Skip to comments.Debate Score: Bush 1, Kerry 0
Posted on 10/01/2004 11:54:21 PM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
IN ORDER for the creeping dynamics of the race for the presidency to change as a result of the first presidential debate, two things had to happen: President Bush had to commit a major gaff and Democratic challenger Senator Kerry had to hit a home run. Neither happened. Still, this first debate offered an opportunity--as a result of the fact that the two participants performed so well--a real contrast between the candidates.
For all the harping before the first of the three scheduled debates, about lighting, about the agreed upon format--which is too restricting and does not allow for spontaneity or any kind of the give and take of a "real" debate--one must admit to the single virtue of last night's debate between President Bush and Senator Kerry in Coral Gables, Florida: it allowed the audience to judge the candidates more on message than on performance.
In broad terms, the differences between the candidates can be boiled down to a few key statements during the hour and thirty minute exchange.
By coin toss, Senator Kerry was given the opening question and statement, while President Bush was allowed the final closing remarks. The topic of tonight's debate was Foreign Policy.
Senator Kerry's main message is that Iraq constitutes the "wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time." Though he did not repeat these words, his answers to questions regarding Iraq and the War on Terror made clear that he continues his line of argument that Iraq was a "diversion" from the primary target of the War on Terror, Osama Bin Laden. He further says while he would not advocate pulling out of Iraq pre-maturely, that he has a plan that will effectively get new allies actively involved in the burden of Iraq so that the U.S. does not have to continue to shoulder "90% of the casualties and 90% of the cost." Central to Mr. Kerry's message tonight was that diplomacy ought to be formost in America's efforts to secure itself against the dangers of terrorism.
For his part, Mr. Bush continues to argue the message that he has been repeating since 9/11: that Iraq is a central front in the War on Terror, that America and the world are better off with Saddam Hussein out of power, and that the coalition forces fighting in Iraq are engaged in a noble and worthy cause for Iraq, for America, and for the world. In answer to Senator Kerry's opening statement, Presidant Bush said that 9/11 changed how America must look at the world, that 75% of the leadership of Al Queda had been captured or killed, that the Taliban has been removed from power in Afghanistan, that Saddam Hussein has been captured, and that, as a result of American leadership in the War on Terror, Libya, a former candidate for admission to the "axis of evil" has begun to disarm.
President Bush defended his administration by saying "I know how to lead. Not everybody agrees with the decisions I've made, but people understand where I stand. We have a solemn duty to defeat the ideology of hate." He went on to say that "we must never waiver" in the war on terror, that while the job is "tough," a "free Iraq is a major defeat to terrorism." Finally, at the end of his opening statement, the President said, "If we lose our will, we lose the war." Later, in answer to the moderator's direct question regarding whether the war in Iraq and on Terror was "worth it" in terms of casualties, President Bush said "yes."
Over the course of the evening, Mr. Kerry said that there was no connection between Iraq and the War on Terror. Furthermore, he argued that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq (a centerpiece of the Bush Administration's argument for war). He said that the President did not engage the U.N. and sanctions against Iraq long enough before "rushing" to war and that Mr. Bush pursued his policy without exhausting diplomatic measures that, in Kerry's estimation, would have successfully put Saddam Hussein "in a box" and led to a successful containment of the threat of Iraq.
Beyond these broad differences between the two candidates, there were a few statements by either candidate that deserve comment. Each serves to illustrate the core philosophy driving each of the candidates and, I think, nicely illustrates the differences between the two.
President Bush continues to argue that the cause of liberty is the worthy cause for the twenty-first century. Bush's position has been that humankind has, by right, liberty; that the condition of liberty is enobling, and that the opportunity for liberty is a cause worth fighting and dying for. Bush said, "I believe in the transformational power of liberty. We've climbed the mighty mountain. And I've seen the valley below. And it is the valley of peace."
Senator John Kerry said, "I know what it's like" to be in a life and death struggle in war. "Don't confuse the warriors with the war." Kerry went on to say that the soldiers' personal struggle may be honored even if the cause for which they fight is mistaken.
These two statements perhaps offer the starkest difference between the two candidates.
President Bush's answers regarding Foreign Policy consistently reference two things: the realities of the post 9/11 world, and philosophy deeply rooted in the undertanding expressed by the framers of the U.S. constitution, regarding the univeral right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Mr. Bush consistently frames his answers in terms of his understanding of how that philosophy presents itself in the real world and says, in the face of questions about his decisions after 9/11: "We need certainty." At the same time, while we may need to "change tactics," he says, we should never "change beliefs."
In answer to the final question of the debate, however, Senator Kerry offers a stark contrast and a clear choice.
The moderator asks, "What do you think is the single-most important threat facing the next presidency?"
Kerry answers: "Nuclear Proliferation."
He then goes on to criticize the president's handling of North Korea and Iran.
But, what must be noticed is that his two key answers, to the major questions of the night, were answered not in present world terms but in Cold World terms.
Kerry answered the question regarding the worthiness of the Iraqi War in Vietnam terms: "do not confuse the warrior with the war." And he answered the present threat question with Cold War terms: "Nuclear proliferation."
On the first count, Kerry is wrong logically--How can you ask any man to be the last man to die for a mistake?
I.E. If the Iraq War is the "wrong war, at the wrong time, in the wrong place," then how can Kerry defend that those who fight and die to defend democracy in Iraq are engaged in a noble cause?
Secondly, if the Vietnam War was itself the "wrong war, at the wrong time, in the wrong place," then how can Mr. Kerry say genuinely during the debate that he--having protested the war vociferously once he returned from his four month tour--"defended this country as a young man in war" and that he will do so "as president"? According to his senate testimony in 1971, his participation in the Vietnam War was expressly not a defense of the United States or anything that it stands for.
If the debate tonight does nothing to change the dynamics of the race for the presidency it will be because there were no major mistakes in terms of the candidates' performances. But, for thinking Americans, one thing should be clear: Mr. Bush believes what he believes and acts accordingly.
Mr. Kerry, on the other hand, says what he thinks will impress his electorate.
In terms of performance, then, tonight's debate score is a cool tie.
In terms of message, on the other hand, tonight's debate score is, easily:
Bush 1, Kerry 0.
This author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Right War, Right Place, Right Time***.....Last month, on the third anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I had the privilege of visiting with some of our brave and dedicated military men and women who are recuperating from their wounds at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. These young Americans and their families remain staunchly committed to the mission of protecting us and our children and bringing freedom to Iraq. They do not understand why the media refuse to tell the American people about the good work they have accomplished and the progress they are making. These valiant soldiers believe, as one Iraqi blogger put it, that "their river of blood is our river of hope," and that the pessimism of the media is a betrayal that our troops and the Iraqi people do not deserve.
It was these young people whom I thought of when Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi stood before a joint session of Congress last week and paid tribute to the sacrifices of his countrymen and the coalition forces fighting for us all. For political partisans to call the hope of so many a cynical calculation or a foolish dream risks, with a few cheap words, energizing our enemies who measure their success by the blood and tears of these brave hearts. Optimism in the face of obstacles is not living in "fantasyland." It's courage.
The 9/11 widows traveling with John Kerry talk about their fear of a war with no end, but there are many of us 9/11 families who fear that John Kerry would turn this crucial historic opportunity into a losing war with no hope. We think George W. Bush got it right. We believe this is the right war, in the right place, at the right time. We think the good guys are winning.***
Ms. Burlingame, a lifelong Democrat, is co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America (www.911familiesforamerica.org). Her brother, Chic Burlingame, was the pilot of American Airlines flight 77, which was crashed at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
Thanks for the post, I really needed to hear someone describe what I watched 10/01/14.
Excellent editorial. This is what's important.
The MSM is just trying to spin it, as a Kerry win, but when you look at the facts, Kerry just showed how weak he is on the War on Terror.
As for the other article, to which you posted a link:
"Right War, Right Place, Right Time" it's also great. It deserves to be posted on its own. I hope you'll post it.
After watching the debate, I thought Bush won hands down, then I started to read the posts and the articles...
should be 10/01/04
It is posted but since you can only include a small edited amount, I chose to highlight the last three paragraphs and LINK directly to the article.
Well, this should give you a hint at how accurate Freeper assessments have been in the past:
It's a good piece, fair and informative.
A lot of snap judgment in that LINK.
This is a marathon not a sprint.
Oh, OK. I understand.
The MSM never interview families of troops or victims of 9-11 who support Bush, even though they ae in the majority.
What you saw was a complacent President who got a nice smack across the face.
It seems to me that Presidents tend to feel they have some God given right to a second term. The fact is they have to earn it. In the confines of their confortable White House bubble they tend to forgt that fact.
I think in terms of message, I can only agree with President Bush, but he must understand that he's got to earn his second term and he must face the judgment of the public. He can't expect it to be given to him.
Last night was a wake up call, then he will be a better candidate for it.
Exactly. Bush can dismantle him on the campaign trail. Kerry has no problem with lying (even about calling Bush a liar) so I'm sure he was ready to pounce, hoping his lies would have Bush attack him or give him an opening with some practiced zings that would have been headlines.
As it is now, look at these editorial cartoons.
Houston Chronicle from Atlanta Journal Constitution: (this image will change tomorrow)
Apparently you haven't see the same president I have on the campaign trail. Bush has not been campaigning from the White House and along with that non-stop effort, he is waging a war against terrorists for the safety of our country and the world.
President Bush will stay the course.
He will go it alone unless we get over our handwringing.
Now is the time to stand with our President.
Our resolve, our determination, our strength will aid him in his quest.
I believe in my heart that President Bush is THE RIGHT MAN....AT THE RIGHT TIME...IN THE RIGHT PLACE.
I totally agree.
This editorial is wishful thinking. Just read what our own Republican colleagues said after the debate or what Pat Buchanan said.
If Bush goes on the assumption he came out OK on this debate Kerry will clean his clock in the next two debates.
The only way for him to win is to accept that he needs more prep and needs to control his irritation. This was NOT a good debate performance. PERIOD. Who wrote that editorial? Bob Shrum?
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