Thursday, September 30, 2004
Note: These are still rough notes -- I will clean them up and offer additional commentary Friday evening. Thanks for your patience! Steve
First impressions are mixed. As one who has given numerous political speeches and other oratorical deliveries, Bush's style makes me wince (at times), but I know he is speaking from the heart, and I think it shows.
Kerry is very skilled in delivery, and is still avoiding nuancing questions. I have caught a couple of gaffes (like forgetting that Poland was in the initial military push into Iraq), but haven't seen too much else yet.
I'm PVRing the debate so that I can spend time with the kids. I'll blog later when I have a chance to watch it in toto.
EDIT:Okay, here we go. I am going to address the various questions and my impressions of the responses. I also am being assisted by MrsSpkr (aka SheWhoMustBeObeyed):
First question is a softball (what, is Kerry actually going to say he DOESN'T think he can do a better job than President Bush in preventing another 9-11?
Kerry is response is interesting. A bit defensive ("I'll never give a veto to another country"), and short of details. He emphasizes bringing allies to the table (but doesn't name names) and states he will train Iraqi police, something Bush is already doing.
Bush's response is okay -- a focus on bringing the elective franchise to Afghanistan, success in capturing Saddam, etc.
Second Question: Will we be more vulnerable if Kerry is elected?
Good answer form Bush ("I'm going to win . . . People know where I stand . . . we defeat terrorism by never wavering, constantly staying on the offensive . . . and spreading liberty"). Good opportunity to explain why Iraq is important.
Kerry's response is an attempt to present himself as resolute and portrays Iraq as a diversion from the war on terror. First reference to Bush's father (referencing a general who worked for GHW Bush). Good criticism of using Afghanistanis at Tora Bora.
Third Question: What are Bush's "colossal misjudgments"?
Kerry's response is smarmy, playing to those who will already agree with him. Kerry also seems to want to rely upon the UN. Kerry keeps emphasizing that US forces are 90% of the casualties, 90% of the costs. Talks about problems in Afghanistan, which he now characterizes as the center of terrorism.
Bush rightly throws Kerry's former statements that Saddam was a threat and that anyone who says Saddam Hussein was not a threat does not have the capability to be President. Good reminder that the UN authorized grave consequences if Saddam did not cooperate, and that the UN was unwilling to act.
Fourth: What of Kerry's attack on division of effort between Saddam Hussein and Osama.
Bush -- Good response ("We have the capability to do both -- and to say we cannot, is to fundamentally misunderstand the war on terror"). Bush's delivery is, unfortunately, halting (and thus slightly distracting). Bush says Iraq is a center on the war on terror.
Kerry rejects Iraq as a center on the war on terror. He criticizes Bush for not having a plan for the peace. Surprisingly, Kerry confuses "armor" with "armament". Kerry also claims
Bush's surrebuttal is good. Kerry's criticism of the war (wrong war, time, place) is demoralizing.
Kerry insists that he can bring allies to the table.
Fifth: What would Kerry do specifically to improve homeland security?
Kerry criticizes cutting funding to cops, firemen in the US while funding those things in Iraq. Kerry seems to suggest that we should xray all containers coming into ports. Kerry says the tax cut should be repealed and spent on various homeland security stuff. MrsSpkr aptly notes that Kerry has a lot of platitudes and criticisms, but fails to provide many details.
Bush aptly notes the cost of such things, and discusses major funding for programs. He says (and I agree) that the best way to protect the homeland is to stay on the offense. Some good lines here, but (to Mr. Nitpicky) not delivered as well as they could have been.
Kerry criticizes Bush as being weak on security because of the tax cut? Odd approach.
Bush: "You better have a President who chases these terrorists down and brings them to justice."
Sixth: When will you know that it is time to bring the troops home.
Bush says (obviously) that the best indication will be when the Iraqis are capable of governing and policing and defending themselves, and that they are stable and on their way to being a free nation. Artificial deadlines are, as he notes, the wrong way to go about this.
Kerry pulls out his "help is on the way" line. References GHW Bush again -- notes he did not go to Baghdad in 1991 because there was no way out. He also dusts off old canard that the only building we guarded when we took Baghdad was the oil ministry.
Bush calls Kerry on his conflicting messages to the troops.
Kerry -- $87 billion dollars remark was "a mistake in how I talk about the war." Not a bad way of trying to handle a very bad gaffe. Brings up Vietnam for the first time.
Eighth -- Last man to die for a wrongful cause.
Kerry handles this well, too; saying that Iraq is necessary. Nice line about Invading Iraq in response to 9/11 is like FDR invading Mexico after Pearl Harbor. Still, he wants a summit without saying why he thinks that approach would be effective. Halliburton comes up at the 32 minute mark. UN should have been consulted. We have no allies. Sigh.
Bush calls these comments "absurd". Kerry's message is "Please join us in Iraq for a Grand Diversion." Good call on Kerry's remarks -- points out ongoing summits, points out unwillingness of Allies to contribute for a man whose core convictions keep changing.
Kerry now appears to mean that the UN should have run everything after Baghdad fell. That will come back to haunt him.
Bush notes that Kerry forgets Poland, insults allies. Very nice job nailing Kerry down.
Ninth: What is the miscalculation in the post-war Iraq?
Tommy Franks did such a great job that the Saddam loyalists did not die in the initial combat as planned, but were able to melt away to fight again later. Optimistic that we will acheive our objective unless we send mixed signals. Probably Bush's best performance thus far on direct examination. Bush continues to stress our own alliances and the hard work it will take to make Iraq a success.
Kerry says that he would have gone in to Iraq without links to al Quaeda, WMDs. MrsSpkr notes that a moment ago, Kerry said there wer WMDs sneaking across the border. Now he says there were none. Kerry seems upset that we are 90% of what is going on in Iraq. Also, blames Bush for North Korea getting nukes.
Tenth: What lies have Bush told the American people?
Kerry -- (1) nuclear materials in Iraq; (2) no coalition building; (3) didn't go through all UN processes; (4) Bush failed to plan carefully; (5) we didn't go to war as a last resort. Kerry engages in a pissing match as to who has worked with foreign leaders longer. Osama uses the invasion of Iraq to spread hatred of America?
Bush -- Calls Kerry on the above, using Kerry's own words against him. Notes that Osama should not determine our policy. Calls Kerry out on changing his positions constantly -- Kerry's smirk doesn't go over very well.
Kerry responses -- trying to cover his tracks. Says he has had one consistent position (Saddam Hussein was a threat and should have been dealt with, but in a different way).
Bush -- "Only thing consistent about my opponent's position is that he has been inconsistent." Beautiful.
Eleventh -- To Bush -- talk about casualties.
Bush is really getting into the groove here. This answer came through with great emotional effect. He believes what he says. Told a widow her husband's sacrifice was noble and worthy. Ties back into the need to spread liberty to protect ourselves.
Kerry's response -- this is tough for him. He returns to Vietnam (again). Yawn. Come on, John. "Don't confuse the war with the warriors"? Very weak. MrsSpkr says he doesn't make sense.
Bush surebuttal -- notes that troops cannot follow someone who doesn't believe in the attack,
Kerry -- pottery barn rule -- you break it, you fix it? I always thought it was, you break it, you buy it.
Twelfth -- Can Kerry gives specifics for ending major US military involvement in Iraq?
Kerry -- We can begin to draw troops down in six months. We have to convince the Arabs we don't have designs on them. Wait a second -- he criticizes for our not guarding Iraqi nuclear facilities? What nuclear facilities? I thought there wer none. Kerry would train Iraqis.
Bush -- We have trained 100,000 troops, we will have 125,000 by the end of the year. MrsSpkr thinks Bush says "it is hard work too much". Call's Kerry out for criticizing Allawi and for Joe Lockhart's comments that Allawi was a US puppet. Good on him.
Kerry's comments IGNORE his rude comments on Allawi. Says Allawi describes terrorists coming into Iraq.
Bush affirms that terrorists are coming into Iraq because they do not want freedom to
Thirteenth -- Would Bush take us into another pre-emptive action?
Bush hopes not, but will not rule it out if necessary to protect the United States. "Rue the day?" Who talks like that? If Saddam were in power, we would 'rue the day'. Notes other successes, like Libya, and the value of being consistent.
Kerry -- Tries to distinguish between Saddam and Osama, and makes a valid criticism of using Afghani warlords to go after Osama in Tora Bora. Good point, but can he stop using the word "outsourcing" in reference to that.
Bush -- it is ludicrous to suggest that more resolutions would have worked against Saddam.
Kerry -- Darfur, North Korea, Iran more dangerous because Bush went into Iraq.
Fourteenth -- Kerry position on pre-emptive war.
Kerry says that was a great cold war doctrine (I always thought the doctrine was MAD, but that's just me). We cannot, however, pre-empt if it would upset anyone else in the world. Quotes Degaulle in the Cuban Missile Crisis: "Word of the President of the US is good enough for me." Upset we turned away Kyoto, other treaties. "Pre-emptive action must pass the global test" -- what the heck does that mean?
Bush -- Notes that some treaties are bad (like the International Criminal Court) and explains why. Ties Kerry to it. "Trying to be popular in the global sense if it's not in our best interest makes no sense. I'm not going ot make decisions that I think are wrong for America."
Fifteenth -- Can diplomacy solve nuclear problems with Iran, North Korea?
Bush -- North Korea, hopefully, but NK has not abided with prior agreements. That's why we brought in China, South Korea, Japan to help negotiate with them. Hopes we can work with the world to convince the mullahs to abandon their nuclear ambition. I am suspicious of this and have little hope it will work.
Kerry -- Iran -- the British, French and Germans initiated these talks without us. Kerry wants sanctions? As to North Korea -- he favors the Clinton agreement (that Kim Jong Il violated). Says our actions are why Norht Korea broke treaty. Kerry wants more bilateral talks with North Korea on all issues. MrsSpkr wonders why bilateral efforts are okay in North Korea, but not in Iraq? Me too.
Bush notes that Kerry's idea was what Kim Jong Il wants. And notes that we HAVE sancitons against Iran.
Seventeenth -- Darfur. Mr. Kerry, why not send troops to Darfur?
Kerry -- Our sanctions against Iran our only us, not Germany, France, Britain, etc.(in answer to previous question). In answer to this question, our army is over-extended (so how do we contain North Korea or Iran?) MrsSpkr is apoplectic at the perceived flip-flops. Darfur is a genocide. We have a 'back door draft' today. Kerry wants to add two active duty divisions to the US army and double the number of special forces. It is our moral responsibility to prevent another Rwanda?
Bush notes the sanctions in Iran occurred long before he became President.
Eighteenth -- Are their character diffferences between Bush and Kerry serious enough to deny Kerry the position as Commander in Chief of the United States?
Bush -- good answer -- starts with traits he admires -- family, career -- Admires the time in the Senate, but not sure he admires the record. His issue with Kerry is that Kerry sends mixed messages to our soldiers, allies, and Iraqi citizens. In the councils of government there must be certainty from the US President.
Kerry -- his differences are with the issue of certainty. You can be certain and be wrong. Not a bad response -- probably the best spin Kerry could put on things. "Certainty can sometimes get you in trouble."
Bush agrees that changing tactics on things is sometimes appropriate, but will not change core values under pressure. You cannot wilt under pressure.
Kerry -- I've never wilted or waivered in my life. I know my position has been consistent. SH is a threat, he needed ot be disarmed, we needed to go to the UN, etc., etc., but we didn't ned to rush to war. MrsSpkr notes that Kerry's earlier ocmments indicate SH was not the problem, but that Osama was. Another flip?
Nineteenth -- Mr. Kerry, what is the single most dangerous threat to the United States?
Kerry -- nuclear proliferation. Kerry claims it would take us 13 years to account for the missing nuclear materials in the former USSR. MrsSpkr -- how many times have we been attacked by nukes as opposed to protecting our borders and securing airplanes. Upset that we are researching new 'bunker busting' nuclear weapons. We will build a strong international alliance to do that.
Bush -- We have increased funding for nonproliferation by about 35%. Ouch. Agrees that nonproliferation is a significant threat. We have a sixty-nation group involved in this effort, and are being effective (notes successes in Libya, Pakistan). Calls for missile defense plans.
Kerry -- for a guy that wants multilateral talks, he is anxious to enter bilateral talks with North Korea.
Twentieth -- Is Putin's reaction to terrorism (anti-democratic) okay?
Bush -- no, and I have told him so. He is a strong ally in the War on Terror, too. Notes hit strong personal relationship with Putin, and the value of having those relationships (allows you to tell someone when they are making a mistake).
Kerry -- was one of the first Senators to go into the halls of the KGB after the Russian transformation, so he understands it. Is upset with Putin's changes, critical of Putin. Criticizes Presidential multilateral North Korea talks -- just because the president says it can't be done doesn;t mean that's true -- brings up other misnomers.
Bush -- you know my position.
Kerry -- Saddam was a threat, that's not the issue. The issue is what you do about him. President didn't go to war as a last resort.
Kerry -- Kerry will be the guy to get the kids out of Iraq, etc., and still win. Brings up Vietnam again. When will he stop. He has a plan for Iraq (but does not tell what it is). Has a plan to win the war on terror (some specifics, but nothing Bush is not already doing). Stronger here at home, respected again abroad.
Bush -- "If America shows uncertainty or weakness in this decade, the world will drift towards tragedy." We will fight the terrorists abroad so we do not have to fight them here at home. Confirms we will not have a draft. Restates importance of winning in Iraq. We have climbed the mighty mountain and can see the valley of peace below. We must be consistent, strong, and supportive of our troops to win.
MrSpkr: Bush started weak in delivery, but finished strong. He obviously is a passionate believer in his policies. I think he probably came out slightly ahead of Kerry (bad news for Kerry, because he NEEDED to win big tonight).
MrsSpkr -- in the 90 minutes I watched it, Kerry changed his positions, flipped, flopped, and moved the goalposts multiple times. Kerry's positions are contradictory as between Iraq, North Korea, Africa and Iran. She finds this maddening. Kerry also kept changing his position on whether Saddam Hussein was a threat or not. Flipped on whether there were weapons (no, then yes, but they were snuck over the border, then they were gone again). Also, where were all these Iraqi nuclear facilities? MrsSpkr believes there were more things, but she couldn't remember all his flips.
Kerry was more wordy -- MrsSpkr thinks Bush's halting style reflected thoughtfulness, and attention to details, while Kerry had platitudes. She was very impressed, however, at Kerry's call to strengthen our military (indeed, she does not believe she has ever heard a democrat do that).
MrsSpkr disagrees with the criticism of using the Afghanis at Tora Bora -- says the indigenous troops were more familiar with area and thus it was proper to use them. We both think it interesting that he criticizes the US bearing 90% of the burden in Iraq, and yet is critical of us using allied troops in Afghanistan.
She says "I think he is insane if he thinks that having bilateral talks with North Korea is not going to run China off."
Finally, she notes that while people may complain that Bush said the same thing over and over, she prefers that to Kerry, changing back and forth (flipfloppingness).
Not bad from a woman who isn't a politics junky.
More comments tomorrow.