First, you know I am a Bush supporter. Having said that, I will try very hard to give an objective view and act like an undecided voter
President Bush: my issues with his performance:
- He said "uummmm" too many times. I believe some folks were warning him about this. When you say "uuummm" in a meeting or in public speaking, or particularly when answering questions, you will appear to be searching for answers.
- In a continuation of above, he appeared to be searching for answers as if he was not prepared for the debate.
- He had some answers, but he used them over and over again. Which would be good accept that it was like a boxer that only has two moves and couldn't remember how to deliver the upper cut.
- He tried to go "nice". I mean, he is usually a nice likable guy, but he only let out a few belts against his opponents behavior and capabilities. Kerry was not as nice. Bush tried to recover, but he was already angry and tried to come up with responses that he was not prepared to make. He also appeared to be straining at the leash. He wanted to say somethings, but it was like his people had beat him over the head about keeping "positive" when this was a no holds barred debate and he should have known that based on the attacks the Democrats had been putting out.
- He did not respond directly and with facts to a number of Kerry attacks.
- He acted distracted at times. Possibly he came into this debate thinking he had the "security" and "foreign policy" issues all sown up.
Candidate Kerry: my issues with his performance:
- His hand movements seemed rehearsed, but not in conjunction with his points. It seemed a bit like the guy at your business party that had one or two drinks and gets in your space. It reminded me a bit of the photo where it looked like he was poking the Marine in the chest while trying to make his point. That doesn't always come off well with folks who like their "personal" space.
- I know it's been said, but who ever told him to go get that tan, or make up, or whatever it was, that was a mistake. He seemed a bit "fake". Like some housewife who is getting ready to go on a cruise and prepares by going just a little too long to the tanning salon or puts on that fake tan stuff in hopes she doesn't look like a dead white fish the first time she goes to the pool. He should have avoided that.
- He said he had a plan and did not really outline it but told people to go to his website to see what it was. The debates are supposed to help you figure out what the candidate stands for and that was not helpful. Maybe he was counting on people NOT looking and just listening to how he presented?
- A lot of talk about what was wrong or done wrong with only a few snippets of his own thoughts. A lot of "I agree, but I would have done it better" without exact points about how that would happen in Iraq. Seems like the guy that is always bragging at the company party about how his boss stinks and he could do his job better.
- He only separated himself from the President on a few points. Most of his plan is the same as the President's aside from getting more countries involved. But he did not outline how he would do that and still hasn't. Undecideds may still have a hard time figuring out what is different.
- He alluded to two things that would not go over well: The first would be the "global test" and the second, which his handlers probably beat him over, was his near fall into the "I was in Viet Nam" talking points.
- He made some verbal mistakes which will be picked apart. For instance the "I was in Russia at the KGB headquarters in Treblinka Square". He should have avoided that because now he will be researched and folks will point out that he is no better than the President at remembering people and places. Treblinka is not a square in Russia. It was a Nazi death camp where some of his relatives were killed. They will be killing him on that as well as reviewing the visit to Russia. He has a tendency to try to put stories into context of the here and now and that often leads to over exaggerations of his own performance. Another instance would have been when he did his brief mention of "the war" (ie, Viet Nam) when he claimed to know first hand what it was like to lose troops. No one died in his unit while he was in Viet Nam although I'm sure his group can spin it to make it look like he was talking in general. But he wasn't. These types of things can get him into trouble.
- Occassionally seemed to be a lecturer, like a father telling his children that they did bad, now he must fix it and they should never do that again. Still a bit condescending. That didn't resonate well with me.
Over all, Kerry seemed more prepared, took notes and used them to address the President. The President seemed more like he was relying on his talking points, didn't respond to as many of Kerry's hits, seemed more on the defensive than offensive.
The issues...Point Scoring Lines:
- Bush: 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, is to constantly stay on the offensive and, at the same time, spread liberty.
- Kerry: (About Usama bin Laden)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.
- Kerry: The president moved the troops, so he's got 10 times the number of troops in Iraq than he has in Afghanistan, where Usama bin Laden is. Does that mean that Saddam Hussein was 10 times more important than Usama bin Laden
- Bush: (on inspections in Iraq)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.
- Bush: 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. (...)And when Iraq if free, America will be more secure.
- Kerry: 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.
- Bush: 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.
- Kerry: Let me just quickly say, at the current pace, the president will not secure the loose material in the Soviet Union -- former Soviet Union for 13 years. I'm going to do it in four years. And we're going to keep it out of the hands of terrorists.
- Bush: But the best way to protect this homeland is to stay on the offense(...)But again, I repeat to my fellow citizens, the best way to protection is to stay on the offense.
- Kerry: 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.
- Bush: 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 the 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.
- Kerry: 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
- Bush: 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"? Not a message a commander in chief gives, or this is a "great diversion."
- Kerry: 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?
- Kerry: 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."
- Bush: 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. We're a grand diversion. Join us for a war that is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time?"
- Kerry: 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.
- Bush: You cannot lead the world if you do not honor the contributions of those who are with us. He called them coerced and the bribed. That's not how you bring people together.
- Kerry: 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.
- Bush: 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.
- Kerry: 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.
- Bush: 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.
- Bush: That's what distinguishes us from the enemy. Everybody matters. But I think it's worth it, Jim.
- Kerry: 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.
- Kerry: 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.
- Kerry: I will make a flat statement: The United States of America has no long-term designs on staying in Iraq.
- Bush: 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.
- Kerry: 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.
- Bush: 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.
- Bush: But by speaking clearly and sending messages that we mean what we say, we've affected the world in a positive way.
- Kerry: Saddam Hussein didn't attack us. Usama bin Laden attacked us. Al Qaeda attacked us. And when we had Usama 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 number one criminal and terrorist.
- Bush: 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.
- Kerry: Thirty-five to forty countries in the world had a greater capability of making weapons at the moment the president invaded than Saddam Hussein
- Kerry: (on world credibility/leadership)You have to earn that respect. And I think we have a lot of earning back to do.
- Bush: Let me -- I'm not exactly sure what you mean, "passes the global test," you take preemptive action if you pass a global test. My attitude is you take preemptive action in order to protect the American people, that you act in order to make this country secure.(...)But I'm not going to make decisions that I think are wrong for America.
- Kerry: 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 curb the nuclear possibilities in Iran. I believe we could have done better.
- Bush: The minute we have bilateral talks, the six-party talks will unwind. That's exactly what Kim Jong Il wants
- Bush: 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.
- Kerry: But this issue of certainty. It's one thing to be certain, but you can be certain and be wrong.
- Bush: But what I won't do is change my core values because of politics or because of pressure.
- Kerry: (on major threats-nuclear proliferation)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.
- Bush: (on Russia)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.
- Kerry: 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.
- Kerry: (back to Iraq)It was a threat. That's not the issue. The issue is what you do about it.
- Bush: (closing)We will continue to stay on the offense. We will fight the terrorists around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.
If you count it up, Bush has 22 scoring lines and Kerry as 23.
What the candidates should do next...
What Kerry Should Do:
- If he can get away from just having that part quoted, he can possibly hammer away at some undecideds who are worried that this IS the wrong war. Not because they don't believe Saddam was bad, but because they believe we have started something that was better left alone.
- He needs to get the message on constantly that it is going wrong. If certain cities are pacified in the next 30 days (which is starting to happen), he will have to hammer the point that it is FINALLY happening and the President made many costly mistakes on the way to this action.
- He needs to talk more about the President's inability to explain to the AMERICAN people what the situation is. Frankly, except for the east and west coasters, the whole UN, European allies thing doesn't really sink in. We don't care what they want or know or understand. It is what the American people understand or know and the President hasn't been good with this message. He has not done a significant job of linking Iraq to the war on terror outside of the lost cause of WMD. Kerry can keep on about not telling the people the plan.
- Misleading. Here he is only talking to his base. The rest of the country is not so quick to jump on the "misled" or "lied" to because they don't like to believe that of their country. He needs to get on message about "the plan" that didn't work and why the President can't tell the AMERICAN people how Iraq connects to terrorism.
- For security, he needs to constantly talk about getting the nuclear materials of other countries secured in order to keep them out of the terrorists hands. This will go a long way towards shoring up his security stance. He needs to be clear on how he will do that.
- He needs to talk more about how he will subdue Iran's nuclear ambitions through multilateral discussions. Everyone knows that war with Iran is not optimal at this time so everyone knows we have to have an alternative to slow up their progress.
- He's behind the eight ball because he has taken too long to get his message squared away.
What Bush should hammer Kerry on:
- Kerry has a plan. He says so. Where is it? On his website? He can't explain it in KISS? (Keep it simple stupid). If he can't explain it well and tells people to look it up themselves, they will disregard his message. This has been his problem all along.
- Nuclear proliferation. Giving Iran nuclear material and "test" them. Use the UN. This is not going to sit well with people who are already concerned about the possibility of Iran getting nukes. Bush needs to hammer away at the potential dangers this "plan" has.
- Nuclear proliferation. Stopping US nuclear bombs building. This is a point that Bush can definitely score the "security" issue on. With Kerry constantly talking about North Korea and Iran getting nuclear weapons, he then wants the US to stand down it's arsenal as an "example". Bush can make this a major issue along with Kerry's other stands to decrease intelligence spending and voting "no" on certain weapons programs. Bush can make it seem like Kerry is weak on security by telling folks he would give away our advantage over countries like China or North Korea or Iran. He also should concentrate on the history of countries like North Korea and Iran to disregard the US and international requests to stand down their nuclear capabilities and how canceling these programs would put us at a disadvantage.
- Passing the Global test. This has been an issue all along. Who decides the US security plan or actions? The UN? Our European or NATO allies? Kerry just handed it to the RNC and they should hammer on this repeatedly. He keeps saying that he won't give our decisions away to these people and in the same breath he says "pass the global test". Very bad senator.
- He's anti-war. Stay on that message. He'll sale out US security for "summits"
- International Treaties and organizations. The point about not joining the ICC in order to protect US citizens and US sovreignty is part of a whole parcel, but is a very good point. People are going to want the US to be the big dog. Not be subject to international laws at the whimsy of folks who may or may not like some action we take. He needs to refer to the constitution about the thoughts of our forefathers: we never give up sovreignty and we don't allow foreign countries to control the lives of our citizens. Not just on security, but every thing including the ICC. he can steer clear of the Kyoto treaty because people here in Missouri, for instance, don't understand, know or care what that treaty is about (except me of course). It doesn't do a thing for us. Although, the President might be able to get behind points like "unnecessary regulations that will raise the cost of things like fuel" and we aren't going to let some international voodoo control our economy or ability to produce.
- Did I say hammer home our Independence?
- Success in Iraq. Even though the President is on campaign, one thing he has not done and needs to get on message with is conditions in Iraq. Yes, he is optimistic, but he has been letting the media and the DNC define our status there. He needs to get back in front of Iraq and what's going on. Needs to point out successes and heroes. He can cut off Kerry's "failure" screed by getting his own message out.
- Get the message out about terrorism. It's been slipping. He needs to go full tilt at the fact that Osama bin Laden is wanted "dead or alive", but there are many out there who we need to round up as well. What is it that the terrorists want? Explain it better and how the war in Iraq works against the terrorists. Every speech needs to be about that.
One other area I found disingenuous but actually penned the President: France and Germany as allies and failing to bring them in. Now, folks like you and me reading this blog know that they were worms of the worst sort, but some common folks that don't really listen to all the "UN Food For Oil" scandal stuff, or selling Iraq arms, etc, don't know that these folks are very near to back stabbers and the President would probably like nothing better than to call them on it, but he can't because he is the President, we are at war and he needs allies in the future if he is re-elected. So, this is a point that Kerry can hammer endlessly without the President being able to give a good response as it will do exactly what he accuses Kerry of: undercutting our allies.
The President is stuck there, but he might be able to circumvent it a little more than just relying on our "30 nation" coalition which many folks look at in tangible and visible support, not the back end things (as important as they are) that some of these nations are doing. In which case, issues about getting other people involved only matters to the east and west coast. In the fly over world, we still have a deep sense of independence. Not as cosmopolitan. He should keep on message that he will get a coalition when it's possible, but if it's not, he will not hesitate to go it alone.
In regards to Darfur in Sudan. This won't get much traction for Kerry. Sadly for the Darfur refugees, people being killed in a country that has not direct impact (in people's perceptions) on them don't really count. Frankly, it has little to do with skin color and everything to do with the insular nature of folks who really just want to live quietly and make a living and care for their families. Darfur is only an issue on the coasts.
That's my take on the situation. The race will now tighten up unless the President can come back strong in his campaigns and in the next Presidential debates. I don't see the Cheney/Edwards debate getting as much attention from ordinary folks. They are mostly concerned with the head hancho position. The President will have to be a little more prepared and a little less reactive on the next debate.
Fox made an error: Bush: Actually, we've [decreased] funding for dealing with nuclear proliferation about 35 percent since I've been the president. [the president actually said "increased"]
Update: Fox has corrected their website. I sent an email this morning(3 AM) to FOX online and received the following reply at 9:03 AM:
You're right. I don't have to review . . . I watched it and remember it.
Thanks for pointing this out. It's being fixed immediately.