I thought I'd be online right after the debate ranting about everything I'd seen. But, like the last time, I decided to digest it a bit, watch the TV pundits spin it and read the other blog reviews. I will, however, give my take:
I'm not sure who grabbed his collar and slammed him into the wall after the last debate but he seemed to have figured out that he had to change his stage presence and behavior. It is a sad state of affairs when people, myself included, give points for someone NOT acting like a spaced out nutcase. Truly, though, the only way he would have been worse was for him to have some kind of mental breakdown right on camera. So, at least initially, he was seemingly at an even keel.
Can't touch the Kennedy flub. I almost didn't catch it when he said "First, the National Journal named Senator Kennedy the most liberal senator of all." Did he really mean Kerry or did he forget who he was talking about?
Won't really touch the internets
faux pas. I guess if Gore invented it
, Bush can certainly have more than one.
But, I didn't like his answers to much of anything because he never really answered the questions that he was asked. He seemed to be turning himself inside out to keep from reacting to Kerry's answers. I kept saying "he's trying, he's trying." Then came Kerry's response to a question about a draft and his reiteration of his point about the US not having adequate alliances:
Our Guard and reserves have been turned into almost active duty. You've got people doing two and three rotations. You've got stop-loss policies, so people can't get out when they were supposed to. You've got a back-door draft right now.
And a lot of our military are underpaid. These are families that get hurt. It hurts the middle class. It hurts communities, because these are our first responders. And they're called up. And they're over there, not over here.
Now, I'm going to add 40,000 active duty forces to the military, and I'm going to make people feel good about being safe in our military, and not overextended, because I'm going to run a foreign policy that actually does what President Reagan did, President Eisenhower did, and others.
We're going to build alliances. We're not going to go unilaterally. We're not going to go alone like this president did.
That set the little monkey off! Furious George (as he has been pegged in the blogsphere), ended up shouting down Charlie Gibson (who was attempting to extend the question by asking about the back-door draft), pacing and yelling:
You tell Tony Blair we're going alone. Tell Tony Blair we're going alone. Tell Silvio Berlusconi we're going alone. Tell Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland we're going alone.
There are 30 countries there. It denigrates an alliance to say we're going alone, to discount their sacrifices. You cannot lead an alliance if you say, you know, you're going alone. And people listen. They're sacrificing with us
This was approximately 1/2 hour into the debate and he'd lost it. He looked like a two year old throwing a tantrum. Charlie Gibson then gave the floor back to Kerry who gave a great response (IMHO):
Mr. President, countries are leaving the coalition, not joining. Eight countries have left it.
If Missouri, just given the number of people from Missouri who are in the military over there today, were a country, it would be the third largest country in the coalition, behind Great Britain and the United States.
That's not a grand coalition.
The focus shifted off of Iraq at that point and on to domestic issues so Bush seemed to calm back down and turn into the class clown. He still didn't look Presidential and just served to irritate me - as usual. But, it was the response (or not) to the last question of the evening that sealed him as the arrogant SOB who will not admit he is wrong:
GRABEL: President Bush, during the last four years, you have made thousands of decisions that have affected millions of lives. Please give three instances in which you came to realize you had made a wrong decision, and what you did to correct it. Thank you.
BUSH: I have made a lot of decisions, and some of them little, like appointments to boards you never heard of, and some of them big.
And in a war, there's a lot of -- there's a lot of tactical decisions that historians will look back and say: He shouldn't have done that. He shouldn't have made that decision. And I'll take responsibility for them. I'm human.
But on the big questions, about whether or not we should have gone into Afghanistan, the big question about whether we should have removed somebody in Iraq, I'll stand by those decisions, because I think they're right.
That's really what you're -- when they ask about the mistakes, that's what they're talking about. They're trying to say, "Did you make a mistake going into Iraq?" And the answer is, "Absolutely not." It was the right decision.
Not only did he not answer her question, he basically scolded her and accused her of questioning his judgment in Iraq. I cannot imagine how she felt. Even if she had asked a direct question about Iraq, the presidential
thing would have been to politely answer without going back on the defensive telling everyone that he was right. I was embarrassed for him.
Ironically, the lesson on learned by the lastest person fired on The Apprentice was that it was good to be decisive but you could also be decisive and wrong! Bush needs to hear us say "George, You're Fired!"
Kerry definitely has the look and feel of a President and more and more people are realizing that. He was very calm and comfortable and had his facts down. I feel bad for people who need him to dumb down so that they can understand him. I feel bad that people need to hear monosyllabic words and one word solutions to complex problems. I need to hear long sentences with commas, colons, semi-colons and parentheses.
I think that he could have been a lot harder on Bush in a lot of ways. He should have made a point to use each rebuttal as a chance to point out that Bush hadn't answered the question he was asked.
One thing I liked was the way he addressed each questioner by name. When the woman named Nikki Washington asked President Bush what was his "plan to repair relations with other countries given the current situation ..." Bush went into some tangential mess about them not understanding our values and defending his decisions in Iraq and everything else people have criticized him about. When it was time for his rubuttal, Kerry addressed her question and told her he'd get back to her (after he responded to Bush's ramblings about being right). He didn't answer her during his allotted time but since the next question was his, he answered that person then came back to Ms. Washington's question and answered it AND he answered her again, by name, later on in the debate when he had another clear example.
In the end, the polls gave Kerry a narrow edge. I think basically Bush got credit for showing up and not looking like he was insane (though I have figured out who he reminds me of: Norman Bates in Psycho
... sitting with that odd smile). Still, that is KE04 3/BC04 0! The next debate should be a good one. It is totally on domestic issues. Kerry can make up ground and pound Bush on the sad state of economic affairs. He can't keep harping on what he did right in Iraq. I hope we've saved the best for last.