Debate Liveblogging

The townhall-style debate in Missouri is about to begin, as ABC admits that their concept of “fair and balanced” means favoring Kerry. Rumor has it that the audience has been spiked with a group of anti-Bush activists that intend to disrupt the debates. We’ll see if those rumors are true.

I had to listen in on the radio for the first part of the debate, so I’m already behind. So I’m going to be more general here.

We now have the clearest vision of what John Kerry’s foreign policy in the war on terrorism, and it’s frightening. The “right war” is Osama bin Laden – as if killing or capturing bin Laden would magically end this war. That alone should disqualify Kerry from the Presidency. Kerry thinks our “allies” such as France would have ever agreed to help defeat a regime that was paying them off.

Kerry is a sophist an idiot who hides his ignorance with rhetoric. His constant stream of lies about Tora Bora, about Shinseki, about the war are beyond disgusting.

Bush is much more fluid than he was last time, but I want to see him take Kerry by the balls and squeeze hard. Kerry’s full of shit. The President knows it. He needs to call him on it. He needs to start kicking ass and taking names here. He needs to tie Iraq into the war on terrorism in a larger way. If he doesn’t start doing this, he’s going to let Kerry lie his way through this. That is not acceptable.

Start pushing, Mr. President.

*8:25PM CST:* The question is on Iran. Kerry’s answer is the same rhetoric we’ve heard before. I think Bush is doing much better than he was. He still had some stumbles, but this format does work better for him. Bush’s answer was good, but he needs some more specifics.

*8:28PM CST:* The question is on the draft. At least Bush answered directly to this question. The draft rumor is a disgusting smear and completely false. We don’t need an army of conscripts, and the draft bill failed by a vote of 402-2. Bush should have mentioned that.

Kerry has one hell of a poker face… either that or the Botox has taken its toll. Demeanor is important in these things, and Kerry does carry himself well.

Kerry’s listing the number of generals who support him. Bush should remind Kerry that 72% of our Armed Forces support his reelection.

Kerry’s comparing himself to Reagan. Jesus Christ.

Bush just went ballistic. Hot damn. This is what he needed to do. I think he’s pissed, and he has every right to be. This isn’t about the number of troops, and if Kerry thinks that he can get more troops from anyone else, he’s full of shit. Bush should call him on it. Ask him which countries? How many troops? Don’t let him get away with this. Bush is starting to engage with Kerry, and I think that’s what he needs to do. It’s fine to show some emotion – Bush is best when he does.

Bush is right about staying on the offense in this war – I think that’s a point that he needs to hit on as much as he can. We have a choice: fight here, or fight there.

Kerry claims that he’ll never stop at anything to stop the terrorists. Well, except pissing off France. Remember, he doesn’t go to war without a plan to win the peace? What is his plan? More sanctions.

Bush has a plan – it’s called the spread of liberty. It’s the only way to win, and I would have liked him to elaborate more on this. It’s important to tie this concept into the larger war and why Iraq is part of that. That’s difficult to do in 90 seconds or a minute, but Bush needs to do this. He’s done it in his campaign speeches, and it’s important he does this now.

*8:40PM CST:* The question is on the importation of Canadian drugs. It’s clear that the questioner was a Democrat – he’s grinning at Kerry’s response. Swing voters my ass. I would have liked Bush to hit on the fact that the reason Canadian prices are cheaper is because of price controls – I would have asked the audience if the drugs that fight AIDS or cancer are worth cheaper Viagra.

I like how Bush is question what Kerry did in the Senate for two decades on Medicare. Apparently Kerry thinks that we fixed Medicare in 1997… which is asinine. A Band-Aid is not a fix.

*8:43PM CST:* This question is a hardball for Kerry about his association with John Edwards. Bush should bring up how medical malpractice insurance has been driving out doctors from states like Missouri.

For the love of God, we know your website addresses. Plugging them is a waste of time, and if you can’t answer the question succinctly then you don’t know enough about your own platform. This applies to both of the candidates.

So Kerry wants to split catastrophic cases into a separate federal fund? That’s a great idea – I’m sure a fund like that would be solvent for all of five seconds.

Bush is hammering Kerry on spending. Granted, Bush’s record on spending is abysmal as well, but Kerry is a tax-and-spend liberal. What would be the tax rate necessary to get the “rich” to caught up $2.2 trillion in new spending? Bush is hammering Kerry on government-run healthcare. This has resonance with conservatives, but he needs to elucidate more on this – call it Hillarycare redux. Government-run healthcare is a dead issue, as it was in 1994.

*8:49PM CST:* The question on Bush is on spending. Now this is a good question, a real hardball for Bush. Bush’s spending habits have been profligate – but Kerry’s would be more so. Not all of this spending was for defense. (I’m thinking the expensive Medicare prescription drug benefit which was a bust for Bush.) Bush needs to reassert his fiscal conservatism – what little there is. At least Bush is defending tax cuts, which are one part of the equation for economic growth. But growth in government and deficits are an anchor on economic growth.

Kerry responds. The surplus was a *projected* surplus – which was never likely to have materialized. Kerry wants to put money in my pocket. Good, give me a buck and get lost. Because we all know that Kerry is all about tax cuts, just like all liberal Democrats are.

Bush still seems defensive, but he’s much more lively than he was last time. There’s some real clash here, which makes for a much better debate than the last time.

*8:54PM CST:* The question is asking Kerry to look right into the camera. I think I just saw him on Star Trek last hour… It’s a pointless question. What is he going to say? “Well, shucks, I was just shittin’ y’all about that tax cut thing. Sorry there!”

Kerry is defending PAYGO budgeting. On that small point. I’m with Kerry. But Bush still needs to call him on this. There aren’t enough people making $200,000+ to make the difference in budgeting for what Kerry is planning to spend. Bush hit on this – you can’t make up $2.2 trillion in spending with $600 billion in new revenue.

Bush is *much* more natural now. He’s actually holding his own against Kerry. He’s still not quite the orator that Kerry is, but he’s infinitely less atriocious than he was last time.

Kerry is challenging Bush’s numbers. If I were Bush I’d be telling people to go to (breaking my own rules I know) and tell them to get their calculators out. That would get his web people scrambling.

At the end of the day, I don’t think anyone thinks that a Democrat is going to lower their taxes.

*9:00PM CST:* The question is about the environment. Bush is flubbing this answer. I’d mention that Bush himself lives in one of the most environmentally friendly homes on Earth, and apply those concepts to his policies. Talk about forest management a bit. Talk about the fact that the people who are some of the strongest supporters of Bush are the people who live in America’s interior. At least Bush did raise the issue of forest fires, which I think is important.

What the hell was that about the Red Sox? Kerry is lagging on the question – interesting how he feels the need to dodge that “liberal” label. The environment is a Democratic issue as it is, the issue of suburban liberals whose only interaction with the interior of this country is a camping trip once in a while.

Kerry hit on Kyoto. Bush is right to criticize him on this. Kyoto is a waste. I rather liked the shot about Europe in there as well.

Kerry was in Kyoto. Was that like being in Cambodia?

*9:04PM CST:* The question is about jobs. It’s a pretty good question. In some ways American labor has priced itself out of the market, but that’s a minor figure. Bush needs to note that the reason why we’re losing manufacturing jobs is because we make better products. It’s not going to be a popular answer, but it’s the truth.

Kerry is right that the cost of health care is an issue. It certainly is – which is why we need to use the power of the market to lower costs, not more government mismanagement.

Kerry’s on the defensive here – I think Bush has hit on something. Kerry knows that the liberal label sank Dukakis – and he wants to avoid it. I think we’re going to see this leveraged in the next few weeks.

Bush hits on medical liability reform as one of the aspects of lowering costs. Kerry says that Bush doesn’t have a plan – Bush responds with a good one. I would have expanded on the issue of ownership here, but I suspect we’ll hear more of that in the final debate next week.

Bush is also hitting on the taxes on small business that would result in job loss. This is true.

Gibson nails Kerry on his tax incentives. Kerry’s assertion about Bush owning a timber company was a great opportunity for Bush to have one of those classic “WTF?” moments. Nice response by Bush on that. Kerry also said that his tax incentive plan won’t work – nice.

*9:10PM CST:* The question is on the PATRIOT Act. The problem with these attacks on the PATRIOT Act is that 60% of American voters support it. Bush is right that the PATRIOT Act still requires a court order – I like my line that we shouldn’t give Osama bin Laden more rights under the law than Tony Soprano – if Bush wants to use that later, he’s free to do so…

What person is Kerry talking about who was arrested for 8 months and detained? I’d be questioning on that. What’s interesting is that after giving this litany of how bad the PATRIOT Act is – then he admits he voted for it. So Kerry believes in the PATRIOT Act, except it’s flawed, and he’s not a flip-flopper. The sad thing is that people don’t think critically enough to spot this BS for what it is.

*9:14PM CST:* A pointed question about stem cells – a hardball for Kerry. I like that she delinates between adult and fetal stem cell research. Bush has an opportunity to show his pro-life cred here. If Karl Rove is right that evangelicals need to come out in droves to win this election, now is Bush’s best chance to do it.

Personally, I’m somewhat on Kerry’s side on this – but embryonic stem cells aren’t a silver bullet either. However, can one truly be ethical to extract embryonic stem cells in a process that essentially ends a life?

Bush was set up with a nice softball here, and I don’t think he did the right thing here. Kerry is right that Bush’s position is a thin blue line. But arguing that the stem cell lines are contaminated by mouse cells seems like a bizarre assertion. I’m not a biologist here, but that seems somewhat odd.

*9:19PM CST:* The question is on Supreme Court vacancies. Bush is right to connect the issue of Supreme Court vacancies to social issus such as the Pledge of Allegiance. Although the connection to Dred Scott seems like one hell of a stretch – why isn’t Bush bringing up the issue of gay marriage that plays right to the majority of Americans? It’s the obvious tack here…

Kerry is right that Bush wants conservative justices on the bench – because strict constructionism *is* a conservative position. Basically, Kerry is making the exact same argument that Bush is making, but the question is what is the definition of the law?

*9:23PM CST:* Another question on abortion, addressed to Kerry. Kerry’s position on abortion is as incoherent as his position on Iraq – if not even more so. The belief in life is not an article of religious faith – it is the supreme task of governance. Salus populi suprema lex – especially for the most vulnerable. If Kerry believes that life begins at conception, he has the moral, ethical, and legal obligation to protect that life. His answer is BS.

Bush responds. I like his reaction. Kerry’s answer was a convoluted mess. Bush’s answer is clear and concise. The abortion issue isn’t going to cause a swing in this race, which is why it’s somewhat academic. However, if Bush is focusing on the millions of evangelical voters in this country, this is the way to do it.

Kerry’s spinning once again. Partial birth abortion is not a medically necessary procedure, and the AMA itself has said so.

*9:27PM CST:* Last question. An interesting question, although somewhat of a softball for Kerry. If I were Bush, I’d have the steel tariffs on that list right away. Bush is justifiying his decision on Iraq – I’m not sure that answer will fly, and it sounds more defense than it should be. I’d say not clearing out Fallujah is another one. His answer about some of his appointments (Paul O’Neill is certainly on that list) is still somewhat of a dodge.

And Kerry takes that softball and swings. It’s the same thing we’ve heard before.

Bush brings up the $87 billion. If I were Bush I’d elaborate. It is *never* acceptable to shortchange our troops, no matter what the contrivances he uses to justify it.

*9:33PM CST:* Kerry’s final statement. Kerry keeps assertion that he would never cede our national security to anyone else – which undercuts his entire assertion about allies. If our “allies” say no would John Kerry still take action? The answer to anyone who knows John Kerry is clearly no.

Bush has an opportunity to hit back on this – he needs to take it. Our “allies” were on the take to Saddam Hussein. It’s not doing what passes muster in Brussels or New York – it’s doing what’s right for this country. Kerry cannot be trusted to do that, and Bush needs to hit him on it.

*9:35PM CST:* Bush’s final statement. Bush’s vision is optimistic, while Kerry has been a sea of pessimism. It’s an interesting contrast, and one that generally favors Bush. Bush’s delivery is vastly, vastly, vastly better than it was in the last debate. He’s much more natural than he was. All in all, not a bad performance.

Concluding thoughts and notes later.

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