Friday, October 08, 2004

Second Presidential Debate - Live Blogging!

7:45 pm Here I am securely ensconced at the undisclosed location. The Twins currently setting shelacked in pre-debate festivities. Jo can't get a web connection, about which I'm not so flip this time, because I tried to fix it and failed. I have 15 minutes to try to make the situation worse by trying to help some more. I'll be back...

7:59 pm Ugh. Well thankfully Margaret has a spare laptop for Jo. I haven't done serious networking stuff for quite a while. And I got just far enough to frustrate myself that I knew exactly what was wrong with Jo's laptop, but couldn't remember how to fix it. Fun.

Anyway, predebate stuff...

Charlie Gibson is apparently the moderator tonight (a little background from Jo on Charlie). I was expecting Bob Schieffer, who, despite the negative baggage carried by CBS lately, I consider less partisan. Perhaps better able to restrain himself is a better way to put it, since Gwen Ifill, whom I consider more partisan than Gibson, did a superb job as moderator in the VP debate.

But Gibson may not have the chance to impact the debate nearly as much as previous moderators, because the questions come from audience members, instead of Gibson himself. Though I seriously doubt these questions and questioners didn’t have to go through a pre-screening process.

Got this earlier today from Fox News:

“There will be no limits on the topics that can be raised by the audience, mostly a group of 100-150 "soft" Kerry and Bush voters. The debate will be moderated by Charles Gibson of ABC. Only Gibson and the 15 to 20 people chosen to ask questions know what topics will be raised during the 90-minute town-hall session.”


Let’s clear up the nonsense before we begin. Of course there are limits on the topics that can be raised. They’re called the editing decisions of whoever selected the questioners and screened the questions. If that happened to be Charlie Gibson, he has just as much control as Jim Lehrer had of the last debate, and the rest is an illusion to fool us stupid voters. Politics can be such a theatrical production at times, even when it attempts to be substantive.

Open question: When will the Republican Party ever show the cohones necessary to get Brit Hume in there? For gosh sake, Charlie Gibson is barely right of George Stephanapoulos. Ah, well. We’ll go with the flow and grade Gibson after the debate. Perhaps he can help himself immensely in terms of journalistic objectivity due to starting out with such low expectations.

And speaking of President Bush, I fully expect him to exceed last debate’s performance. And it’s not because of some “folksy format.” It’s because that performance was below that of any of the three debates against Gore last year. I’m going with the law of averages and predicting a better performance. That said, we’re not about to listen to the second coming of Cicero.

As for Kerry? Who knows. The first time I saw him debate was the last presidential debate. Was that above or below average for him? No clue. He’ll be more articulate than Bush, of course. But so was Gore, and Bush was the consensus winner of those debates.

8:05 pm Charlie picked the questions, as I wondered previously. Eh. We'll zing him if necessary. On we go.

8:10 pm The first question to Kerry is a.... piece of idiocy. Kerry takes the opportunity to spin it into an attack on the Bush administration. And well he should. The question made me angry too. And it's a vote loser to attack the questioner. Then Kerry launches into a few spins and lies. Good stuff if you're the sort too stupid to look up the facts.

Bush responds. Ugh. Can we get away from the 87 billion dollars? It's becoming grating on my nerves. Howard Dean reference got some kudos here. Consistent. Firm. Blech. We're falling back into last week's debate pattern.

8:15 pm Questioner tackles Bush on Saddam not having WMD's. Bush is in the zone with this one. A little anger. A little urgency. And a heck of a lot of common sense. Oil for food corruption reference. Not as clear as it could have been.

Kerry response. He hasn't changed his mind. The economy sucks. Our kids are getting dumber. Saddam was a HUGE threat. But he would have done it better.

Charlie wants to follow up. So does Bush. Bush wins.

But he just repeats his previous points. Missed opportunity.

Kerry replies the point was to remove weapons not Saddam. And somehow that would have meant Saddam would end up in jail or something. Don't ask me.. I couldn't follow it either.

8:20 pm Question to Kerry - what would you do differently on Iraq? Kerry would be TOTALLY different. Because Bush sucks. Kerry word turn that sucking into sucking-UP... to the WORLD!!!! Or something. I'm paraphrasing.

Bush rebuttal. Calm. Surprising contrast to Kerry's strident tone. Points to Allawi's perspective. Then he gets mad. Slips into some of the verbatim points from the last debate. Wish he could have kept up with the previous tone.

Kerry rebuts. Tora Bora was apparently the whole war.

Bush rebuts. Bush finally refutes the Tora Bora point. But in a tiny soundbite. Why not one of the longer points?

8:25 pm Question to Bush - why aren't we popular in other countries? Bush answer Reagan wasn't popular either. Strongly condemns Arafat. That one's going to get some press. Condemns international criminal court. Don't want a president who wants to be popular rather than right.

Kerry rebuttal. President wants more of the same. Kerry drops the Shinseki lie. Hans Blix was the rejected savior of Iraq.

Bush rebuts he consulted the generals.

Kerry repeats Shinseki lie. And says no plean to win the peace. Ass.

8:30 pm Question is Iran, missles, and nukes. Kerry replies - back to Iraq. Now we're off to North Korea. Now to Russia. Now at the end, take my word it all applies to Iran too.

Bush replies. Joke about scowling. Inspectors aren't sufficient. Now we're off to North Korea again. Kerry is the unilateralist here. Clinton failing redux. Axis of evil - Iran was pegged from the start.

8:35 pm Question about a new draft. Bush responds. Blows premise away with spirit. Post Cold War troop redeployment. Strong commitment to all volunteer Army. Technological improvements make the difference. No draft damnit! (that last word was implied)

Kerry apparently has all the generals supporting him, according to him. Add 40.000 troops. Kerry will apparently be Reagan.

Bush blows off Charlie Gibson to zing Kerry for dissing our allies again. Bush clearly seems to think this is a huge point.

Kerry stands his ground. Disses the allies.

8:40 pm Question why we haven't been attacked since 9-11. Kerry - it's too super-secret to say,but it it's a question of when not if - but Kerry will do it better. Because he'll make the world love us again. Cargo isn't inspected - you should feel insecure. And its the fault of tax-cuts. I HAVE to think this is new Republican ad material.

Bush responds. Homeland security. Best way to defend us is to stay on the offense. Patriot Act is vital. Zings Kerry on not being confident in Iraq War and the effect on our allies and troops.

Charlie prods more out of Kerry: next attack really inevitable? Kerry says yes- Bush's people say so.

Bush is worried about our country. People are plotting to kill us. Spreading freedom is the remedy.

8:45 pm Why no importing drugs from Canada? Bush says so we're safe. Speed up generic drugs domestically. Plugs his prescription drug legislation.

Kerry says president promised to import them 4 years ago and then blocked it. Kerry is fighting for the middle class.

Bush - Kerry has been in Washington 20 years, show me one accomplishment.

Kerry takes credit for anything good about Medicare during which he happened to be breathing while in office.

I'm taking a break on the next question for to inspect the facilities here at the unsisclosed location.

8:50 pm I missed something. The rest of the bloggers broke out in laughter a couple of times during Kerry's answer. But I'm taking this question off so no more comment about it.

8:55 pm Question about wild spending under Bush. Bush responds deficit caused by recession and war. A little supply side reference. Worked with Congress. Taxes cost jobs.

Kerry goes back to healthcare. His healthcare plan is evidently paradise. First time we've had tax cut when at war. We should soak the rich. The president fights for the rish people, not you.

Charlie wants details on how the candidates will cut deficit.

Bush reminds people what he inherited, how he responded, and how we came out of the recession.

Kerry responds with class envy and mentions Enron.

9:00 pm Question challenges Kerry to promise not to raise taxes on anyone earning less than 200k per year. Kerry lies in response. Umm... that was a bit of editorializing. Then he blathers. Then he pledges no new taxes for almost anyone. Calls Charlie Gibson rich to laughter.

Bush replies. Kerry's record doesn't match his rhetoric. Points to basic math. Kerry's promised more than his tax plan raises. Uses his record to assume that means tax increases.

9:05 pm Question about tree-hugging. Bush responds something about diesal engines... and then someone hits the remote and the channel changes. But dinner was free, so the house gets a pass.

We're back. And Bush is talking about forestry. And is this swinging a single vote? If so - who ARE you people?! Ugh. Onto hydrogen. And clean coal. And just ick. Teddy Roosevelt shot animals and won the environment vote. We need to get back to that.

Kerry makes a Red Sox reference which lost us. And lays out his Green cred. Kerry is all over every treaty - loves the stuff.

Bush comes back dinging him on Kyoto and being popular. Quality of the air is better since he's been president.

Kerry apparantly finds Kyoto flawed. But seems to want us to support it because it pissed people off not too. Or something. He's lost me again.

9:10 pm Question about manufacuring and competition for U.S. businesses. Kerry talks a lot. And he has a plan. Tax credits for stopping outsourcing. And he pays for everything by rolling back the last tax cut. And that will solve everything.

Bush swings this in a healthcare direction at first. Then goes into energy. Legal reform. Taxes low.

The followups find Kerry claiming Bush accusing Bush of owning a timber company. Bush seems surprised and offers anyone in the house some wood. Weird moment.

9:15 pm Question about the Partiot Act. Bush refutes that rights are being lost, and then goes all wonkish.

Kerry says the Patriot Act needs big reform. People's rights have been abused. He's not a flip-flopper. Really!

9:20 pm. Question about why embryonic instead of adult stem Cells? Kerry dodges and takes the question into stem cells in general. And asserts we could go after embryos ethically. And if we do apparently disease will be banished. So it respects life.

Bush rebuts: Embryonic research requires destruction of life. But he provided funding within strict limits. His answer lost a number of bloggers here.

Kerry follows up and nails Bush as waffling. Which is sort of true.

Bush comes back to explain where the stem cell lines came from, and the embryo's had already been destroyed. Better.

9:25 pm Question about who Bush would pick as a Supreme Court Justice. Bush gets all jokey before getting serious. Strict constructionist. Judges shouldn't make law. No litmus test except how they interpret Constitution.

Kerry replies by impugning Scalia and Thomas. His judges would apparently have no politics at all. Tosses out the classic liberal scare lines. But otherwise an uninspiring answer.

9:28 pm Question about tax dollar support of abortion. Kerry claims to be a Catholic who cannot legislate his beliefs. He can't legislate against abortion but that doesn't mean he's not against it. Being a Catholic, the rebuttal is going to piss me off for what it misses. I can tell.

Bush rebuts ... against partial birth abortion. And for parental notification. And other "reasonable ways" to promote life in America. Now he's off to adoption. We're apparently not going to talk about abortion much at all.

Kerry is back. He's against partial birth abortion too. And apparently against fathers raping daughters.

Bush is back Kerry has to face his voting record.

9:32 pm Question about Bush naming three mistakes of his. What the hell is this? As the final question? Thanks Charlie. Bush sidesteps. And he should. The Elder liked my joke about Bush thinking Cheney had more hair.

Bush is prepared to accept responsibility, but bring your own damn rope if you want to hang him, thank you very much.

Shockingly, Kerry DOES find some mistakes Bush made. We rushed to war without a plan to win the peace. Iraq, Iraq, Iraq.

Bush is back. 87 billion quote again. Saddam would still be in power if it was up to Kerry.

Kerry says Saddam would "not necessarily" be in power. To much celebration for his waffly response here. And drops a Halli-bomb.

Final Statements:

Kerry: Blah blah blah... when the hell did he discover this loving respect for Ronald Reagan?! Now we're onto his plans... healthcare, Iraq, the environment, children. He's an optimist who thinks everything currently sucks.

Bush: Bush actually gives evidence of optimism without having to tell everyone that's what he means. Reminds us of the war. Needs determination. Reminds us of 9-11. Freedom.

Whew! I'm beat. Final thoughts after a break.

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