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September 30, 2004
Liveblog: Debate #1

7:30 - I started watching C-SPAN, but the inane questions being asked on all sides drove me to AMC to watch a bit of Escape From New York. It seemed like the intelligent choice ...

7:39 - Michelle Malkin -- thanks for your link and your kind comments!

7:47 - Back to C-SPAN, just in time to see Donna Shalala introduce Lauren Williams (according to Shalala), but C-SPAN says it's Janet Brown. Teresa Heinz Kerry gets introduced ahead of Laura Bush, and she's chewing something as she walks up ...

7:51 - Jim Lehrer tells the audience to sit on their hands and shut up for 90 minutes, and now he says, "Don't make me pull this car over, kids!!" Oh, great, now the wives are the Hall Monitors. Yes, I can see this is "serious business", as Lehrer puts it ...

7:54 - If they don't want audience reaction, why have an audience? Why bother with the town-hall format at all?

7:57 - Northern Alliance links: Mitch, King, Rocket Man, blogging from here.

8:03 - Nice warm handshake and a laugh to start things off ...

8:05 - I have a better plan, I have a better plan -- well, you're on stage, let's hear it! ...

8:07 - Free nations. Not a bad start for either one ...

8:10 - One reason only for taking out Saddam? Outsourced the job? Where do you want me to begin? I guess Kerry's decided to take the snotty route ...

8:14 - John Kerry, so far, is doing pretty well. George Bush had a great response to Kerry's question ... but nothing we haven't heard before from both ...

8:18 - No body armor? Did he not vote against the funding for that?

8:19 - Bring the allies back to the table -- what if they're not hungry?

8:23 - So far, both men seem to be doing fairly well. This seems to be the Battle Of The Alpha Males, though. A lot of finger-jabbing and fist-pumping. Maybe it's just the adrenaline of the moment, but I think both men were coached to project strength. Kerry does seem to be more comfortable with the format, a product of his 20-year Senate career ...

8:29 - Bush dropped the $87 billion bomb, and Kerry's response was pretty damned weak, and obviously they were working on it this week. It needed more work ..

8:30 - "Last man to die for a mistake" -- Kerry now says that it's not a mistake. It's a mistake, it's not a mistake -- which is it? I mean, HE JUST GOT DONE SAYING THAT INVADING IRAQ IS A MISTAKE! Sheesh! ...

8:31 - No, it's like invading North Africa in response to Pearl Harbor, Senator. It's the difference between tactical and strategic thinking. Oh, Halliburton just made its first appearance. Now Bush gets to run the list of allies in Iraq, and he's making minced meat out of Kerry's arguments ...

8:34 - Kerry forgot Poland??? And Bush just chewed him out over the "coerced and bribed" comments earlier. Scoring big points here.

8:40 - He cut it off , sort of arbitrarily -- well, after France stated publicly that they would never support the use of force in Iraq. That's when we stopped trying to get the UN to get off its butt. Kerry's meeting with foreign leaders again. Osama needed Iraq to attract followers??

8:42 - He's had one consistent position (at a time) ...

8:45 - A good, thoughtful answer at the halfway mark from Bush on "was it worth it" - and yet another Viet Nam combat reference. Not confuse the war with the warriors?? Yes, it happened before -- and you were a large part of the reason for it, Senator!

8:48 - Not "you break it, you fix it", "you break it, you own it". Kind of a silly muff to pull at that point ...

8:49 - How does Kerry think that there is a difference between "pull troops out in six months" and "pull the troops out in six months if we're successful"? Ah, he says that Bush has imperial designs on Iraq because we're building bases in the outer parts of the Iraq. Well, we're fighting a war on Islamofascist terror -- does Kerry propose fighting it from Germany? Or maybe Fort Dix?

8:53 - George Bush needs to stand up straight. He's hunching over. Looks bad. Other than that, he's doing great, plainly speaking. I have to say that Kerry sounds better than I thought he would, but he's delivering more contradictions as he goes along ...

8:57 - Outsourced the attack on Osama -- and now Kerry's showing why he's clueless on the war on terror. He says that the sanctions were weakening Saddam. What about all those billions he got from UNSCAM? Did the weight tire him out?

8:59 - Darfur is Bush's fault?

9:00 - Oh, Lord, Kerry voted AGAINST the Kyoto Protocol, and now he blames Bush for not signing it. Instead of attacking that, Bush brings up the ICC, but he finished on a strong point -- he's looking out for American interests, not looking to win a beauty contest.

9:03 - Iran: Kerry would give the mullahs nuclear fuel. Up to now, only Edwards had offered that, and it's a stupid, stupid idea. Now he thinks that North Korea only started cheating after 2001. Yeah, sure.

9:08 - Why don't we have troops in Darfur? Because we're at war now against terrorists, which has to come first. Terrorists are in Iraq. "We could never allow another Rwanda" ... but who allowed the first one?

9:10 - Bush seems more in command of the details than Kerry does. He's made several factual corrections of Kerry that stick ...

9:11 - Character. Actually, both men took the soft approach on this answer, which is smart ... "I've never wavered" -- well, he's trilled quite a bit ...

9:17 - He's going to shut down another weapons program -- good flashback to 1984, Senator.

9:22 - Good question on Russia, and Bush takes us back to Beslan and ties Russian policy to the war on terror. Kerry talks about visiting the KGB and seeing reams of files. Was Sandy Berger there then? ...

9:25 - I think we're coming to the closing statements soon, and thank God. 90 minutes is too long...

9:26 - Kerry: Different set of convictions, respected again in the world, get your kids home and win the peace (in that order). "I'm not talking about leaving ..." Well, that's all he's been talking about for the past month. He got a chance to throw in a Viet Nam reference again...

9:28 - Bush: Weakness will push world towards tragedy, no draft, fight terrorists around the world instead of here, will put America first. Vision of democracy as a cure for terrorism and the oppression. "We've climbed a mighty mountain, and I've seen the valley below, and it's a valley of peace." Nice close.

9:31 - Both candidates greet their wives, Kerry taking the time to give an extra-long liplock on Teresa.

My assessment: Personally, I don't think either man did badly, although I think that Bush mauled Kerry about the "coerced and bribed" remark and Lockhart's "Allawi is a puppet". Also, his in-debate reversal on whether invading Iraq is a mistake will get some play. I'd give the edge to Bush, but you know I'm biased. Now C-SPAN has the lame phone callers, so I'll switch to Fox instead.

Good panel discussion on Fox. I don't agree with everything being said, but Brit Hume is leading the discussion and doing a good job of moderating it ...

Another thought -- one of Kerry's problems is that Bush has a number of home runs he can hit, thanks to Kerry's vacillations over the past nine months, and Bush hammered on Kerry for his policy flip-flops all debate long. Kerry's counter is that Bush is too resolute, which hardly damages a leader during wartime. ...

I missed the Republican spinmeister, but Joe Lockhart claims that the debate will be all about the "annoyed smirk". Eh? Actually, I think that sells this debate short. It actually produced substantive policy statements and differences between the candidates, and they both behaved in respectful and professional manner. Is Lockhart really that desperate? ...

Last thought from the Fox panel - Bush may have edged Kerry, but the polls will narrow slightly, and Kerry lives to fight another day. About what I'd say, too. But I think Poland will continue to dog Kerry, and now that I think about it, he forgot Australia, too. Kerry still has the same problems that he had going in, and expect Bush to hammer on those more in the next couple of weeks.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 30, 2004 7:32 PM

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