weapons of mass destruction." Point Bush.

    Kerry talked about body armor and bad planning. Point Kerry.

    Bush talked about Ms. So and So who lost a child with whom he "teared up". Point Bush.

    Kerry talked about alliances, Bush talked about not letting anyone get in the way of America.... Point to ?

    Kerry wants bilateral talks with some unpronouncable Korean guy, Bush wants multi-lateral talks with some unpronouncable Korean guy... isn't that reverse of their positions on "bringing in the rest of the world" versus America as Lone Cowboy? Who wins that point?

    I wish I had some chips to go with this beer.

    OOOOHH that was nasty what that moderator said about Kerry using the "truth" word to question Bush.... deduct one point from the moderator, but I don't know what it does to the candidates.

    Kerry started with a strong opening statement, but I don't remember it. Kerry fumbled a little on the close, but I don't remember exactly why. Don't know which way it cuts.

    Bush repeated himself. "see" "you see" "see" "it's hard work..." "It's hard" (would you like someone else to carry your load Mr. Bush?) Does this kind of "simple truths" talk persuade anyone? Am I the only one who is nauseated by this kind of smirky Bush talk. (i've lost my inner middle American here.) Don't know which way it cuts.

    OK, that's my report. That's what I remember 55 minutes after the debate. I'm still voting for Kerry of course, and the above statements don't reflect my views, but my imaginings about how some mythical undecided voter might interpret the things that I actually remember.

  • (Show?)

    A biased take, of course, but my favorite line so far, off of Air America: We just watched the training wheels come off the Presidency.

    My own take requires explaining my fear and my plan going into this evening. Scared sh*tless that if Kerry didn't step up to the plate tonight it meant that the election was over, I was ready to drink the enture unopened bottle of Rosemount Estate Shiraz/Cabernet sitting on my kitchen counter.

    It remains unopened.

  • Ryan Hunter (unverified)

    I watched the debates with a swing voter. His assessment was that it was a draw, both candidates had decent points but neither were all that impressive. He did pick up on the fact that after Kerry made the whole debate about bringing together alliances, he turned around and said we should have bi-lateral rather than multi-lateral negotiations with N. Korea. Fortunately there was a person in the room who is very knowledgeable on N Korea and pointed out that the multi-lateral negotiations were just a screen to hide the fact that Bush is doing nothing on N. Korea.

    Being a strong Kerry supporter, I have to agree with my swing voter guest. Kerry's arguments were of course much more sophisticated than Bush's, but Bush stayed on message, while it is tough to recall what Kerry's points were minutes after the debate, even for a supporter. I think ultimately it only helped Kerry a little bit, but he will have to have stronger future debates to pull ahead.

  • (Show?)

    I'm not capable of watching like a swing voter, but this is what I saw...

    • On NBC, they had a group of six undecided voters. Afterwards, all six individually said that they were a) still undecided, pending more debates, and b) impressed that Kerry would be a competent and good commander-in-chief. The one old white male business owner in the group was the strongest on that score. Seems to me that if it's a wash on security/war/terrorism, then Kerry wins in the end.

    • On ABC, they had a snap poll: 46% Kerry won, 37% Bush won, 17% tie.

    Not sure if this was true on all the channels, but at least on NBC, the network broke the debate rules and repeatedly cut to the reaction shot and to a split-screen - and Bush was grimacing, sighing, shrugging, head-shaking, and otherwise behaving like an ass. So much so, that Ron Saxton (on ABC-affiliate KATU) said he didn't look presidential.

    Remember, you can determine the real winner by watching with the volume off. Probably Kerry at this point.

    Bring on the debate about jobs, teachers, taxes, and cops.

  • (Show?)

    My Dad said that C-SPAN split screened the entire time. PBS never went split-screen, but they did show many reaction shots -- Kerry was also either listening attentively or taking notes, while Bush was always looking like he wondered why there was no earpiece in his ear so Rove could tell him what to do.

  • (Show?)

    I'm sure what was said will be hashed and re-hashed between now and Bush vs. Kerry II and I'm sure I'll have more comments later, however I just have to mention something that bugged the sh*t out of me the entire debate.

    It may be incredibly silly of me, but I cannot believe that the President of the United States can't manage to stand up straight! He was leaning on his elbows, hunched over like an oaf. His mother must have been appalled.

    Every time they cut to the side-by-side, W had looks on his face that, in my mind, were worse than Gore's sighs of 2000. He didn't appear to take this seriously.

    I also thought it did not behoove the President to break the format over and over again by insisting on responses when he wasn't alotted any.

    His demeanor was horrible and undignified. I hope it hurt him as much as it should have.

  • Isaac (unverified)

    Well, it appears that the long-awaited debates weren't as much of a blow-out of the cowboy by the valedictorian. After scanning the six or seven channels that were carrying the debate, I settled on C-SPAN, which carried a split window of both candidates throughout the whole thing. Only later did I hear about the various networks punching it up with strategic cuts to the smirks and grimaces by the non-speakers.

    What appears to be really clear after this evening is the vast difference in thinking between the two candidates, or between the Red and Blue Americas that back them respectively. Kerry makes points with logic and asks the viewer to reason with him. Bush makes vague statements about good and evil and consistency and implicitly asks you to just nod and repeat after him. God help him if you actually looked for reason in his words.

    All of the rhetoric about "Kerry the flip-flopper" came to a head tonight when George stated that you can't be president when you're "not consistent on your beliefs," when you "mex missages." Kerry's response was that to be consistent is one thing, but to be unwavering when you're wrong is just plain stubborn.

    I'm a fan of logic and reason, and that clarification on consistency is the one thing I think many Kerry-backers have been waiting for him to say. I finally understood why he voted with Congress to give authority to depose Saddam IF all other remedies were exhausted, and why he opposed going into Iraq the way we did. Because Bush didn't wait. But anybody who listened to him knew he wasn't going to wait a second longer than he had to.

    It's like a teenager who's been begging for the keys to the car for two years. Even if you tell him that finally, OK, but only if you buckle your seat belt and wash the car and be sure to check the tires and only drive it straight down to the store and back -- it doesn't matter. You give him the keys and he's out the door and gunned the engine and down the street before you blink, and you know you won't see him until morning. Only as you see the car disappear down the street do you realize you got suckered.

    Do I sound biased? Naw. It's just amazing to me, that you don't have to be smart or informed to become president. Given that I'm referring to an incumbent, it's apparent that you don't have to be smart or informed to elect a president either. The effect of this debate will be measured by how many viewers know what profil...prolof...proliferation means.

    So for all those who would just like to save the time and heartache of the next two debates, here's my pre-summary of the major differences between the candidates' arguments in all three debates.


    Kerry: "We must end proliferation" Bush: "It's a hard job. I been doin' the job."


    Kerry: "We must stimulate employment" Bush: "I know there's folks hurtin'. I SAID it's getting better!"


    Kerry: "We must fund healthcare and education." Bush: "No child left behind. I'm DOIN' the job! This is hard!"

  • (Show?)

    You forgot the pauses where Bush was obviously thinking, "Uhoh, not even first first warning light has come on. What else can I say to pad this to two minutes so I don't reveal I have nothing to say?"

  • Jesse (unverified)

    I'm freaking happy and freaking proud of my candidate for president. That's all I got to say.

    Did I mention it's John "Stick it to 'em" Kerry?

  • Pedro (unverified)

    Kerry was on top of his game. In my opinion he handled the tough questions McNeil dished out while Bush was back on his heels looking for the correct Rove quote for each question. At one point the President repeated the same answer so many times my Republican spouse just rolled her eyes to the ceiling.

    Kerry stood and delivered!

  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)

    Kerry ran on Bush's record. Bush ran on.

    Kerry: Stand. Bush: Squat.

    Kerry: Very. Bush: Nary.

    Kerry: Won. Bush: None.

  • brett (unverified)

    We learned that Kerry is more articulate than Bush. Didn't we already know that?

    Kerry had some great lines, and Bush scored points with his typical folksiness. I watched it with a bunch of lefties (who else), and they were all as psyched as you are. I think you have been waiting for a reason to get fired up about Kerry again. I bet the most positive thing about Kerry's performance is that it motivates his base again, which has been a little hangdog lately. I don't think either candidate screwed up badly enough or dominated enough to make much of a difference in the race. But we shall see.

  • fullerton (unverified)

    I spent the whole evening fretting about who was going to be asked about N. Korea. Since the problem is essentially a huge unsolvable quandry I knew who ever Leher lobbed it at was going to look like a blithering idiot. When he shot it at Bush he didn't disappoint.

    Since when do when take foreign policy ques from China?

    Bush looked weak and I think that middle class-mildly retarded-undecided-Iowans and other target audiences appreciated Kerry's demands of bi-lateral talks.

    Also, I noticed on my scan of conservative blogs, that the Reds seem to have accepted that this was a loss for their camp. Their reactions range from anger to disappointment. Someone really needs to bring that up to the conservative talking heads that seem to think Bush did smashingly well.

    Are they saying the bloggers, and the man on the street (that Iowan I spoke of earlier) are wrong? Do they not appreciate their opinion.

  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)

    No different change is going to come from screw-ups or dominatritus, nor Kerry's hangdog or crouchcat or command performance or stoked on his tiki totem. Dumbo The Flying Baby Elephant screws-up by walking into view; all his video is surrogacy because more than five minutes media of he himself -- and this is give and take! equal frametime! withOUT cues! -- guarantees a word-gaffe smirkfest that takes Evil Office sanitation engineers a month to remodel and clean up. Five minutes media footage and he'a in land mine territory. Ninety minutes THREE TIMES! and he's loose fissile material in a tin can. Dumbo screwed up BIG time agreeing to so much appearance.

    And it ain't going to move a single vote, in or out. Obversely, same thing: If votes do move, it don't matter. Neither base budges, come hell or high water, although as you say, your goat's mere visage in primetime where EVERYbody could see him brings on the feeling that it's not as much fun for you on your island, as it is for everybody all "psyched" happy at the prospect ... 'mumble mumble grumble must be a godforsaken heathen "bunch of lefties."' And yes, we already knew that.

    What's also known but rare as homemade bread is the common sense to recognize what makes one base over here and one base over there and not a vote between them, (because they were arguing so hard they didn't notice the ballot box is stolen, stuffed, and preset so what they -- both sides, put in them doesn't change the result), all follows from being mind-framed to see the other group's difference ("lefties") first, BEFORE seeing the other group's shared base, ("humankind"). Because you sat down prejudiced, you got up frothy. Uh, froth kills. (Two cows walking to slaughter: "We got hoof'n'mouth." "What are they gonna do?" "Shoot us." "Any way to get out of it?" "Yeah, wipe that foam from around your mouth." Cows have hooves, see, they can't wipe their face. -- Bill Cosby, old bit.) Prejudice is the gateway mindframe to ascetic isolations and eventually, if it's not caught soon enough, habitual solitary confinement.and even human revulsion.

    And it's worryingly true: While left base and right base isolate themselves farther and farther apart somebody streaked in from the south endzone and stole the flag. Which is okay with one of the bases -- they think the flag thief is on their side. He's not.

    But if he were, your leader would be a thief. He's either against you or he's with you and criminal. Team Dumbo is kind of feeling like some of the school faculty teams around who have had to admit someone among them is a pariah. But more so, because Dumbo's team faces admitting he's a murderer, and a deserter, who betrays them, and could do jail time.

    All this, (it's on his mind -- big time), and the medications, and the lies, and the alcohol and drugs, and the obvious fact his porch light's on and noooobody's home, all this he risks misjuggling just standing on stage for an hour, never mind never mind opening his mouth and saying something. Dumbo screwed up major by agreeing to the "debates" and then showing up. "Typical folksiness" is not "scored points." It's slightly fewer "scared off supporters."

    When the case is so pathetic though, his supporters take their solace in little things like pulse -- check, eyes open -- check. But even without THAT his supporters would still be his supporters. See, it just doesn't matter. Nothing changes. Until Dumbo goes to jail.

    Sort of to prove the point, I only stopped in to predict The Oregonian tomorrow (written earlier this week) comes up with a dozen straws of support for Dumbo's flat down zero nothing hopeless moron self. Not bad, they'll say. (They could have said what Frank Rich says this week: Dumbo and Jesus are twins separated at birth. He doesn't say but I do: Guess which one is the evil twin.)

    So, I wanted to get predictions going for The Oregonian endorsements before they do them. Predicting them sorta preempts them and gives them fits. I don't know their list to date. Do you think the paper is going to oppose Dumbo? If they know that in advance they should not take it easy on him tomorrow. How about the measures, what are some predictions for newspaper positions on the hot-button social-shock measures?

    I say they endorse Dumbo, in the end. Even his criminality changes nothing, his supporters are his supporters. (There are no Kerry supporters in the same way. For one thing, Kerry is running on Dumbo's record, so it's difficult to get a feel for Kerry himself and whether he's something to support. Instead it's just dogpile on Dumbo. Join in. You youngsters out there: think mosh pit -- now GET Him!)

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  • (Show?)

    Kerry had some great lines, and Bush scored points with his typical folksiness.


    That's some great spin, there Brett. LOL. I would not call that folksiness. I would call that unpresidential.

    And I would really like it if I had a President whom I could friggin' UNDERSTAND. I had to pause the TiVo, rewind, and turn on the closed captioning to see that he had attempted to say the word "vociferously." His camp should not instruct him to say big words if he can't pronounce them.

    I had listened on the radio for a while on my way home. Unlike Nixon in 60, Bush had no advantage there either. It was painful listening to him stumble over every single word. Awkward pauses, backtracking. Kerry threw him. His "folksiness" as you call it couldn't get him out of this one. In this one he had to know something and he had to back up his record - he failed on both counts.

  • Justin (unverified)

    While I thought Kerry won the debate, I realize that is partly because I didn't expect much from him. Nevertheless, he came out of the gate swinging, stunning Bush and putting him on the defensive.

    I too was nervous before the debate, but Kerry kept his message clear and concise. While Bush seemed less prepared and slightly confused.

    In the end, I don't think Kerry changed a lot of minds, but I do think he gave voters, especially swing voters, something to vote for.

  • bill deiz (unverified)

    So who looked more presidential? Kerry by a landslide.

    Bush looked like a cheerleader running for senior class president who was woefully out of his depth; running for office only because his "buds" had convinced him that he was the "man".

    I loved how the man who has taken more vacations more often than any other living president kept repeating that it was "hard work"...Hard work? He's never worked a real day in his life! Except maybe when he was training to fly fighter jets down in Texas.

    Let's face it folks, once and for all. The Emperor has no clothes! There is no "there" there, except an incompetent trying to hold it together while his whole world spins apart.

    Check it out. Even his hometown newspaper in Crawford, Texas, the one that endorsed him four years ago, has come out with a strong endorsement of his opponent Senator John Kerry. Maybe they see something up close and personal that some of the rest of his supporters just can't see: the truth!

    The sands of time are running out.

  • (Show?)

    I'm one of the Kerry supporters who has been getting more and more depressed over the last couple of weeks. As far as I'm concerned his performance last night was stellar.

    Bearing in mind that in addition to winning the debate on the merits of arguments and on style, he had to continuously look out for possible "spin traps", he aquitted himself really well.


    We will see the word "test" coming out from the Bushies, as in "We don't need to pass no stinking test put out by some stinky cheese eating surrender monkeys in Old Europe."

    This was about the only opening that Kerry gave 'em.

  • brett (unverified)

    I would not call that folksiness. I would call that unpresidential.

    Of course you all think that. You're predisposed to think that. You've thought that for four years. He wasn't going to change your mind no matter how he sounded, and we knew exactly how he was going to sound. We knew how Kerry was going to sound as well, and he didn't disappoint either. The point is, there weren't any deviations from what we expected.

    If Kerry wasn't more articulate than Bush, it would have been a major disappointment. It's not hard to out-speechify Bush. People vote for him because they like what he's saying, not how he's saying it. And the converse is true also -- Kerry can be as silver-tongued as Cicero, and it doesn't change the content of what he is saying. There are a lot of people who think Bush has the better approach, whether he can articulate it or not. Personally, I would prefer Bush's foreign-policy views and Kerry's eloquence in one candidate, but I don't get to make that choice.

    Bottom line, I think Kerry won, but I'm not sure he beat the spread.

  • raging red (unverified)

    The point is, there weren't any deviations from what we expected.j

    I can say that's not true for me. I expected Bush to get some good jabs in at Kerry, but he didn't. I expected Kerry to be long-winded and incoherent, but he wasn't. He was clear, concise, and to the point. I also expected Kerry to be the one on the defensive, but it was the reverse.

  • Justin (unverified)

    Kerry won the expectations game going into the first debate. People expected less from him. And frankly, I think he's winning the expectation game going into this upcoming debate as well. Pundits seem to expect Bush to rebound and come out strong on Friday.

  • Miles (unverified)

    Take heart.


  • (Show?)

    Of course you all think that. You're predisposed to think that.

    LOL, what am I? A Stepford Democrat? Actually, I really expected more from Bush. I expected that his advisors would have told him that how he looks and acts is as important if not more important than what he says (though he should know this already) - especially considering his skills as a statesman are severely lacking. I thought that he would have learned from Gore's mistakes in 2000 that what we see/hear when the other candidate is speaking speaks volumes. Even though there were to be no split-screens, it was evident beforehand that networks were going to ignore this so it should have been planned for. Additionally, because of his posture, the split screen had to be a closer zoom on Bush by about six inches. It just amplified each of his idiotic expressions making him look even worse. This was not folksy, this was a man who would rather have been anywhere but there.

    This was honestly the worst display I've seen from Bush - ever. He's more dignified out on the stump than he was last night.

    I would just like to see what Bush was writing on his scratch paper on the rare occasion he appeared to be taking notes. I'm betting they were funny doodles and nothing related to the debate.

    Bottom line, I think Kerry won, but I'm not sure he beat the spread.

    Yup, he won. And this was the most important of the three to win. When we get into domestic issues, Bush doesn't have a leg to stand on - or even an elbow to lean on.

  • brett (unverified)
    Unbeknownst to Kerry adviser Mike McCurry, a C-SPAN camera quietly followed McCurry as he found Kerry adviser Joe Lockhart on Spin Alley floor and asked him his impression of the debate. Lockhart candidly said to McCurry , "The consensus is it was a draw."

    Daily Kos

  • (Show?)

    Brett, I would agree - in the immediate watching of the debate, I thought it was a draw, too. But, then, I already said, I can't watch this like a swing voter.

    What became clear in the first two hours after the debate was that swing voters and undecided voters saw a plausible commander-in-chief in Kerry.

    Some poli-sci prof on C-SPAN said this morning it was the "enough effect". In 2000, voters knew Gore was smarter - but Bush proved was "smart enough" to be President.

    Now, Kerry has proved that he's got "enough" to be commander-in-chief. And, now, we move to Part 2: domestic issues. Bring it on.

  • (Show?)

    You said it, K! I'm excited. I was nervous, now I'm just pumped for the next two.

    Anyway, Brett - the point is that it should NOT have been a draw. An incumbent should be able to defend his record effectively and lay out a clear enough, concise enough plan for the future (especially in wartime) that it should be clear to the viewing audience that it's not the time to "change horses." Bush did NOT do that. The fact that not only are pundits and analysts calling it a draw but viewers (partisan and undecideds alike) are giving the edge to Kerry by a fairly substantial margin shows that the President's stance is weakening.

    Plus the fact that foreign policy was the first debate - and not the last - is an even bigger edge for Kerry. People have fairly short memories and there is no way in hell that Bush can do better than he did last night in the next two debates when foreign policy is this administration's supposed strength. When we get into domestic issues he's sunk. There are still enough folks out there who are NOT better off than they were four years ago who are just looking for a reason to vote for Kerry and they'll get that over the next few weeks. Like Kari said, bring it on.

  • LC (unverified)

    To continue with the sports methaphors, I think Bush held serve on the WOT issues, but Kerry performed well. It was Bush's strongest source of public approval coming into the debate, but he didn't do much to extend that advantage.

    Now with domestic issues on the debate horizon, Kerry can take the momentum with another strong performance.

    However, this is really only a battle over the undecided voters. I don't think either side has or will make significant inroads into otherwise committed voters.

  • brett (unverified)

    swing voters and undecided voters saw a plausible commander-in-chief in Kerry.

    Actually, I think that's true. He did seem much more decisive than he's been. He certainly exceeded my expectations in that regard -- I expected him to vacillate and pontificate more than he did. The brevity of the responses probably helped him there. Several times I thought, "If we weren't at war, I'd be voting for this guy."

    An incumbent should be able to defend his record effectively and lay out a clear enough, concise enough plan for the future (especially in wartime) that it should be clear to the viewing audience that it's not the time to "change horses."

    I think he did do that, at least to some. Gallup's numbers:

    Was more believable: Bush +5% Was more likable: Bush +7% Demonstrated he is tough enough for the job: Bush +17% Best-equipped to handle Iraq: Bush +9% More trusted to be Commander-in-Chief: Bush +10%

    That's why these things are so subjective. For every blue-stater who saw Bush as weak, inarticulate and arrogant, there's a red-stater who saw him as resolute, down-to-earth, and charismatic.

  • bill deiz (unverified)

    Foreign policy?

    Oh yeah. That's the president's strength. He said a lot last night about the so-called coalition of the willing that joined us in the battle in Iraq, even though, as John Kerry repeatedly pointed out, the US is paying 90 percent of the costs (of the war) and suffering 90 percent of the casualties.

    Meantime: the president's "coalition" continues to shrink, a point that I think Senator Kerry missed in last night's debate:

    The Coalition of the Diminishing Thailand: 423 troops leaving early on Aug. 31 instead of Sept. 20; 20 withdrawn on Aug. 10.

    Norway: 10 currently in Iraq; 140 withdrawn on June 30. Cited reason: growing domestic opposition and peacekeepers needed elsewhere, such as Afghanistan.

    Dominican Republic: 302 withdrawn on May 4. Cited reason: growing domestic opposition.

    Honduras: 370 withdrawn on May 12. Cited reason: Troops were sent for reconstruction, not combat.

    Nicaragua: 115 withdrawn on Feb. 4. Cited reason: lack of funds.

    Philippines: 51 withdrawn on July 19. Cited reason: to save lives of hostages.

    Singapore: 160 withdrawn on April 4. Cited reason: completed humanitarian mission.

    Spain: 1,300 withdrawn on May 4. Cited reason: new government fulfilled campaign pledge. (Source: John Kerry Website posting)

    At this rate, it'll be down to just Great Britain and us before too long.

  • bill deiz (unverified)

    Oh and by the way, here are some other poll numbers that are probably more relevant:


    Kerry: 53 Bush: 37


    Kerry: 44 Bush: 26 Tie: 30


    Kerry: 45 Bush: 36 Tie: 17

  • Javier O. Sanchez (unverified)

    Highlight and Fun Fact of the debate: Our mighty coalition has the resillent backing of Poland.."What about Poland, Baby!"

    Number of Times W had BF/MLS (Brainfart/Momentary Lapse of Spin): 6...not counting when he sorta dissed' the Bush daughters and Bush didn't get it

    Number of times Kerry implemented the Clinton thumb-to-fist gesticulation: 7, w/ two not counting because he just isn't that sexy

    Source of inspiration for Kerry to enact Clinton-cool delivery and mannerisms: Extra tight thong with remote control nerve shocks controlled by Joe Lockhart

    Repercussion on Swing Voters in Oregon: Not much, but Mt St Helens had a seismic shot/dribbler and their is ash spew all over the Metro area; that has to be a celestial portent of some sort..

  • (Show?)

    Brett... Regarding your numbers...

    Best-equipped to handle Iraq: Bush +9% More trusted to be Commander-in-Chief: Bush +10%

    Remember, until now, Bush has had a 20-point lead on those questions. That drop is VERY bad news for Bush.

  • Betsy (unverified)

    Not to mention the fact that Gallup's methodology has been called into question already as being overly stacked with Republicans...

    (From ElectoralVote.com on 9/28: Gallup, for example, is now normalizing its samples to include 40% Republicans, even though the 2000 exit polls showed the partisan distribution to be 39% Democratic, 35% Republican. There is scant evidence that the underlying partisan distribution has changed much since then.)

  • brett (unverified)

    Good points, all. I'm trying to be nice to your guy, but there are still some logical inconsistencies that irk me:

    • he'll bring in more nations to help in Iraq (presumably those mentioned above), but the ones that are there now are coerced and bribed?
    • Iraq is the wrong war at the wrong time in the wrong place, but he's committed to winning it?
    • we're spending too much on Iraq, but he'll send more troops and equipment?
    • Saddam and Iraq were a grave threat, but Osama is the terrorist most worth pursuing?
    • terrorists are pouring into Iraq, but Iraq is a distraction in the war on terror?
    • he wants to bring troops home in six months, but they'll stay as long as it takes?

    I still don't know how he would conduct either the war on terror or the war in Iraq. Assuming the current conditions prevail (which I don't think they will, necessarily), how would Kerry react? None of Bush's plans has completely worked out -- why would Kerry fare better? Would he cut and run at the first sign of difficulty? What if he can't get any more help than Bush has gotten? Without details or clarity, I'm left with the prevailing assumption that he would adopt a let's-all-hold-hands-and-sing-Kumbayah approach that just won't work against people who car-bomb children.

    and on Gallup methodology, party ID absolutely does change with people's attitudes. See a Democratic pollster's take on it: "Party ID is an attitude, not a demographic." So when a poll shows more Republicans, that might just mean that more people feel like Republicans.

    Remember, until now, Bush has had a 20-point lead on those questions. That drop is VERY bad news for Bush.

    Very true. But I seem to recall a lot of talk about how polls, even those taken over a series of days at all times of the day, aren't necessarily accurate because people only have cell phones, may not be home, etc. Taking a poll in only one night, and late at night, would only exacerbate those inaccuracies. But if those numbers hold up, which they well may, it's good news for Kerry.

  • Bill Deiz (unverified)

    "he'll bring in more nations to help in Iraq (presumably those mentioned above), but the ones that are there now are coerced and bribed?"

    Maybe by using diplomacy and convincing the reluctant nations of the world, including some of our biggest allies, that we are there short-term, with no designs on a permanent presence in Iraq; that we will bid contracts fairly for the reconstruction and not unilaterally to the likes of Halliburton; that we are willing to work to build a UN peacekeeping force and that we will no longer bully them into complying with our demands but will actually treat them as a partner, there will be a better outcome. Maybe they will join in this effort without being coerced and bribed.

    "Iraq is the wrong war at the wrong time in the wrong place, but he's committed to winning it?"

    Obviously we cannot abandon the effort in mid-stream but we can certainly change commanders! As one who trained as a Marine Corps rifleman during the Vietnam era, I know the value of proven leadership, of the experienced warrior over the armchair quarterback who has never seen combat. Although I did not serve in Vietnam, I have, as a civilian, experienced bullets fired at me in anger, and I know what it means to successfully lead a team under fire. When a leader is shown to be incompetent, it is time for a change, even though the fight continues!

    "we're spending too much on Iraq, but he'll send more troops and equipment?"

    Not really what Kerry said. We have wasted money in Iraq, while still not providing the proper equipment for our troops and sending in the proper number of troops to get the job done. Do you remember the Powell doctrine from the first Gulf War? Overwhelming force. Not a doctrine of trying to do more with less. It worked the first time around.

    "Saddam and Iraq were a grave threat, but Osama is the terrorist most worth pursuing?"

    Even I know that diverting our attention from Osama was a mistake. I can't speak for Kerry, of course, but isn't it obvious that it was Osama who attacked us and not Saddam? Put another way: The Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor so we attack Mexico? Now Osama is even stronger than he was pre 9-11. And we are less safe than we were prior to the Iraq war.

    "terrorists are pouring into Iraq, but Iraq is a distraction in the war on terror?"

    We did not seal the borders. Back to the doctrine of overwhelming force. Any terrorist in the world who wants a shot at Uncle Sam need only head for Iraq and the insurgency. Iraq has become a magnet for terror and for terrorists. It was not so prior to our bungled efforts there. What do we gain by winning the war, yet losing the peace?

    "he wants to bring troops home in six months, but they'll stay as long as it takes?"

    Again you distort what Kerry has said. He believes that with proper diplomacy and true teamwork with the nations of the world, we can build a multi-national force as we have in other trouble spots in the world and BEGIN to take the pressure off the US, which means that some of our men and women can come home! Where they belong! Meantime, we are in it for the long-haul, one way or the other, and that should be readily apparent.

    I enjoyed your thought-provoking questions, Brett. I just wish you could see clearly the problems with the Bush administration of this effort in Iraq.

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    "Presidenting is hard." -- George W. Barbie

  • Randy (unverified)

    I appreciated the cut-aways and reactions and enjoyed seeing Bush squirm and grimace and stare -- like a deer in the headlights as he tried to think of a coherent answer until he could get back on-message.

    I saw a Bush I haven't seen before. As I thought about why the difference in his appearance and performance, it occurred to me that for virtually all of his Presidency he has been managed and he can manage to get the party line out in staged speeches and periodic press conferences with fawning press members, but when he has no idea what the question is and is aware that more people are watching his answer than probably ever have before and he knows there is an intelligent and articulate person to call him on all his bluster and trite sloganeering -- well, some suggested they saw anger in Bush's appearance.

    Seems to me, there might have been just a little bit of fear.

    The Emperorer has no clothes and someone is pointing it out.

    In a previous life I was a HS debate coach for several years [I knew Lars Larsen when he was just a pompous twit from Rainier HS, but had already developed that smooth -- almost Bush-like -- delivery which sounded great but really conveyed little] -- ask anyone who has judged debates -- in this case Kerry won hands-down.

    The relief for me was the fact that he was able to convey his answers in ways that most of the watching electorate could follow and understand.

    I think the strict time limits were a benefit for him; any temptations to wander off answer were kept well in check.

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    I think the strict time limits were a benefit for him; any temptations to wander off answer were kept well in check.

    Not just that, but the Bushies' insistence on the timer lights being visible backfired. Kerry was almost always on time-target. Bush went over more often than Kerry, at the same time that he struggled to fill two full minutes.

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    Iraq is the wrong war at the wrong time in the wrong place, but he's committed to winning it?

    I think we can all agree that now that we're there we have a job to finish. That's what he's saying. It's like - you can't decide you're going to rebuild your car engine, take it apart, then decide not to put it back together again simply because you realized that perhaps it didn't need the overhaul in the first place. It just doesn't make sense. We may not have needed to go in there, but we did and there's a huge mess to clean up before we leave. We'll need help if we're going to do it quickly - more than just the few troops and allies we have (can't forget Poland!) and that's all Kerry is saying.

    terrorists are pouring into Iraq, but Iraq is a distraction in the war on terror?

    Um, do you understand why terrorists are flocking to Iraq? They're insurgents. They're there to continue the fight. They view this as a fight against Islam and wherever there's a fight against Islam, they'll go. They would not be there had we not gone in in the first place.

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    Re: Wrong time, etc. Kerry explained that in the debate itself by simply saying that if you break it, you buy it. Going to war was wrong, but it would be wrong now that we're there to cut and run. It was crystal clear no matter how much the right continues to try to spin this as some sort of flip-flop.

    Re: Terrorists and Iraq. Is anyone here really so dense as to not understand that Iraq is only now a problem as far as terrorism is concerned because we invaded it?

  • Pedro (unverified)

    I decided to listen to some rightwing hate radio today to listen to the damage control spin. I heard this explaination of the president's performance:

    "President Bush didn't debate well because John Kerry is such a poor candidate."

    It's all Kerry's fault! Next debate they'll blame Clinton.

  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)

    " I was a HS debate coach for several years " -- Randy

    Were you the 'former debate coach' who called the Ed Schultz radio show today?

    Just wondering. Whoever it was made many points congruent with yours.

    -- My favorite found commentary today, is on MotherJones.com titled 'Presidential Fiction: The Story Behind the Debate,' by Ira Chernus. An Introduction by Tom Engelhardt stood alone okay, but not gripping, and suffered for being close and easy to compare with what followed. No comparison. Engelhardt talks details, all picky and sticky. Chernus flies with wings lifted by forces from across the centuries -- the concept of 'story' is his central idea.

    (When I used the word 'picky' here, it reminded me of the Pat Paulson character who campaigned for president in the '70s, I think it was. He was an underemployed comedian who sent up his spoof of prez.campaigns, apparently partly for a career revival and partly to vent his political passion, but he did it two or three campaigns in a row. He was (or acted as) a faux-candidate at a news conference podium, and a straight man (or maybe it was a real reporter) would set him up with a withering list of criticisms of his wacky proposals or unrealistic policy farces, and Paulson would stand and nod and look poker-face serious until the torrent ended and it was punch-line time, and then the shtick in mousy deadpan: "Picky, picky, picky." You didn't have to be there, I brought it to you.)

    Back to the Chernus piece: It is the first thing I have read anywhere that finally, finally, gave me a way to understand how Bush-nationalism supporters even exist. The 'story' of American 'destined greatness,' when it is embraced in heart, provides a person who foresakes or deprives themself of their own individual dream of accomplishment with a proxy vicarious dream of (national) group accomplishment in which they can claim a part and take for themself a share. And, by trying to summarize it here I made it worse. The original is elegant. Much much insight. Recommended.

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    Kerry's showing a bit of a bounce... we're back to a statistical dead heat w/ Kerry trailing only by two percent.

    CNN/Gallup Article

    This is my favorite part:

    On the issue of the economy, the poll showed all voters favoring Kerry 51 percent to Bush's 44 percent, almost exactly the opposite of what the September 24-26 poll indicated -- Bush with 51 percent and Kerry with 45 percent.

    That's pretty sad for Bush considering the debate was on foreign policy.

    Oh and here's an article showing a Newsweek poll giving Kerry a two percent edge.

    With his lead gone after what should have been his strongest debate... Bush has gotta be squirmin'.

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    Kari said: What became clear in the first two hours after the debate was that swing voters and undecided voters saw a plausible commander-in-chief in Kerry.

    Howard Dean said almost exactly the same thing just now on Letterman. I wonder if he's been reading Blue Oregon.... ;-)

  • The Prof (unverified)

    Read James Fallows's article in the most recent Atlantic. I've checked his interpretation with colleagues I know in academia and who have contacts in the diplomatic corps and military.

    It's really quite sad. The overwhelming opinion among military, diplomatic, and academic analysts is that we are worse off before Iraq; more threatened by a domestic terrorist attack; less able to respond to other threats (most prominently Iraq and N Korea); and that we are farther behind in the war on terror.

    <h2>This is not some liberal speaking. These are analyses from across the political spectrum. What stuns me is that this message still hasn't resonated with a larger segment of the public.</h2>
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