Quick take on the debate. Kerry won as far as winning goes in something like this. He was much more polished than Bush, and he didn’t seem wimpy. My reflex thought after the debate is that the only thing I don’t like is his emphasis on negotiations, summits, and other talks. Talk is cheap, and we must back up our talk with a walk that puts fear into our enemies. I’m not convinced Kerry believes that. Though most of his content wasn’t too bad, there were several moments that his beliefs were just plain, hopelessly incoherent. The best example of this when Lehrer asked Kerry about sending the last soldier to die for a mistake and whether he thought Iraq was a mistake. He said it wasn’t a mistake, but he has said so many times it’s the “wrong war, at the wrong time, in the wrong place.” Okay, how is that not a mistake? I don’t think those two positions are mutually exclusive. Kerry is nuancing himself to death, and it muddles his message.
Bush um-ed and uh-ed too much. Too much silence as well. So many times I just tried to will him to speak more fluidly. Kerry completely outshined him in that respect. Also, Bush started to sound like a broken record by constantly referring to Kerry’s flip-flopping and denigrating our allies. Nothing really new with Bush, which shouldn’t be surprising because I pay more attention to him than Kerry.
My favorite lines (all somewhat rough paraphrases):
“Nobody told me to go to the UN. I went there myself.”
In reference to the misjudgment about the amount of insurgents left after the war: “We thought we’d whip more of them going in.”
Good Kerry lines:
In reference to Iraq rebuilding: “The question isn’t how money is being spent, but whether the right decisions are being made to make America safe.”
Good quip after Bush directly asked Kerry a question: “Sure, let’s just go change the rules right now and have a real debate.” [Yes, please!]
In reference to the I-voted-for-it-before-I-voted-against-it statement: “I made a mistake about talking about the war. The president made a mistake in going to war.” [Excellent zinger, but I’m not sure most voters see it as a mistake in a speech rather than flip-flopping.]
Characterizing Bush’s future plan for Iraq: “You can summarize it four words: more of the same.”
“We outsourced the job [capturing Bin Laden] to Afghan warlords.”
[Edit: Removed original scare quotes. Kerry won. No need to qualify it.]