Debate reactions

Gah! Is it just me, or does Bush seem like just an angry, bitter man? Also I don’t believe he’s a “good steward of the environment”.

Overall I think Kerry came across as calmer and more composed and Bush seemed angry and flustered for most of the time.

Anyway, this NPR article has a link to the audio and a link to the full transcript a little further down. The text transcript is pretty complete (and faster to read) but doesn’t give you the tone of voice. (I listened to the whole thing and I think I got a feeling for the voices, emotions, sincerity, etc… but I didn’t see the video so I have no idea who was walking around or what facial expressions were made.

My opinions and interpretations follow.

1. To Kerry, are you or aren’t you wishy washy?
Strong and direct answer from Kerry.
Laundry list from Bush about the same supposed inconsistencies, along with some rhetorical questions that sound like accusations but technically aren’t, like “I don’t see how you can lead this country in a time of war, in a time of uncertainty if you change your mind because of politics.”

2. To Bush, since WMD were not found, you justified the war with a statement about “could have passed knowledge to our enemies”. Do you sincerely believe this justification, since it applies to many other countries?
Answer from Bush didn’t really answer the question, but said “We all thought the weapons were there. America is safer.”
Response from Kerry goes back to the previous question a bit, but came back to the points heard before about America is not safer, and Bush swept aside our allies. Also not a direct answer to the audience question, but a pointed rebuttal to Bush’s answer.
Redirect by Bush, clearly saying “Saddam Hussein was a threat because he could have given WMD to our enemies.” Railing against the UN and how sanctions weren’t working. (Nowhere in here does he say “We were wrong about that”)
Redirect by Kerry, pointed out that the goal of sanctions was not to remove Hussein but to remove WMD, and they worked. We should not have invaded Iraq and should have finished the job of going after bin Laden.

3. To Kerry, would you follow the same plan as Bush in Iraq
Kerry’s answer basically says “the president’s plan is not working, and here are two important Republicans that agree” but then goes on to actually answer the question, saying he would bring allies to the table, and get training of iraqis done faster.
Bush’s response says, “I met with the finance minister from iraq. he was optimistic, but then he watched political rhetoric on TV and became pessimistic. We need to stand with him”. Not sure what that means. He says Kerry’s plan is actually the Bush plan, because both call for training. And proposing a summit is evidently silly because “join us in the wrong war, wrong time, wrong place?” I don’t buy that argument that somehow Kerry would fail to get allies to cooperate if he admits that Bush made a mistake. I don’t see how Bush can criticize Kerry for saying “wrong war, wrong time, wrong place” with an answer that doesn’t explain why it’s the right war. The point seems to be that you shouldn’t SAY the war was wrong, regardless of whether it really was.
Followup by Kerry pretty clearly addresses the “wrong war” comment by saying that the right war was bin Laden.
Followup by Bush pretty much says “of course we will get bin laden, but the war on terror is bigger than just bin laden.”

4. To Bush, travelling abroad we find other countries aggravated with us. We have to work on diplomacy. What is your plan?
Bush’s answer doesn’t address this directly, he just says “I stand on principles I believe in and I know they are unpopular.” He doesn’t really address diplomacy except to say “we’ll continue to reach out”. Hmm.
Kerry’s response goes back to the weapons issue, saying Bush broke his promise of four years ago not to go to war without viable exit strategy and enough resources. Sort of came back to diplomacy by saying “The president stopped diplomacy arbitrarily and too soon.”
Bush says “I asked all of our generals if we had what we needed and they all said yes sir. A good president sets the strategy and relies on military commanders to execute it. (Nothing about diplomacy)
Kerry responds by saying “military wins the war, the president also needs to win the peace” and mentioned “didn’t bring in enough nations” among other things.

5. To Kerry, in the event UN sanctions don’t stop Iran from getting nukes, what will you do?
Starts off with how we have more troops in iraq than after bin laden, iran and northkorea are both closer to getting nukes or have them, how it’s wrong to not engage northkorea, and how soviet nukes need to be found. Also, the president is working on a nuclear bunker buster and that makes it harder to disarm other countries while we are actively working on nukes. Finally gets back around to Iran saying simply “If I have to get tough with Iran, believe me we will”
Bush: Of course we have been involved with Iran. We’re doing what Kerry suggests. Now let me talk about northkorea for a while. my 6-sided talks rule, way better than bilateral talks. (Note that this doesn’t really address the accusation that we did virtually nothing.)

6. To Bush, how do you intend to keep our military strong and police the world without a draft?
Bush: There will not be a draft. We are moving troops from around the world where they were deployed in the soviet era. We are transforming the military with some new technology like unmanned aircraft. We need to be lighter, quicker, facile. Forget the talk about the draft, there isn’t going to be one. (in my opinion not a direct asnwer to “how” but simply implies that moving people around and new technology is enough.
Kerry: Saying he has a lot of important military leaders supporting him. Then going at Bush directly about using too much of the reserves (intended for home) as pretty much active duty (and going to Iraq). And criticized stop-loss as a back-door draft. We need to get allies involved and not go it alone.
Bush: Becoming almost incoherent here and interrupting the moderator who was trying to articulate a followup question. Insists that Britain Spain and Poland are with us and that’s not “going it alone”. Saying it “denigrates” their contributions to say we’re going it alone. (Here is another example of “You should not criticize me because it might hurt our alliance, whether or not it is true.”)
Kerry: keeps his cool and says that 8 countries have left the coalition and it’s not growing. Pointed out that if Missouri were its own country, it would be the third largest contributor of troops, only the US and Britain have more troops in Iraq than Missouri has sent. “That’s not a grand coalition.” 90% of casualties and cost are to US.

7. To Kerry. There have been no terrorist attacks on US soil since 9/11, why is that? how will you assure our safety.
Kerry: They plan, they plot, it will probably happen again. I agree with Bush that we need to go after them where they are. Also, our go it alone strategy means that other countries pay a price for dealing with USA. We’re not getting good cooperation. Also, I will put in place a better homeland security effort (point about most baggage isn’t screened. We need to better fund security, not a tax cut.
Bush: We have spent more on security. Also, the way to keep america safe is to stay on the offense (boy I personally disagree strongly as possible with that one). Comes back to “I don’t see how you can win in Iraq if you don’t believe we should be there in the first place”
Followup question is: clarify whether you believe it’s a question of when, i.e. is it inevitable. Kerry answers yes, Bush and BushAdm have said that, I agree. Also says it’s not a question of how much money for security, it’s a question of have you done everything possible or have you prioritized a tax cut instead.

8. Drugs imported from canada?
Bush. delaying to make sure it is safe. But, medicare discount cards and generics.
Kerry, pointing out that Bush promised the same 4 years ago and is still delaying.
Bush: If they are safe, they are coming. Clinton made the same decision on safety. also, show me one thing kerry has done for medicare?
Kerry: Actually we fixed medicare in 1997.

Anyway out of the first 8 questions, I count 4 direct, strong, coherent answers from Kerry and 4 not-direct, not-coherent, not-really-answers from Bush. Interesting.

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