FIRST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE (of THREE) 2004
Friday, October 1, 2004
by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
FIRST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE (of THREE) 2004
Thursday 30 September 2004
Location: Convocation Center- University of Miami- Coral Gables, Florida
Subject: Foreign Policy and Homeland Security
Moderator: Jim Lehrer- of the Public Broadcasting System's News Hour
Format: moderator asking questions of each candidate alternately; 2 minute response by the candidate to whom the question is directed; 90 second rebuttal by the other candidate; optional 1-minute "discussion extension" at the discretion of the moderator, generally divided into 30 seconds for each candidate, rebutting candidate speaking last. Debate to last no longer than 90 minutes all told.
Scoring for 'The Green Papers' by RICHARD E. BERG-ANDERSSON TheGreenPapers.com Staff
Explanation of the SCORING SYSTEM used by 'The Green Papers' for the 2004 Presidential and Vice-Presidential Debates
Round 1-- Question asked of Senator Kerry: Do you believe you could do a better job than President Bush in preventing another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States?
Kerry responded: Yes, I do... I can make American safer than President Bush has made us and I believe President Bush and I both love our country equally. But we just have a different set of convictions about how you make America safe: I believe America is safest and strongest when we are leading the world and when we are leading strong alliances. I'll never give a veto to any country over our security, but I also know how to lead those alliances. This President has left them in shatters across the globe and we're now 90 percent of the casualties in Iraq and 90 percent of the costs: I think that's wrong and I think we can do better.
I have a better plan for homeland security, I have a better plan to be able to fight the war on terror by strengthening our military, strengthening our intelligence, by going after the financing more authoritatively, by doing what we need to do to rebuild the alliances, by reaching out to the Muslim world, which the President has almost not done and beginning to isolate the radical Islamist Muslims, not have them isolate the United States of America. I know I can do a better job in Iraq: I have a plan to have a summit with all of the allies, something this President has not yet achieved, not yet been able to do to bring people to the table. We can do a better job of training the Iraqi forces to defend themselves, and I know that we can do a better job of preparing for elections. All of these, and especially homeland security, which we'll talk about a little bit later.
President Bush rebutted: September the 11th changed how America must look at the world and, since that day, our Nation has been on a multi-pronged strategy to keep our country safer. We pursued Al-Qa'eda wherever Al-Qa'eda tries to hide: 75 percent of known Al-Qa'eda leaders have been brought to justice- the rest of them know we're after them. We've upheld the doctrine that said: if you harbor a terrorist, you're equally as guilty as the terrorist and the Taliban are no longer in power: 10 million people have registered to vote in Afghanistan in the upcoming presidential election.
In Iraq, we saw a threat and we realized that, after September the 11th, we must take threats seriously- before they fully materialize. Saddam Hussein now sits in a prison cell: America and the world are safer for it. We continue to pursue our policy of disrupting those who proliferate weapons of mass destruction. Libya has disarmed, the A.Q. Khan Network has been brought to justice and, as well, we're pursuing a strategy of Freedom around the world because I understand free nations will reject terror. Free nations will answer the hopes and aspirations of their people- free nations will help us achieve the peace we all want.
Scoring- Round 1: Kerry answered the question with his heretofore-stated generalities, a kind of "anything you can do, I can do better" litany without any substantive underpinning- the very thing that I have been complaining about re: the Massachusetts Senator in my more recent Commentaries. President Bush, on the other hand, responded with far more substantive justification for his policies both in Iraq as well as the more general War on International Terrorism. The President's use of the example of Libya's voluntarily disarming, largely as a result of the invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq (and something that was used very effectively during the Republican Convention), combined with his claim that 3/4 of Al-Qa'eda leadership had been brought to justice were the most noteworthy of these specifics. A decisive win for the President: I immediately thought that, if this trend became the overriding "theme" of this Debate, this might- indeed- turn out to be a rather long evening for Senator Kerry. Bush 10, Kerry 8.
Round 2-- Question asked of President Bush: Do you believe the election of Senator Kerry on November the 2nd would increase the chances of the U.S. being hit by another 9/11-type terrorist attack?
Bush responded: I don't believe it's going to happen. I believe I'm going to win because the American people know I know how to lead. I've shown the American people I know how to lead... I understand everybody in this country doesn't agree with the decisions I've made and I made some tough decisions. But people know where I stand: people out there listening know what I believe and that's how best it is to keep the peace. This nation of ours has got a solemn duty to defeat this ideology of hate and that's what they are: this is a group of killers who will not only kill here, but kill children in Russia, that'll attack unmercifully in Iraq, hoping to shake our will. We have a duty to defeat this enemy- we have a duty to protect our children and grandchildren.
The best way to defeat them is to never waver, to be strong, to use every asset at our disposal, to constantly stay on the offensive and, at the same time, spread Liberty. And that's what people are seeing now is happening in Afghanistan: 10 million citizens have registered to vote- it's a phenomenal statistic! That, if given a chance to be free, they will show up at the polls: 41 percent of those 10 million are women. In Iraq, no doubt about it, it's tough- it's hard work- it's incredibly hard. You know why? Because an enemy realizes the stakes: the enemy understands a free Iraq will be a major defeat in their ideology of hatred- that's why they're fighting so vociferously. They showed up in Afghanistan when they were there because they tried to beat us and they didn't and they're showing up in Iraq for the same reason: they're trying to defeat us- and if we lose our will, we lose: but if we remain strong and resolute, we will defeat this enemy.
Senator Kerry rebutted: I believe in being strong and resolute and determined and I will hunt down and kill the terrorists, wherever they are- but we also have to be smart, Jim, and smart means not diverting your attention from the real war on terror in Afghanistan against Osama bin Laden and taking it off to Iraq, where the 9/11 Commission confirms there was no connection to 9/11 itself and Saddam Hussein and where the reason for going to war was weapons of mass destruction, not the removal of Saddam Hussein. This President has made, I regret to say, a colossal error of judgment and judgment is what we look for in the President of the United States of America.
I'm proud that important military figures are supporting me in this race- former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili. Just yesterday, General Eisenhower's son, General John Eisenhower, endorsed me; Admiral William Crowe; General Tony McPeak, who ran the Air Force war so effectively for his father- all believe I would make a stronger Commander-in-Chief and they believe it because they know I would not take my eye off of the goal: Osama bin Laden. Unfortunately, he escaped in the mountains of Tora Bora: we had him surrounded but we didn't use American forces, the best trained in the world, to go kill him. The President relied on Afghan warlords and he outsourced that job, too-- that's wrong!
Scoring- Round 2: President Bush started off somewhat awkwardly: "I don't believe it's going to happen"-- what?- another terrorist attack on U.S. soil?- Kerry's election increasing the chances of such an attack taking place? But the President then quickly made it clear that "it" was merely John Kerry being elected President per se. Although some of it was what he had already cited in his rebuttal in Round 1, Bush fully recovered by ticking off specifics (even as he deftly dodged the rather loaded question he had, at first, almost accidentally answered). Kerry's rebuttal might well have overtaken Bush and given the Massachusetts Senator a 10-9 win in Round 2 had he not then fallen into the mode of campaigner and started ticking off endorsements. He quickly got off that track and ended with the most emphatic specific so far (the failure to capture Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora and what caused it) but his having fallen into his however brief "these people support me" litany allowed the President to pull out this Round. Nevertheless, Kerry did look stronger in this Round than in the first one and his citation of Osama bin Laden as who should have been the principal target of American military action was a point well taken. Bush 10, Kerry 9 ( cumulative: Bush 20, Kerry 17).
Round 3-- Question asked of Senator Kerry: "Colossal misjudgments." What colossal misjudgments, in your opinion, has President Bush made in these areas?
Senator Kerry responded: Well, where do you want me to begin? First of all, he made the misjudgment of saying to America that he was going to build a true alliance, that he would exhaust the remedies of the United Nations and go through the inspections. In fact, he first didn't even want to do that and it wasn't until former Secretary of State Jim Baker and General Scowcroft and others pushed publicly and said "you've got to go to the U.N." that the president finally changed his mind- his campaign has a word for that- and went to the United Nations. Now, once there, we could have continued those inspections: we had Saddam Hussein trapped.
He also promised America that he would go to war as a last resort: those words mean something to me, as somebody who has been in combat- "last resort": you've got to be able to look in the eyes of families and say to those parents, "I tried to do everything in my power to prevent the loss of your son and daughter." I don't believe the United States did that- and we pushed our allies aside. And so, today, we are 90 percent of the casualties and 90 percent of the cost: $200 billion that could have been used for health care, for schools, for construction, for prescription drugs for seniors, and it's in Iraq and Iraq is not even the center of the focus of the war on terror- the center is Afghanistan- where, incidentally, there were more Americans killed last year than the year before- where the opium production is 75 percent of the world's opium production, where 40 to 60 percent of the economy of Afghanistan is based on opium, where the elections have been postponed three times. The President moved the troops so he's got 10 times the number of troops in Iraq than he has in Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden is. Does that mean that Saddam Hussein was 10 times more important than Osama bin Laden? I don't think so.
President Bush rebutted: My opponent looked at the same intelligence I looked at and declared, in 2002, that Saddam Hussein was a grave threat: he also said, in December of 2003, that anyone who doubts that the world is safer without Saddam Hussein does not have the judgment to be President. I agree with him: the world is better off without Saddam Hussein.
I was hoping diplomacy would work- I understand the serious consequences of committing our troops into harm's way: it's the hardest decision a President makes. So I went to the United Nations- I didn't need anybody to tell me to go to the United Nations: I decided to go there myself and I went there hoping that, once and for all, the free world would act in concert to get Saddam Hussein to listen to our demands. They passed the resolution that said, "Disclose, disarm, or face serious consequences." I believe, when an international body speaks, it must mean what it says.
Saddam Hussein had no intention of disarming- why should he? He had 16 other resolutions and nothing took place. As a matter of fact, my opponent talks about inspectors: the facts are that he was systematically deceiving the inspectors. That wasn't going to work- that's kind of a pre-September 10th mentality, the hope that somehow resolutions and failed inspections would make this world a more peaceful place. He was hoping we'd turn away- but there were, fortunately, others beside himself who believed that we ought to take action: we did- the world is safer without Saddam Hussein.
Scoring- Round 3: Senator Kerry started off rather snide with his "where do you want me to begin?" but he then well built upon the failure to catch Osama bin Laden he had brought up at the very end of Round 2, especially in light of the later commitment to the invasion of Iraq- a very strong argument re: Kerry's quest for the moderate, undecided voters he needs to win this election- while utilizing the kind of specificity the President had used to his own advantage in the first two rounds. President Bush recovered well in his rebuttal though, at first, he spent too much time setting up his implication that Kerry does not have the judgment to be President (there is little doubt whom the President believes is one "who doubts that the world is safer without Saddam Hussein") before letting the air out of his own balloon by stating "I agree with him" (here Bush was obviously agreeing with Kerry's own statement about lack of presidential-type judgement which Bush was here trying to turn against Kerry himself) and then emphatically stating that "the world is better off without Saddam Hussein" (which made it sound as if, no, Kerry did think the world was better off without Saddam in power, effectively negating this entire first portion of the President's rebuttal-- had he immediately realized what he had just done, the President could have then noted that Saddam would still be in power but for the invasion Kerry now thought was a mistake, but he missed this immediate opportunity). Bush did get back on track after this with quite a good argument for his contention that Saddam would have responded to nothing except force- Bush's own strongest appeal to the moderate, undecided voter- but he never really deflected Kerry's having chided the President for apparently turning Saddam into a higher priority than Osama (though Bush did manage to defend himself against Kerry's claim that he had to be pushed into going to the UN). Kerry 10, Bush 9 (cumulative: Bush 29, Kerry 27).
Round 4-- Question asked of President Bush: What about Senator Kerry's point, the comparison he drew between the priorities of going after Osama bin Laden and going after Saddam Hussein?
President Bush responded: Jim, we've got the capability of doing both- as a matter of fact, this is a global effort. We're facing a group of folks who have such hatred in their heart, they'll strike anywhere, with any means and that's why it's essential that we have strong alliances, and we do- that's why it's essential that we make sure that we keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of people like Al-Qa'eda, which we are. But to say that there's only one focus on the war on terror doesn't really understand the nature of the war on terror. Of course we're after Saddam Hussein- I mean- bin Laden: he's isolated, 75 percent of his people have been brought to justice. The killer in- the mastermind of- the September 11th attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, is in prison. We're making progress.
But the front on this war is more than just one place. The Philippines... we're helping them there to bring Al-Qa'eda affiliates to justice there and, of course, Iraq is a central part in the war on terror: that's why Zarqawi and his people are trying to fight us- their hope is that we grow weary and we leave. The biggest disaster that could happen is that we not succeed in Iraq: we will succeed- we've got a plan to do so and the main reason we'll succeed is because the Iraqis want to be free.
I had the honor of visiting with Prime Minister Allawi- he's a strong, courageous leader: he believes in the freedom of the Iraqi people. He doesn't want U.S. leadership, however, to send mixed signals, to not stand with the Iraqi people- he believes, like I believe, that the Iraqis are ready to fight for their own freedom: they just need the help to be trained. There will be elections in January: we're spending reconstruction money and our alliance is strong. That's the plan for victory and, when Iraq is free, America will be more secure.
Senator Kerry rebutted: The President just talked about Iraq as a center of the war on terror: Iraq was not even close to the center of the war on terror before the President invaded it. The President made the judgment to divert forces under General Tommy Franks from Afghanistan before the Congress even approved it to begin to prepare to go to war in Iraq and he rushed the war in Iraq without a plan to win the peace. Now, that is not the judgment that a President of the United States ought to make- you don't take America to war unless you have the plan to win the peace: you don't send troops to war without the body armor that they need.
I've met kids in Ohio, parents in Wisconsin, Iowa, where they're going out on the Internet to get the state-of-the-art body gear to send to their kids: some of them got them for a birthday present- I think that's wrong. Humvees - 10,000 out of 12,000 Humvees- that are over there aren't armored and you go visit some of those kids in the hospitals today who were maimed because they don't have the armament. This President- I don't know if he sees what's really happened out there but it's getting worse by the day: more soldiers killed in June than before, more in July than June, more in August than July, more in September than in August and now we see beheadings. And we got weapons of mass destruction crossing the border every single day and they're blowing people up- and we don't have enough troops there.
President Bush got more time to respond as part of one of these discretionary (on the part of the moderator) 1-minute "discussions": First of all, what my opponent wants you to forget is that he voted to authorize the use of force and now says it's "the wrong war at the wrong time at the wrong place": I don't see how you can lead this country to succeed in Iraq if you say "wrong war, wrong time, wrong place". What message does that send our troops?- what message does that send to our allies?- what message does that send the Iraqis? No, the way to win this is to be steadfast and resolved and to follow through on the plan that I've just outlined.
Senator Kerry got a chance to further rebut: Yes, we have to be steadfast and resolved, and I am and I will succeed for those troops, now that we're there. We have to succeed- we can't leave a failed Iraq. but that doesn't mean it wasn't a mistake of judgment to go there and take the focus off of Osama bin Laden. It was! Now, we can succeed- but I don't believe this President can. I think we need a President who has the credibility to bring the allies back to the table and to do what's necessary to make it so America isn't doing this alone.
Scoring- Round 4: The President started off well but then had a brief moment in which he confused Saddam Hussein with Osama bin Laden, which only served to have more strongly made Kerry's point in Round 3. However, after this, he still well made his Administration's argument relating military action and presence in Iraq to the general War on International Terrorism. Senator Kerry, however, continued to, even better than he had in the earlier rounds, hammer Bush hard on the high cost to that general War on International Terrorism created by the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. In response, President Bush could have brought up his own campaign's claim that Kerry had voted against providing at least some of the equipment Kerry now was arguing the troops need in an effort to blunt at least some of the Massachusetts Senator's argument (indeed, I thought that was exactly what he was going to do when he asked for the first of these 1-minute "discussion extensions") but, instead, the President got too hung up on Kerry having voted for the very war he was now criticizing. Bush's "what message does that send?" litany was altogether quite weak (Bush offered no specifics re: how the allies or the Iraqis might have been negatively affected by Kerry's opinions on Iraq) and Kerry thereafter very well deflected Bush's implication that Kerry lacked resolve with the Massachusetts Senator further arguing that Bush's wanting to "follow through on the plan" the President outlined would merely be following an already mistaken plan, the very one which had taken "the focus off of Osama bin Laden". Kerry 10, Bush 8 (cumulative: tied 37-all).
Round 5-- Question asked of Senator Kerry: As President, what would you do, specifically, in addition to or differently, to increase the homeland security of the United States than what President Bush is doing?
Senator Kerry responded: Jim, let me tell you exactly what I'll do- and there are a long list of things:
First of all, what kind of mixed message does it send when you've got $500 million going over to Iraq to put police officers in the streets of Iraq and the President is cutting the COPS program in America? What kind of message does it send to be sending money to open firehouses in Iraq but we're shutting firehouses, who are the first responders, here in America. The President hasn't put one nickel, not one nickel, into the effort to fix some of our tunnels and bridges and most exposed subway systems- that's why they had to close down the subway in New York when the Republican Convention was there. We hadn't done the work that ought to be done... 95 percent of the containers that come into the ports, right here in Florida, are not inspected; civilians get onto aircraft and their luggage is X-rayed, but the cargo hold is not X-rayed-- does that make you feel safer in America?
This President thought it was more important to give the wealthiest people in America a tax cut rather than invest in homeland security-- those aren't my values: I believe in protecting America first and, long before President Bush and I get a tax cut- and that's who gets it- long before we do, I'm going to invest in homeland security and I'm going to make sure we're not cutting COPS programs in America and we're fully staffed in our firehouses and that we protect the nuclear and chemical plants. The President also, unfortunately, gave in to the chemical industry which didn't want to do some of the things necessary to strengthen our chemical plant exposure and there's an enormous undone job to protect the loose nuclear materials in the world that are able to get to terrorists. That's a whole other subject... Let me just quickly say: at the current pace, the President will not secure the loose material in the former Soviet Union for 13 years: I'm going to do it in 4 years and we're going to keep it out of the hands of terrorists.
President Bush rebutted: I don't think we want to get to how he's going to pay for all these promises- it's like a huge tax gap: anyway, that's for another debate.
My Administration has tripled the amount of money we're spending on homeland security to $30 billion a year; my Administration worked with the Congress to create the Department of Homeland Security so we could better coordinate our borders and ports. We've got 1,000 extra border patrol on the southern border- want 1,000 on the northern border: we're modernizing our borders. We spent $3.1 billion for fire and police: $3.1 billion! We're doing our duty to provide the funding.
But the best way to protect this homeland is to stay on the offense. You know, we have to be right 100 percent of the time and the enemy only has to be right once to hurt us. There's a lot of good people working hard and, by the way, we've also changed the culture of the FBI to have counterterrorism as its number one priority. We're communicating better- we're going to reform our intelligence services to make sure that we get the best intelligence possible. The PATRIOT Act is vital- it's vital that the Congress renew the PATRIOT Act, which enables our law enforcement to disrupt terror cells. But, again- I repeat to my fellow citizens, the best way to protection is to stay on the offense.
Senator Kerry now asked for one of those 1-minute "discussion extensions" in which to respond: The President just said the FBI had changed its culture. We just read on the front pages of America's papers that there are over 100,000 hours of tapes- unlistened to: on one of those tapes may be the enemy being right the next time. And the test is not whether you're spending more money- the test is: are you doing everything possible to make America safe? We didn't need that tax cut- America needed to be safe!
President Bush further rebutted: Of course we're doing everything we can to protect America: I wake up every day thinking about how best to protect America- that's my job! I work with Director Mueller of the FBI, comes in my office when I'm in Washington, every morning, talking about how to protect us- there's a lot of really good people working hard to do so: it's hard work. But, again, I want to tell the American people: we're doing everything we can at home, but you better have a President who chases these terrorists down and brings them to justice before they hurt us again.
Scoring- Round 5: A most interesting exchange. Senator Kerry took President Bush's own "what message does it send?" litany from the previous round and turned it against the President as he ticked off current weaknesses in homeland security (the closing of firehouses, the failure to more thoroughly inspect shipboard containers, etc.). Kerry even got in a dig against the President's tax cut which forced the President to then ask how Kerry would pay for all he wanted to do re: these weaknesses. Bush's subsequent list of what he has done re: homeland security would have been far more effective if Bush hadn't first so answered Kerry (how does "wanting 1,000 border patrol on the northern border" and "doing our duty to provide the funding" at all dovetail with "I don't think we want to get to how he is going to pay... it's like a huge tax gap"?-- isn't spending all the funding Bush himself cited combined with his tax cut the very thing the President is here decrying?). In the 1-minute "discussion extension", the President twice claimed "we're doing everything we can" but he did very little to really put a dent in Senator Kerry's claim that, as President, he would do more (and, if someone else can do more, than surely one is not doing all one can!). Kerry 10, Bush 8 (cumulative: Kerry 47, Bush 45)
Round 6-- Question asked of President Bush: What criteria would you use to determine when to start bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq?
President Bush responded: Let me first tell you that the best way for Iraq to be safe and secure is for Iraqi citizens to be trained to do the job- and that's what we're doing. We've got 100,000 trained now, 125,000 by the end of this year, 200,000 by the end of next year- that is the best way. We'll never succeed in Iraq if the Iraqi citizens do not want to take matters into their own hands to protect themselves: I believe they want to; Prime Minister Allawi believes they want to. And so the best indication about when we can bring our troops home- which I really want to do, but I don't want to do so for the sake of bringing them home, I want to do so because we've achieved an objective- is to see the Iraqis perform and to see the Iraqis step up and take responsibility. And so, the answer to your question is: When our generals on the ground and Ambassador Negroponte tells me that Iraq is ready to defend herself from these terrorists, that elections will have been held by then, that there's stability and that they're on their way to a nation that's free- that's when!
And I hope it's as soon as possible but I know putting artificial deadlines won't work. My opponent at one time said, "Well, get me elected, I'll have them out of there in six months."- you can't do that and expect to win the war on terror. My message to our troops is, "Thank you for what you're doing. We're standing with you strong. We'll give you all the equipment you need. And we'll get you home as soon as the mission's done, because this is a vital mission." A free Iraq will be an ally in the war on terror, and that's essential; a free Iraq will set a powerful example in a part of the world that is desperate for freedom; a free Iraq will help secure Israel; a free Iraq will enforce the hopes and aspirations of the reformers in places like Iran; a free Iraq is essential for the security of this country.
Senator Kerry rebutted: My message to the troops is also: Thank you for what they're doing, but it's also 'help is on the way.' I believe those troops deserve better than what they are getting today. You know, it's interesting: when I was in a rope line just the other day- coming out here from Wisconsin, a couple of young returnees were in the line- one active duty, one from the Guard- and they both looked at me and said: "We need you- you've got to help us over there". Now I believe there's a better way to do this: You know, the President's father did not go into Iraq- into Baghdad, beyond Basra- and the reason he didn't is, he said- he wrote in his book- because there was no viable exit strategy and he said our troops would be occupiers in a bitterly hostile land. That's exactly where we find ourselves today: there's a sense of American occupation.
The only building that was guarded when the troops went into Baghdad was the oil ministry. We didn't guard the nuclear facilities, we didn't guard the foreign office- where you might have found information about weapons of mass destruction, we didn't guard the borders. Almost every step of the way our troops have been left on these extraordinarily difficult missions. I know what it's like to go out on one of those missions where you don't know what's around the corner and I believe our troops need other allies helping. I'm going to hold that summit: I will bring fresh credibility, a new start, and we will get the job done right.
President Bush responded in another of these "discussion extensions": My opponent says help is on the way, but what kind of message does it say to our troops in harm's way, "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time"- it's not a message a Commander-in-Chief gives- or "this is a great diversion"? As well, "help is on the way"- but it's certainly hard to tell it when he voted against the $87 billion supplemental to provide equipment for our troops and then said he actually did vote for it before he voted against it- that's not what a Commander-in-Chief does when you're trying to lead troops!
Senator Kerry further rebutted: Well- you know, when I talked about the $87 billion, I made a mistake in how I talk about the war- but the President made a mistake in invading Iraq: which is worse? I believe that when you know something's going wrong, you make it right- that's what I learned in Vietnam. When I came back from that war, I saw that it was wrong. Some people don't like the fact that I stood up to say no, but I did and that's what I did with that vote- and I'm going to lead those troops to victory.
Scoring- Round 6: A good exchange. President Bush's original answer to the question was a very good argument on behalf of his position and he originally seemed definitely headed for the 10 points but Kerry came back with an equally good retort by comparing President Bush's view of the situation in Iraq to that the current President's father, a former President, had at the very end of the Gulf War back in 1991. It would have been a tough call as to who got the 10 in a 10-9 split even had the exchange ended there but the President asked for an extension of the discussion at hand and thereby solidified his hold on the 10. Kerry's reply to the "I voted for it before I voted against it" problem he has had almost since he first emerged as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee re: the $87 billion supplemental was refreshingly honest and his comparing his bad judgment while addressing a campaign crowd to Bush's judgment re; the invasion of Iraq well played to the moderate, undecided voters he seeks: yet the very fact that the Massachusetts Senator has had that problem gives a round in which neither candidate made any mistakes (while both candidates well argued their respective positions) to the President. Bush 10, Kerry 9 (cumulative: Kerry 56, Bush 55).
Round 7-- Question asked of Senator Kerry: Speaking of Vietnam: you spoke to Congress in 1971, after you came back from Vietnam, and you said "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" Are Americans now dying in Iraq for a mistake?
Senator Kerry responded: No-- and they don't have to, provided we have the leadership that I'm offering. I believe that we have to win this: the President and I have always agreed on that and, from the beginning, I did vote to give the authority because I thought Saddam Hussein was a threat and I did accept that intelligence- but I also laid out a very strict series of things we needed to do in order to proceed from a position of strength. Then the President, in fact, promised them: he went to Cincinnati and he gave a speech in which he said, "We will plan carefully, we will proceed cautiously. We will not make war inevitable, we will go with our allies". He didn't do any of those things- they didn't do the planning- they left the planning of the State Department in the State Department desks.
They avoided even the advice of their own general: General Shinseki, the Army Chief of Staff, said "you're going to need several hundred thousand troops"- instead of listening to him, they retired him. The terrorism czar, who has worked for every President since Ronald Reagan, said, "Invading Iraq in response to 9/11 would be like Franklin Roosevelt invading Mexico in response to Pearl Harbor." That's what we have here and what we need now is a President who understands how to bring these other countries together to recognize their stakes in this. They do have stakes in it- they've always had stakes in it. The Arab countries have a stake in not having a civil war, the European countries have a stake in not having total disorder on their doorstep- but this President hasn't even held the kind of statesmanlike summits that pull people together and get them to invest in those stakes. In fact, he's done the opposite- he pushed them away. When Secretary-General Kofi Annan offered the United Nations, he said: "No, no, we'll go do this alone." To save for Halliburton the spoils of the war, they actually issued a memorandum from the Defense Department saying, "If you weren't with us in the war, don't bother applying for any construction"- that's not a way to invite people!
President Bush rebutted: That's totally absurd! Of course, the U.N. was invited in and we support the U.N. efforts there. They pulled out after Sergio de Mello got killed but they're now back in helping with elections. My opponent says we didn't have any allies in this war: what's he say to Tony Blair? What's he say to Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland? You can't expect to build an alliance when you denigrate the contributions of those who are serving side by side with American troops in Iraq- plus, he says, the cornerstone of his plan to succeed in Iraq is to call upon nations to serve. So what's the message going to be?: "Please join us in Iraq for a grand diversion. Join us for a war that is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time"?
I know how these people think- I deal with them all the time. I sit down with the world leaders frequently and talk to them on the phone frequently. They're not going to follow somebody who says, "This is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time." They're not going to follow somebody whose core convictions keep changing because of politics in America. And, finally, he says we ought to have a summit- well, there are summits being held. Japan is going to have a summit for the donors: $14 billion pledged and Prime Minister Koizumi is going to call countries to account, to get them to contribute. And there's going to be an Arab summit, of the neighborhood countries, and Colin Powell helped set up that summit.
Senator Kerry further responded: The United Nations, Kofi Annan, offered help after Baghdad fell and we never picked him up on that and did what was necessary to transfer authority and to transfer reconstruction- it was always American-run. Secondly, when we went in, there were three countries- Great Britain, Australia and the United States: that's not a grand coalition- we can do better!
President Bush further rebutted: Well, actually, he forgot Poland and now there's 30 nations involved, standing side by side with our American troops and I honor their sacrifices. And I don't appreciate it when a candidate for President denigrates the contributions of these brave soldiers- you cannot lead the world if you do not honor the contributions of those who are with us. He called them "the coerced and the bribed"- that's not how you bring people together! Our coalition is strong: it will remain strong, so long as I'm the President.
Scoring- Round 7: One of the tougher rounds to score. Both candidates well made their respective points and both played similar "card"s (Kerry: "That's not a way to invite people!"; Bush: "That's not how you bring people together!")- albeit for quite different reasons. Kerry's dilemma on the issue of Iraq well showed up at the very start of this round, however: the Massachusetts Senator believes the war in Iraq was a mistake in judgment on the President's part, yet he couldn't bring himself to opine that continued American military action in Iraq, in and of itself, might well be a mistake akin to the Vietnam War in which Kerry himself fought. Bush 10, Kerry 9 (cumulative: tied 65-all)
Round 8-- Question asked of President Bush: You have said there was a "miscalculation" of what the conditions would be in postwar Iraq. What was the miscalculation, and how did it happen?
President Bush responded: No, what I said was that, because we achieved such a rapid victory, more of the Saddam loyalists were around. I mean, we thought we'd have more of them going in but, because Tommy Franks did such a great job in planning the operations, we moved rapidly and a lot of the Ba'athists and Saddam loyalists laid down their arms and disappeared: I thought they would stay and fight, but they didn't and now we're fighting them now and it's hard work. I understand how hard it is: I get the casualty reports every day- I see on the TV screens how hard it is, but it's necessary work. And I'm optimistic. See, I think you can be realistic and optimistic at the same time. I'm optimistic we'll achieve: I know we won't achieve if we send mixed signals. I know we're not going to achieve our objective if we send mixed signals to our troops, our friends, the Iraqi citizens.
We've got a plan in place: the plan says there will be elections in January, and there will be; the plan says we'll train Iraqi soldiers so they can do the hard work, and we are. And it's not only just America, but NATO is now helping, Jordan's helping train police, UAE is helping train police. We've allocated $7 billion over the next months for reconstruction efforts and we're making progress there. And our alliance is strong- as I just told you, there's going to be a summit of the Arab nations: Japan will be hosting a summit- we're making progress.
It is hard work. It is hard work to go from a tyranny to a democracy. It's hard work to go from a place where people get their hands cut off, or executed, to a place where people are free. But it's necessary work and a free Iraq is going to make this world a more peaceful place.
Senator Kerry rebuts: What I think troubles a lot of people in our country is that the President has just sort of described one kind of mistake- but what he has said is that- even knowing there were no weapons of mass destruction, even knowing there was no imminent threat, even knowing there was no connection with Al-Qa'eda- he would still have done everything the same way: those are his words. Now, I would not. So what I'm trying to do is just talk the truth to the American People and to the world. Truth is what good policy is based on- it's what leadership is based on.
The President says that I'm denigrating these troops. I have nothing but respect for the British, Tony Blair, and for what they've been willing to do- but you can't tell me that- when the most troops any other country has on the ground is Great Britain, with 8,300, and below that the four others are below 4,000, and below that, there isn't anybody out of the hundreds- that we have a genuine coalition to get this job done: you can't tell me that, on the day that we went into that war and it started, it was principally the United States, the America and Great Britain and one or two others- that's it. And, today, we are 90 percent of the casualties and 90 percent of the costs. And meanwhile, North Korea has got nuclear weapons. Talk about mixed messages! The President is the one who said, "We can't allow countries to get nuclear weapons." They have. I'll change that.
Scoring- Round 8: Not a good round for President Bush. His mantra about how hard, yet necessary, the "work" in Iraq is was quite repetitive and, at the same time, rather unenlightening; his claim that the Saddam loyalists laid down their arms and disappeared, that they didn't stay and fight yet "we're fighting them now" was altogether contradictory (if they're fighting now, then they didn't just "disappear", did they?). The President recovered from what could well have been our first 10-7 score by making good points on behalf of his policies re: Iraq near the end of his answer to the question but he had already undermined any chance of his winning this round because of that which I have already noted. Senator Kerry, meanwhile, was able to use his rebuttal to expand upon his comments in Round 7 about the lack of a "grand coalition" by citing the approximate numbers of troops from each country in Bush's "Coalition of the Willing" in Iraq, numbers which appear to well bolster the Massachusetts Senator's position. Kerry 10, Bush 8 (cumulative: Kerry 75, Bush 73)
Round 9-- Question asked of Senator Kerry: You've repeatedly accused President Bush- not here tonight, but elsewhere before- of not telling the truth about Iraq, essentially of lying to the American people about Iraq. Give us some examples of what you consider to be his not telling the truth.
Senator Kerry responds: Well, I've never, ever used the harshest word, as you did just then, and I try not to- but I'll, nevertheless, tell you that I think he has not been candid with the American People and I'll tell you exactly how:
First of all, we all know that, in his State of the Union message, he told Congress about nuclear materials that didn't exist. We know that he promised America that he was going to build this coalition: I just described the coalition- it is not the kind of coalition we were described when we were talking about voting for this. The President said he would exhaust the remedies of the United Nations and go through that full process- he didn't. He cut it off, sort of arbitrarily and we know that there were further diplomatic efforts under way. They just decided the time for diplomacy is over and rushed to war without planning for what happens afterwards. Now, he misled the American People in his speech when he said we will plan carefully- they obviously didn't. He misled the American People when he said we'd go to war as a last resort- we did not go as a last resort: and most Americans know the difference.
Now, this has cost us deeply in the world. I believe that it is important to tell the truth to the American People. I've worked with those leaders the President talks about- I've worked with them for 20 years, for longer than this President- and I know what many of them say today and I know how to bring them back to the table. And I believe that a fresh start, new credibility, a President who can understand what we have to do to reach out to the Muslim world to make it clear that this is not- you know: Osama bin Laden uses the invasion of Iraq in order to go out to people and say "America has declared war on Islam". We need to be smarter about now we wage a war on terror, we need to deny them the recruits, we need to deny them the safe havens, we need to rebuild our alliances. I believe that Ronald Reagan, John Kennedy and the others did that more effectively- and I'm going to try to follow in their footsteps.
President Bush rebutted: My opponent just said something amazing: he said Osama bin Laden uses the invasion of Iraq as an excuse to spread hatred for America. Osama bin Laden isn't going to determine how we defend ourselves; Osama bin Laden doesn't get to decide- the American People decide. I decided the right action was in Iraq. My opponent calls it a mistake- it wasn't a mistake. He said I misled on Iraq: I don't think he was misleading when he called Iraq a grave threat in the Fall of 2002, I don't think he was misleading when he said that it was right to disarm Iraq in the Spring of 2003. I don't think he misled you when he said that, you know, anyone who doubted whether the world was better off without Saddam Hussein in power didn't have the judgment to be President. I don't think he was misleading.
I think what is misleading is to say you can lead and succeed in Iraq if you keep changing your positions on this war- and he has. As the politics change, his positions change and that's not how a Commander-in-Chief acts... The intelligence I looked at was the same intelligence my opponent looked at- the very same intelligence. And when I stood up there and spoke to the Congress, I was speaking off the same intelligence he looked at to make his decisions to support the authorization of force.
Senator Kerry further responded: I wasn't misleading when I said he was a threat, nor was I misleading on the day that the President decided to go to war when I said that he had made a mistake in not building strong alliances and that I would have preferred that he did more diplomacy. I've had one position, one consistent position, that Saddam Hussein was a threat, there was a right way to disarm him and a wrong way- and the President chose the wrong way.
President Bush further rebutted: The only consistent about my opponent's position is that he's been inconsistent: he changes positions and you cannot change positions in this war on terror if you expect to win and I expect to win- it's necessary we win. We're being challenged like never before and we have a duty to our country and to future generations of America to achieve a free Iraq, a free Afghanistan, and to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction.
Scoring- Round 9: This round started off badly for Senator Kerry. He once again got away from specifics and back into the "campaign-style" generalities we heard from him in Round 1 (a round in which he took a significant loss right at the start of the debate). For instance: "I know how to bring [the more recalcitrant European allies] back to the table", he said- without at all detailing just what he would actually do in this regard as President. But President Bush then did almost as badly: taking on Kerry's observation that "Osama bin Laden uses the invasion of Iraq in order to... say that America has declared war on Islam" (which Bush himself changes to "an excuse to spread hatred for America": not exactly what Kerry said-- or even meant!), the President then went on to completely miss Kerry's point (a miss which might well have been purposeful in that it would then allow the President to continue to ignore whatever terrorists might say about why they do what they do-- Bush's conservative base is not particularly interested in why terrorism occurs any more than they would be concerned with why crime in general might occur, feeling that to look into questions such as these would tend to excuse nefarious behavior). Kerry now had an opportunity to take this round but, instead, fell into the "yes, Saddam was a threat but it was wrong to take him out nonetheless" contradiction that plagues the Democrats' view of the Iraq war and its aftermath. There was nothing in Bush's final rejoinder with which the Massachusetts Senator would disagree other than denying he had, in fact, been inconsistent. Thus, this was another tough one to call (one almost wishes no winner could be declared-- but in "10-point must", someone must win!). Bush 10, Kerry 9 (cumulative: Kerry 84, Bush 83)
Round 10-- Question asked of President Bush: Has the war in Iraq been worth the cost of American lives- 1,052 as of today?
President Bush responded: You know, every life is precious. Every life matters. You know, the hardest part of the job is to know that I committed the troops in harm's way and then do the best I can to provide comfort for the loved ones who lost a son or a daughter or a husband or wife. You know, I think about Missy Johnson- a fantastic lady I met in Charlotte, North Carolina. She and her son Brian, they came to see me. Her husband, P.J., got killed. He'd been in Afghanistan, went to Iraq.You know, it's hard work to try to love her as best as I can, knowing full well that the decision I made caused her loved one to be in harm's way. I told her, after we prayed and teared up and laughed some, that I thought her husband's sacrifice was noble and worthy because I understand the stakes of this war on terror.
I understand that we must find Al-Qa'eda wherever they hide, we must deal with threats before they fully materialize- and Saddam Hussein was a threat- and that we must spread Liberty because, in the long run, the way to defeat hatred and tyranny and oppression is to spread Freedom. Missy understood that- that's what she told me her husband understood. So you say, "Was it worth it?" Every life is precious- that's what distinguishes us from the enemy. Everybody matters- but I think it's worth it, Jim. I think it's worth it because I know, in the long term, a free Iraq, a free Afghanistan, will set such a powerful example in a part of the world that's desperate for Freedom. It will help change the world- that we can look back and say we did our duty.
Senator Kerry rebutted: I understand what the President is talking about because I know what it means to lose people in combat and the question "is it worth the cost?" reminds me of my own thinking when I came back from fighting in that war. And it reminds me that it is vital for us not to confuse the war, ever, with the warriors- that happened before and that's one of the reasons why I believe I can get this job done, because I am determined for those soldiers and for those families, for those kids who put their lives on the line. That is noble- that's the most noble thing that anybody can do and I want to make sure the outcome honors that nobility.
Now, we have a choice here: I've laid out a plan by which I think we can be successful in Iraq- with a summit, by doing better training, faster, by doing what we need to do with respect to the U.N. and the elections. There's only 25 percent of the people in there- they can't have an election right now. The President's not getting the job done. So the choice for America is: you can have a plan that I've laid out in four points- each of which I can tell you more about or you can go to johnkerry.com and see more of it- or you have the President's plan, which is four words: "more of the same". I think my plan is better and my plan has a better chance of standing up and fighting for those troops: I will never let those troops down and will hunt and kill the terrorists wherever they are.
President Bush further responded: I understand what it means to the Commander-in-Chief and if I were to ever say, "This is the wrong war at the wrong time at the wrong place," the troops would wonder, "How can I follow this guy?" You cannot lead the war on terror if you keep changing positions on the war on terror and say things like, "Well, this is just a grand diversion." It's not a grand diversion- this is an essential that we get it right- and so the plan he talks about simply won't work.
Senator Kerry further rebutted: Secretary of State Colin Powell told this President the 'Pottery Barn' rule: if you break it, you fix it! Now, if you break it, you made a mistake- it's the wrong thing to do but you own it and then you've got to fix it and do something with it. Now that's what we have to do: there's no inconsistency. Soldiers know over there that this isn't being done right yet. I'm going to get it right for those soldiers, because it's important to Israel, it's important to America, it's important to the world, it's important to the fight on terror. But I have a plan to do it- he doesn't.
Scoring- Round 10: This was another tough round to score: both candidates did well in explaining and defending their respective positions. However, the President's notion that American troops would not be able to follow Kerry were the Massachusetts Senator to become President- when compared to Kerry's observation, earlier in this Debate, that at least some of these same troops were already questioning what Bush himself had decided (yet didn't they continue to, nevertheless, loyally follow all orders coming down the Chain of Command as high up as President Bush himself?) cost the President this round-- though, to be fair, just barely! Kerry 10, Bush 9 (cumulative: Kerry 94, Bush 92).
Round 11-- Question asked of Senator Kerry: Can you give us specifics- in terms of a scenario, timelines, etc.- for ending major U.S. military involvement in Iraq?
Senator Kerry responded: The timeline that I've set out- and, again, I want to correct the President because he's misled again this evening on what I've said. I didn't say I would bring troops out in six months; I said, if we do the things that I've set out and we are successful, we could begin to draw the troops down in six months and I think a critical component of success in Iraq is being able to convince the Iraqis and the Arab world that the United States doesn't have long-term designs on it. As I understand it, we're building some 14 military bases there now and some people say they've got a rather permanent concept to them. When you guard the oil ministry, but you don't guard the nuclear facilities, the message to a lot of people is maybe, "Wow, maybe they're interested in our oil." Now, the problem is that they didn't think these things through properly and these are the things you have to think through.
What I want to do is change the dynamics on the ground and you have to do that by beginning to not back off of the Fallujahs and other places and send the wrong message to the terrorists. You have to close the borders, you've got to show you're serious in that regard- but you've also got to show that you are prepared to bring the rest of the world in and share the stakes. I will make a flat statement: The United States of America has no long-term designs on staying in Iraq.
And our goal in my Administration would be to get all of the troops out of there with a minimal amount you need for training and logistics, as we do in some other countries in the world after a war, to be able to sustain the peace- but that's how we're going to win the peace, by rapidly training the Iraqis themselves. Even the Administration has admitted they haven't done the training, because they came back to Congress a few weeks ago and asked for a complete reprogramming of the money. Now, what greater admission is there- 16 months afterwards: "Oops, we haven't done the job. We've got to start to spend the money now. Will you guys give us permission to shift it over into training?"
President Bush rebutted: There are 100,000 troops trained, police, guard, special units, border patrol; there's going to be 125,000 trained by the end of this year. Yes, we're getting the job done- it's hard work. Everybody knows it's hard work because there's a determined enemy that's trying to defeat us. Now, my opponent says he's going to try to change the dynamics on the ground. Well, Prime Minister Allawi was here- he is the leader of that country: he's a brave, brave man. When he came, after giving a speech to the Congress, my opponent questioned his credibility. You can't change the dynamics on the ground if you've criticized the brave leader of Iraq: one of his campaign people alleged that Prime Minister Allawi was like a puppet. That's no way to treat somebody who's courageous and brave, that is trying to lead his country forward.
The way to make sure that we succeed is to send consistent, sound messages to the Iraqi people that, when we give our word, we will keep our word- that we stand with you, that we believe you want to be free: and I do. I believe that 25 million people, the vast majority, long to have elections. I reject this notion- and I'm not suggesting my opponent says it: I reject the notion that some say that, if you're Muslim, you can't be free- you don't desire Freedom: I disagree- strongly disagree- with that.
Senator Kerry further responded: I couldn't agree more that the Iraqis want to be free and that they could be free but I think the President, again, still hasn't shown how he's going to go about it the right way- he has more of the same. Now, Prime Minister Allawi came here and he said the terrorists are pouring over the border- that's Allawi's assessment! The national intelligence assessment that was given to the President in July said: best-case scenario, more of the same of what we see today; worst-case scenario, civil war. I can do better.
President Bush further rebuts: The reason why Prime Minister Allawi said they're coming across the border is 'cause he recognizes that this is a central part of the war on terror- they're fighting us because they're fighting Freedom; they understand that a free Afghanistan or a free Iraq will be a major defeat for them and those are the stakes. And that's why it is essential we not leave, that's why it's essential we hold the line, that's why it's essential we win- and we will: under my leadership we're going to win this war in Iraq.
Scoring- Round 11: Senator Kerry did well in his answer, even rebutting President Bush's claim- back in Round 6- that Kerry had promised he could have the troops out in six months after taking office as President. Bush's rebuttal was not quite as effective, especially when he attacked the notion that a Muslim could not have Freedom in the Western sense of the term but had to acknowledge that this was not necessarily the view of Senator Kerry (then why bring it up in the first place?). Kerry scored further when he, in the "discussion extension", noted that terrorists were coming in over the borders of Iraq (which well dovetailed with the Massachusetts Senator's claim that "we didn't guard the borders"- also back in Round 6- as well as his opinion that "you have to close the borders" earlier in this round). Bush's answer to this was quite lame (if the problem of terrorists pouring into Iraq is, indeed, "the central part of the war on terror", then isn't this very fact more supportive of Kerry's argument?) and, further, merely highlighted another rather ineffective statement by President Bush earlier in the round regarding Kerry's criticizing the effectiveness of the interim Iraqi Prime Minister (Allawi is not at all a duly elected national leader and any analogy to a candidate for President roundly criticizing a leader freely chosen within a democratic society, thus, fails). Kerry 10, Bush 8 (cumulative: Kerry 104, Bush 100)
Round 12-- Question asked of President Bush: Does the Iraq experience make it more likely or less likely that you would take the United States into another pre-emptive military action?
President Bush responded: I would hope I never have to. I understand how hard it is to commit troops- I never wanted to commit troops: when I was running, when we had the debate, in 2000, never dreamt I'd be doing that. But the enemy attacked us, Jim, and I have a solemn duty to protect the American People, to do everything I can to protect us. I think that, by speaking clearly and doing what we say and not sending mixed messages, it is less likely we'll ever have to use troops- but a President must always be willing to use troops: he must- as a last resort.
I was hopeful diplomacy would work in Iraq- it was falling apart. There was no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was hoping that the world would turn a blind eye and if he had been in power- in other words, if we would have said, "Let the inspectors work, or let's, you know, hope to talk him out. Maybe an 18th resolution would work"- he would have been stronger and tougher, and the world would have been a lot worse off: there's just no doubt in my mind we would rue the day, had Saddam Hussein been in power. So we use diplomacy every chance we get, believe me- and I would hope to never have to use force- but, by speaking clearly and sending messages that we mean what we say, we've affected the world in a positive way.
Look at Libya: Libya was a threat, Libya is now peacefully dismantling its weapons programs, Libya understood that America and others will enforce doctrine and that the world is better for it. So to answer your question: I would hope we never have to- I think, by acting firmly and decisively, it will mean it is less likely we have to use force.
Senator Kerry rebutted: Jim, the President just said something extraordinarily revealing and frankly very important in this debate. In answer to your question about Iraq and sending people into Iraq, he just said, "The enemy attacked us": Saddam Hussein didn't attack us, Osama bin Laden attacked us. Al-Qa'eda attacked us and when we had Osama bin Laden cornered in the mountains of Tora Bora- 1,000 of his cohorts with him in those mountains, with the American military forces nearby and in the field- we didn't use the best-trained troops in the world to go kill the world's No. 1 criminal and terrorist. They outsourced the job to Afghan warlords who, only a week earlier, had been on the other side fighting against us- neither of whom trusted each other.
That's the enemy that attacked us, that's the enemy that was allowed to walk out of those mountains: that's the enemy that is now in 60 countries, with stronger recruits. He also said Saddam Hussein would have been stronger- that is just factually incorrect. 2/3 of the country was a "no-fly zone" when we started this war- we would have had sanctions, we would have had the U.N. inspectors: Saddam Hussein would have been continually weakening. If the President had shown the patience to go through another round of resolutions, to sit down with those leaders, say, "What do you need, what do you need now? How much more will it take to get you to join us?" we'd be in a stronger place today.
President Bush further responded: First of all, of course I know Osama bin Laden attacked us- I know that! And, secondly, to think that another round of resolutions would have caused Saddam Hussein to disarm, disclose, is ludicrous in my judgment- it just shows a significant difference of opinion. We tried diplomacy, we did our best. He was hoping to turn a blind eye and, yes, he would have been stronger had we not dealt with him: he had the capability of making weapons and he would have made weapons.
Senator Kerry further rebutted: 35 to 40 countries in the world had a greater capability of making weapons at the moment the President invaded than Saddam Hussein. And, while he's been diverted- with 9 out of 10 active duty divisions of our Army either going to Iraq, coming back from Iraq, or getting ready to go, North Korea has gotten nuclear weapons and the world is more dangerous. Iran is moving toward nuclear weapons and the world is more dangerous, Darfur has a genocide. The world is more dangerous- I'd have made a better choice.
Scoring-- Round 12: Another very interesting exchange. President Bush once again well defended his link of Iraq to the general War on International Terrorism by, again, well playing the "Libya card". However, Senator Kerry once more hammered the Administration hard re: whether or not Saddam had been as much of a threat as he was painted to be, especially in relation to Osama bin Laden and once more scored the President re: the failure to capture Osama. Bush's retort was, again, good- but Kerry's thereafter scoring the Administration re: just how low Saddam might have been on the "Top 40" of global weapons manufacturing was extremely effective. President Bush didn't really lose this round so much as Senator Kerry so much the better won it. Kerry 10, Bush 8 (cumulative: Kerry 114, Bush 108).
Round 13-- Question asked of Senator Kerry: What is your position on the whole concept of pre-emptive war?
Senator Kerry responded: The President always has the right, and always has had the right, for pre-emptive strike- that was a great doctrine throughout the Cold War and it was always one of the things we argued about with respect to arms control. No President, though all of American History, has ever ceded- and nor would I- the right to pre-empt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America. But- if and when you do it, Jim- you've got to do it in a way that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people, understand fully why you're doing what you're doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons. Here we have our own Secretary of State who has had to apologize to the world for the presentation he made to the United Nations.
I mean, we can remember when President Kennedy in the Cuban missile crisis sent his Secretary of State to Paris to meet with DeGaulle and, in the middle of the discussion to tell them about the missiles in Cuba, he said, "Here, let me show you the photos" and DeGaulle waved them off and said, "No, no, no, no. The word of the President of the United States is good enough for me". How many leaders in the world today would respond to us, as a result of what we've done, in that way? So what is at test here is the credibility of the United States of America and how we lead the world- and Iran and North Korea are now more dangerous.
Now, whether pre-emption is ultimately what has to happen, I don't know yet- but I'll tell you this: as President, I'll never take my eye off that ball. I've been fighting for anti-proliferation the entire time I've been in the Congress and we've watched this President actually turn away from some of the treaties that were on the table. You don't help yourself with other nations when you turn away from the global warming treaty, for instance, or when you refuse to deal at length with the United Nations: you have to earn that respect and I think we have a lot of earning back to do.
President Bush rebutted: I'm not exactly sure what you mean, "passes the global test"- you take pre-emptive action if you pass a global test; my attitude is you take pre-emptive action in order to protect the American People, that you act in order to make this country secure. My opponent talks about me not signing certain treaties- let me tell you one thing I didn't sign, and I think it shows the difference of our opinions and that is, I wouldn't join the International Criminal Court. It's a body based in the Hague where unaccountable judges and prosecutors could pull our troops or diplomats up for trial- and I wouldn't join it. And I understand that, in certain capitals around the world, that wasn't a popular move- but it's the right move not to join a foreign court where our people could be prosecuted. My opponent is for joining the International Criminal Court: I just think trying to be popular, kind of, in the global sense- if it's not in our best interest- makes no sense. I'm interested in working with other nations and do a lot of it- but I'm not going to make decisions that I think are wrong for America!
Scoring- Round 13: Both candidates here well defended their respective positions but the President's criticism of Senator Kerry's notion of a "global test" was at least somewhat disingenuous in light of Bush's oft-repeated claim (repeated earlier in this very Debate) that the War on International Terrorism is itself, after all, a global effort. Kerry 10, Bush 9 (cumulative: Kerry 124, Bush 117)
Round 14-- Question asked of President Bush: Do you believe that diplomacy and sanctions can resolve the nuclear problems with North Korea and Iran? Take them in any order you would like.
President Bush responded: North Korea first: I do. Let me say, I certainly hope so. Before I was sworn in, the policy of this government was to have bilateral negotiations with North Korea and we signed an agreement with North Korea that my Administration found out that was not being honored by the North Koreans- and so I decided that a better way to approach the issue was to get other nations involved, just besides us. And, in Crawford, Texas, Jiang Zemin and I agreed that the nuclear-weapons-free peninsula, Korean Peninsula, was in his interest and our interest and the world's interest- and so we began a new dialogue with North Korea, one that included not only the United States, but now China. And China's got a lot of influence over North Korea- in some ways more than we do.
As well, we included South Korea, Japan and Russia- so now there are five voices speaking to Kim Jong-il, not just one. And so, if Kim Jong-il decides again to not honor an agreement, he's not only doing injustice to America, he'd be doing injustice to China as well. And I think this will work: it's not going to work if we open up a dialogue with Kim Jong-il; that's what he wants: he wants to unravel the six-party talks, or the five-nation coalition, that's sending him a clear message.
On Iran, I hope we can do the same thing, continue to work with the world to convince the Iranian mullahs to abandon their nuclear ambitions. We worked very closely with the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Great Britain, who have been the folks delivering the message to the mullahs that if you expect to be part of the world of nations, get rid of your nuclear programs. The IAEA is involved- there's a special protocol recently been passed that allows for instant inspections. I hope we can do it and we've got a good strategy.
Senator Kerry rebuts: With respect to Iran: the British, French, and Germans were the ones who initiated an effort- without the United States, regrettably- to begin to try to move to deter the nuclear possibilities in Iran. I believe we could have done better: I think the United States should have offered the opportunity to provide the nuclear fuel, test them, see whether or not they were actually looking for it for peaceful purposes. If they weren't willing to work a deal, then we could have put sanctions together- the President did nothing.
With respect to North Korea, the real story: we had inspectors and television cameras in the nuclear reactor in North Korea- Secretary Bill Perry negotiated that under President Clinton- and we knew where the fuel rods were and we knew the limits on their nuclear power. Colin Powell, our Secretary of State, announced one day that we were going to continue the dialogue of working with the North Koreans- the President reversed it publicly, while the President of South Korea was here, and the President of South Korea went back to South Korea bewildered and embarrassed because it went against his policy. And, for two years, this Administration didn't talk at all to North Korea. While they didn't talk at all, the fuel rods came out, the inspectors were kicked out, the television cameras were kicked out- and, today, there are four to seven nuclear weapons in the hands of North Korea. That happened on this President's watch! Now that, I think, is one of the most serious, sort of, reversals or mixed messages that you could possibly send.
Moderator Lehrer broke in here: In this one minute, I want to make sure that the people watching understand the differences between the two of you on this. You want to continue the multinational talks, correct?
The President answered: Right.
And you're willing to do it? Lehrer asked of Senator Kerry.
Kerry answered: Both. I want bilateral talks which put all of the issues- from the armistice of 1952, the economic issues, the human rights issues, the artillery disposal issues, the DMZ issues and the nuclear issues- on the table.
Lehrer now turned back to President Bush: And you're opposed to that- right?
The President answered: The minute we have bilateral talks, the six-party talks will unwind: that's exactly what Kim Jong-il wants. And, by the way, the breach on the agreement was not through plutonium; the breach on the agreement is highly enriched uranium- that's what we caught him doing, that's where he was breaking the agreement.
Secondly, my opponent said where he worked to put sanctions on Iran: we've already sanctioned Iran- we can't sanction them any more. There are sanctions in place on Iran. And, finally, we were a party to the convention- to working with Germany, France and Great Britain- to send their foreign ministers into Iran.
Scoring- Round 14: This was another rather close round. However, Kerry better outlined how the failure to talk with the North Koreans directly led to the further acceleration of that country's nuclear weapons program, a criticism the President failed to well deflect. Bush also failed to deflect Kerry's claim that three European countries initiated a dialog with Iran re: that country's nuclear program without much American involvement from the start (for being "a party to a convention" is not the same as actively calling into being that same convention)- if, indeed, Kerry's attack on this score was overstated, unjustified or even flat-out untrue, the President said nothing at all about this. Kerry 10, Bush 9 (cumulative: Kerry 134, Bush 126)
Round 15-- Question asked of Senator Kerry: You mentioned Darfur, the Darfur region of Sudan: 50,000 people have already died in that area, more than a million are homeless and it's been labeled an act of ongoing genocide. Yet neither one of you, or anyone else connected with your campaigns or your Administration that I can find, has discussed the possibility of sending in troops. Why not?
Senator Kerry responds: Well, I'll tell you exactly why not, but I first want to say something about those sanctions on Iran: only the United States put the sanctions on alone and that's exactly what I'm talking about. In order for the sanctions to be effective, we should have been working with the British, French and Germans and other countries- and that's the difference between the President and me. And there, again, he sort of slid by the question.
Now, with respect to Darfur- yes, it is a genocide and, months ago, many of us were pressing for action. I think the reason that we're not saying send American troops in at this point is severalfold. Number 1: we can do this through the African Union, providing we give them the logistical support. Right now, all the President is providing is humanitarian support- we need to do more than that. They've got to have the logistical capacity to go in and stop the killing and that's going to require more than is on the table today. I also believe that one of the reasons we can't do it is we're overextended.
Ask the people in the armed forces today: we've got Guards and Reserves who are doing double duties, we've got a backdoor draft taking place in America today: people with stop-loss programs where they're told you can't get out of the military, 9 out of our 10 active duty divisions committed to Iraq one way or the other- either going, coming or preparing. So this is the way the President has overextended the United States.
That's why, in my plan, I add two active duty divisions to the United States Army- not for Iraq, but for our general demands across the globe. I also intend to double the number of Special Forces so that we can do the job we need to do with respect to fighting the terrorists around the world. And, if we do that, then we have the ability to be able to respond more rapidly. But I'll tell you this: as President, if it took American forces- to some degree- to coalesce the African Union, I'd be prepared to do it because we could never allow another Rwanda. It's the moral responsibility for us and the world.
President Bush rebutted: Back to Iran, just for a second: it was not my Administration that put the sanctions on Iran- that happened long before I arrived in Washington, D.C.
In terms of Darfur, I agree it's genocide and Colin Powell so stated. We have committed $200 million worth of aid: we're the leading donor in the world to help the suffering people there- we will commit more over time to help. We were very much involved at the U.N. on the sanction policy of the Bashir government in the Sudan: prior to Darfur, Ambassador Jack Danforth had been negotiating a north-south agreement that we would have hoped would have brought peace to the Sudan. I agree with my opponent that we shouldn't be committing troops: that we ought to be working with the African Union to do so- precisely what we did in Liberia. We helped stabilize the situation with some troops and, when the African Union came, we moved them out. My hope is that the African Union moves rapidly to help save lives and, fortunately, the rainy season will be ending shortly, which will make it easier to get aid there and help the long-suffering people there.
Scoring- Round 15: Another close round, one which the President lost again. By continuing the discussion in the previous round and bringing up Iran (not the subject of the question), Senator Kerry inadvertently invited President Bush to do that which his failure to do, in part, narrowly lost him Round 14. Bush could have picked up at least a 10-9 win here by more directly dealing with Kerry's claim that the Americans were singularly uninvolved while the three European nations began a dialogue with Iran, but he didn't- merely noting that sanctions against Iran well pre-dated his own Administration. The discussion on the question at hand- the situation in the Darfur region of the Sudan- was pretty much a "wash", each candidate well stating his respective views. Kerry 10, Bush 9 (cumulative: Kerry 144, Bush 135).
Round 16-- Question asked of President Bush: Clearly, as we have heard, major policy differences between the two of you. Are there also underlying character issues that you believe, that you believe are serious enough to deny Senator Kerry the job as Commander-in-Chief of the United States?
President Bush responded: Whew! That's a loaded question. Well, first of all, I admire Senator Kerry's service to our country, I admire the fact that he is a great dad. I appreciate the fact that his daughters have been so kind to my daughters in what has been a pretty hard experience for, I guess, young girls- seeing their dads out there campaigning. I admire the fact that he served for 20 years in the Senate, although I'm not so sure I admire the record. I won't hold it against him that he went to Yale: nothing wrong with that!
My concerns about the Senator is that, in the course of this campaign, I've been listening very carefully to what he says and he changes positions on the war in Iraq- he changes positions on something as fundamental as what you believe in your core, in your heart of hearts, is right in Iraq. You cannot lead if you send mixed messages. Mixed messages send the wrong signals to our troops: mixed messages send the wrong signals to our allies, mixed messages send the wrong signals to the Iraqi citizens and that's my biggest concern about my opponent. I admire his service but I just know how this world works and that, in the councils of government, there must be certainty from the U.S. President. Of course, we change tactics when need to- but we never change our beliefs, the strategic beliefs that are necessary to protect this country in the world.
Senator Kerry rebutted: Well, first of all, I appreciate enormously the personal comments the President just made and I share them with him. I think only if you're doing this- and he's done it more than I have in terms of the Presidency- can you begin to get a sense of what it means to your families and it's tough. And so I acknowledge his daughters- I've watched them, I've chuckled a few times at some of their comments...
President Bush broke in with a bit of humor: I'm trying to put a leash on them.
Senator Kerry replied in kind: Well- I've learned not to do that. And I have great respect and admiration for his wife- I think she's a terrific person and a great First Lady.
But we do have differences: I'm not going to talk about a difference of character- I don't think that's my job or my business, but let me talk about something that the President just sort of finished up with: Maybe someone would call it a character trait, maybe somebody wouldn't- but this issue of certainty. It's one thing to be certain, but you can be certain and be wrong- it's another to be certain and be right, or to be certain and be moving in the right direction, or be certain about a principle and then learn new facts and take those new facts and put them to use in order to change and get your policy right.
What I worry about with the President is that he's not acknowledging what's on the ground, he's not acknowledging the realities of North Korea, he's not acknowledging the truth of the science of stem-cell research or of global warming and other issues- and certainty sometimes can get you in trouble.
The President further responded: Well, listen, I fully agree that one should shift tactics, and we will in Iraq. Our commanders have got all the flexibility to do what is necessary to succeed. But what I won't do is change my core values because of politics or because of pressure and it is one of the things I've learned in the White House- that there is enormous pressure on the President and he cannot wilt under that pressure: otherwise, the world won't be better off.
Senator Kerry further rebutted: I have no intention of wilting: I've never wilted in my life and I've never wavered in my life. I know exactly what we need to do in Iraq and my position has been consistent: Saddam Hussein was a threat- he needed to be disarmed. We needed to go to the U.N.- the President needed the authority to use force in order to be able to get him to do something 'cause he never did it without the threat of force. But we didn't need to rush to war without a plan to win the peace.
Scoring-- Round 16: The President wisely stayed away from such material as that put forth by groups such as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth; likewise, Senator Kerry equally wisely stayed away from questioning President Bush's service in the National Guard back in the Vietnam era (as many Democratic activists have been urging). Thus, neither candidate at all got blown up by this- as the President himself noted- "loaded question". The personal comments were touching and well suggest that, while the political barbs between the two men are ofttimes harsh, they don't appear to be personal (regardless of how personal some of the more overzealous hard core supporters of each candidate might be!). Senator Kerry did effectively hit the President on the issue of "certainty" (what Kerry's more hardcore supporters would probably refer to as "stubbornness") but President Bush then pretty well deflected this (any difference between the two men on what is essentially a philosophical disagreement seems to be more one of semantics): Kerry, however, once again was forced to confront the essential paradox of his position on the Iraq war and whether it was, or was not, a mistake and, once again, did so rather ineffectively (if Saddam was, indeed, a threat and, as the Massachusetts Senator himself acknowledged, "needed to be disarmed" and would not have done so, again as Kerry acknowledged, "without the threat of force", then- in the end- does it really matter as to the methodology used by the Bush Administration to so disarm him [outside of Kerry's earlier argument re: how going into Iraq might have diverted military resources from the hunt for Osama bin Laden]? Kerry's argument in relation to the Bush Administration having made Saddam a higher priority than Osama is far more effective than arguments that President Bush should have waited for further United Nations resolutions or new diplomatic efforts and sanctions [these latter only serve to highlight that of which many moderates are wary re: Senator Kerry]). The President, thus, collects his first win since back in Round 9! Bush 10, Kerry 9 (cumulative: Kerry 153, Bush 145).
Round 17-- Question asked of Senator Kerry: If you are elected President, what will you take to that office thinking is the single most serious threat to the national security of the United States?
Senator Kerry responded: Nuclear proliferation... There's some 600-plus tons of unsecured material still in the former Soviet Union and Russia: at the rate that the President is currently securing that, it'll take 13 years to get it. I did a lot of work on this: I wrote a book about it several years ago- maybe six, seven years ago- called The New War, which saw the difficulties of this international criminal network- and, back then, we intercepted a suitcase in a Middle Eastern country with nuclear materials in it and the black market sale price was about $250 million.
Now, there are terrorists trying to get their hands on that stuff today and this President, I regret to say, has secured less nuclear material in the last two years since 9/11 than we did in the two years preceding 9/11. We have to do this job and, to do the job, you can't cut the money for it. The President actually cut the money for it: you have to put the money into it and the funding and the leadership and part of that leadership is sending the right message to places like North Korea.
Right now the President is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to research bunker-busting nuclear weapons- the United States is pursuing a new set of nuclear weapons. It doesn't make sense! You talk about mixed messages! We're telling other people "you can't have nuclear weapons" but we're pursuing a new nuclear weapon that we might even contemplate using. Not this President: I'm going to shut that program down and we're going to make it clear to the world we're serious about containing nuclear proliferation. And we're going to get the job of containing all of that nuclear material in Russia done in four years and we're going to build the strongest international network to prevent nuclear proliferation. This is the scale of what President Kennedy set out to do with the Nuclear Test Ban treaty- it's our generation's equivalent and I intend to get it done.
President Bush rebutted: Actually, we've increased funding for dealing with nuclear proliferation about 35 percent since I've been the President. Secondly-- well, first of all, I agree with my opponent that the biggest threat facing this country is weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terrorist network and that's why proliferation is one of the centerpieces of a multipronged strategy to make the country safer. My Administration started what's called the Proliferation Security Initiative: over 60 nations involved with disrupting the transshipment of information and/or weapons of mass destruction materials and we've been effective.
We busted the A.Q. Khan network: this was a proliferator out of Pakistan that was selling secrets to places like North Korea and Libya. We convinced Libya to disarm. It's a central part of dealing with weapons of mass destruction and proliferation. I'll tell you another way to help protect America in the long run is to continue with missile defenses and we've got a robust research and development program that has been ongoing during my Administration. We'll be implementing a missile-defense system relatively quickly and that is another way to help deal with the threats that we face in the 21st Century. My opponent is opposed to the missile defenses.
Moderator Lehrer interrupted: So it's correct to say... that both of you agree- if you are re-elected, Mr. President, and if you [meaning Senator Kerry] are elected- the single most serious threat, both of you believe, is nuclear proliferation?
President Bush answered: In the hands of a terrorist enemy.
Senator Kerry then chimed in: Weapons of mass destruction, nuclear proliferation- but, again, the test of the difference between us: the President has had four years to do something about it and North Korea's got more weapons, Iran is moving towards weapons, and- at his pace- it'll take 13 years to secure those weapons in Russia. I'm going to do it in four years and I'm going to immediately set out to have bilateral talks with North Korea.
President Bush came back: Again, I can't tell you how big a mistake I think that is- to have bilateral talks with North Korea: it's precisely what Kim Jong-il wants. It'll cause the six-party talks to evaporate; it means that China no longer is involved in convincing, along with us, Kim Jong-il to get rid of his weapons: it's a big mistake to do that. We must have China's leverage on Kim Jong-il, besides ourselves- and, if you enter bilateral talks, they'll be happy to walk away from the table. I don't think that'll work.
Scoring-- Round 17: Both candidates well stated their positions against nuclear proliferation and both clearly agreed with each other that the principal threat to the United States would be, say, suitcase-sized nuclear devices in the hands of terrorists. President Bush might well have won this round because he deftly defended himself against Senator Kerry's claim that he was cutting money from anti-proliferation efforts but the President never really answered the Massachusetts Senator's claim that it would take far too long to secure nuclear material in the former Soviet Union under Bush's own initiatives and the reasoning behind the President's notion that China would so quickly and easily wash their hands of putting pressure on North Korea re: that country's nuclear weapons program should the U.S. supplement multi-lateral talks with direct bilateral talks- as Kerry wants to do- was, as when he brought it up earlier in the Debate, not very well explained. Kerry 10, Bush 9 (cumulative: Kerry 163, Bush 154).
Round 18-- Question asked of President Bush: President Putin and Russia. Did you misjudge him or do you feel that what he is doing in the name of antiterrorism by changing some democratic processes is OK?
President Bush responded: No, I don't think it's OK, and said so publicly. I think that there needs to be checks and balances in a Democracy and made that very clear that, by consolidating power in the central government, he's sending a signal to the Western world and the United States that perhaps he doesn't believe in checks and balances- and I've told him that. He's also a strong ally in the war on terror: listen, they went through a horrible situation in Beslan, where these terrorists gunned down young school kids- that's the nature of the enemy, by the way; that's why we need to be firm and resolved in bringing them to justice- that's precisely what Vladimir Putin understands as well.
I've got a good relationship with Vladimir and it's important that we do have a good relation because that enables me to better comment to him, and to better to discuss with him, some of the decisions he makes. I found that, in this world, that it's important to establish good personal relationships with people so that, when you have disagreements, you're able to disagree in a way that is effective. And so I've told him my opinion. I look forward to discussing it more with him as time goes on. Russia is a country in transition: Vladimir is going to have to make some hard choices- and I think it's very important for the American President, as well as other Western leaders, to remind him of the great benefits of Democracy, that Democracy will best help the people realize their hopes and aspirations and dreams. And I will continue working with him over the next four years.
Senator Kerry rebutted: Well, let me just say quickly that I've had an extraordinary experience of watching up close and personal that transition in Russia because I was there right after the transformation and I was probably one of the first Senators- along with Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire, a former senator- to go down into the KGB underneath Treblinka Square and see reams of files with names in them: it sort of brought home the transition to Democracy that Russia was trying to make. I regret what's happened in these past months and I think it goes beyond just the response to terror: Mr. Putin now controls all the television stations, his political opposition is being put in jail- and I think it's very important to the United States, obviously, to have a working relationship that is good. This is a very important country to us- we want a partnership, but we always have to stand up for Democracy. As George Will said the other day, "Freedom on the march- not in Russia right now."
Now, I'd like to come back for a quick moment, if I can, to that issue about China and the talks because that's one of the most critical issues here: North Korea. Just because the President says it can't be done- that you'd lose China- doesn't mean it can't be done. I mean, this is the President who said "There were weapons of mass destruction", said "mission accomplished", said we could fight the war on the cheap- none of which were true. We could have bilateral talks with Kim Jong-il and we can get those weapons at the same time as we get China because China has an interest in the outcome, too.
President Bush further responded: You know my opinion on North Korea- I can't say it any more plainly.
Moderator Lehrer interrupted: Well, but when he used the word "truth" again- talking about the truth of the matter, he used the word "truth" again- did that raise any hackles with you?
President Bush replied: Oh, I'm a pretty calm guy. I don't take it personally... You know, we looked at the same intelligence and came to the same conclusion: that Saddam Hussein was a grave threat and I don't hold it against him that he said "grave threat". I'm not going to go around the country saying he didn't tell the truth, when he looked at the same intelligence I did.
Senator Kerry further rebutted: It was a threat- that's not the issue: the issue is what you do about it. The President said he was going to build a true coalition, exhaust the remedies of the U.N. and go to war as a last resort. Those words really have to mean something and, unfortunately, he didn't go to war as a last resort. Now we have this incredible mess in Iraq - $200 billion! It's not what the American People thought they were getting when they voted.
Scoring- Round 18: Senator Kerry's series of six rounds in a row won (from Rounds 10 through 15) had already pretty much wrapped up this Debate in Kerry's favor (at least insofar as the Scoring System we are here using on 'The Green Papers' might be concerned!) but this last round was to prove a rather bad round for the President. He properly chided Russian President Putin for beginning to do at least some of the same things that other leaders (a Kim Jong-il, a Saddam Hussein) would have been well scored for having done (though, to be fair, Putin has not gone anywhere near the lengths of these present and former dictators) but then started referring to the Russian President as "Vladimir" as if he were some kind of fishing buddy with whom the President was merely having a disagreement about the real size of a fish "Vladimir" might have caught! This at least somewhat undermined the emphatic statement "No, I don't think it's OK" coming from the same man who knocked the Taliban out of power in Afghanistan and deposed Saddam. In addition, Bush's "well, I have to work with Vladimir Putin re: the war on terror, despite his backtracking on democratic reforms" attitude appears almost a mirror image of that which Bush's own supporters fear about John Kerry- that Kerry would be far too cozy with, among others, France re: Kerry's clear hope he can extricate U.S. forces out of Iraq; likewise, can Kerry supporters now legitimately fear that the President is far too cozy with a less-than-democratic Russia re: Bush's pushes forward his vision of the War on International Terrorism (not to also mention what this might well portend re: such things as the PATRIOT Act and its application here in the United States!). For his part, Senator Kerry once again brought up the issue of North Korea and China's relationship thereto, making- in effect- the same argument I myself made in my parenthetical statement re: the Scoring of the previous round (that is, how would the U.S. having bilateral talks with North Korea virtually guarantee China would then no longer wish to be engaged?-- again, the President did not at all explain, saying simply [where not also rather dismissively] "you know my opinion on North Korea- I can't say it any more plainly". When the President tried to turn the discussion one last time to his complaints about the Massachusetts Senator's allegedly inconsistent positions on Iraq (something the Bush campaign clearly wanted to make the principal focus of this Foreign Policy debate, hence it was evidently rather important for the President to get at least one more "dig" in on this score), it was an altogether ineffective gambit and it only ended up giving Senator Kerry the opportunity to finish the Debate proper on a strong note with one more blistering blast at the Bush Administration's approach to Iraq. Kerry 10, Bush 8.
It is the position of 'The Green Papers' that any Opening and Closing Statements at these Debates, being largely repetitions of the messages of each candidate's campaign and not at all responses to "off the cuff" questions for which the candidates cannot prepare in advance, are not really part of the Debate itself. Thus, the Closing Statements from each candidate are not included herein and do not factor into the
FINAL SCORE: Senator Kerry- 173, President Bush- 162.
Well, it appears that when Senator Kerry declaimed "Bring-- it-- on!" re: a debate on National Security issues some months ago, he was- indeed- right to have so welcomed it. The Massachusetts Senator, for the most part, well stated both what he would do if elected President re: Foreign Policy as well as continuing to hammer on what he thinks the Bush Administration did wrong. President Bush did not really do as badly as my score might, at first glance, seem to indicate (though a 11-point deficit is far more than any margin by which then-Governor George W. Bush lost any of the Debates he had had with then-Vice President Al Gore four years ago)- as is usual in these Debates, at least one or two of the 10-9 scores in favor of one of the candidates could well have been scored the other way, which would have changed the final score (even so, it is quite clear that Senator Kerry won overall solely on the basis of content)- but the President did falter more than enough in a subject that is, in my opinion, going to be the key issue in this Presidential Election (as well as an issue that usually should more enhance the re-election chances for a White House incumbent).
Too often, the President too weakly defended his Foreign Policy positions (though, yes, he had his moments of strong defense of his positions as well-- it was just far too uneven on the President's part): I don't know whether the President was largely unprepared for Kerry being able to make his points generally forcefully or if he was just being all too dismissive of criticism of his policies in general ("I'm the President, I know what I'm doing, leave me alone and let me do what I have to do"). This does not at all bode well for President Bush on these issues so critical in this Presidential Election campaign and actually gives credence to the charge by many Democrats that the President can come off as an arrogant "if *I* say it's so, then it must be so"-type guy. By contrast, Senator Kerry- though he started off with his usual campaign platitudes in the very earliest rounds of this Debate- thereafter slowly built his case for his views and in a manner far more likely to attract the moderate, undecided voter from whom either candidate will need support in order to win this election.
Neither candidate made any very serious mistakes in this Debate, by the way- note that there were no 10-7 scores in my scoring of any of this Debate's rounds: thus, there were no major gaffes or real "zinger"s (the few attempts at "gotcha" by each candidate largely faltered) in this Debate. But it is very clear that John Kerry is back and it will be interesting to see how the polls might begin to look in a few days to discern if what I have perceived gave any real boost to Senator Kerry (my own advice: ignore the polls you will see in the first couple days-- wait until Sunday into Monday [3 and 4 October] as we head into the Vice Presidential Debate next Tuesday [5 October]). It will also be interesting to see how Vice President Dick Cheney might attempt to rectify this during his own debate with Senator John Edwards and, then, how President Bush does re: any Foreign Policy questions that will come up in the "Town Meeting"-style Presidential Debate next Friday [8 October].
One more thing: I have to here say that this was one of the best Debates- as debate (admittedly within the confines of a format that would not at all past muster re: any high school Debating Team!). Precisely because there were no major flubs or really serious "zinger"s that stuck, there was actually real give and take on the Foreign Policy issues of the day- moreso than I have seen in Presidential Debates past (I am too young to remember the Kennedy/Nixon debates- though, from what I have read, I would have to say that this Debate came closest to the spirit of those 1960 face-offs than any of the Debates from 1976 on [all of which I do remember]). It appeared to me that both men, for the most part, tried their utmost to concentrate on presenting their own positions fully- rather than trying too hard to nail his opponent- and, for the most part, each well responded to the views of the other while fairly criticizing each other where each felt it was warranted (there was nothing so "over the top" in anything either candidate might have said). It was not at all a "dirty" debate and was actually refreshing!
We'll just have to see how long this spirit might now last, however.