Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Third Presidential Debate - Live Blogging!

7:35 pm As predicted earlier, I'll be live blogging this one from the comforts of home. Best wishes and good luck to my fellow bloggers at the well-disclosed and heavily-marketed location. I'll be checking in on some of you later.

For now, we have a few tests to run. Blogger was having some of it's "issues" earlier today. I want to see how responsive the publishing is going to be. Back in a sec.

7:36 pm Not a bad response. Things look promising for real live-blogging. Now time to set up the rest of the essentials. Point of etiquette - is it wrong to teach a four year old to shake a martini? He likes the noise, and I like a cold martini. Sounds like a win/win. Discuss...

7:55 pm Some pre-debate thoughts. Now I've got the 6 month old. She's cranky. And can't mix a martini worth a lick. But I'm promised she's not my debate co-correspondant. I'll be watching the debate on the Fox News channel.

We're in Tucson tonight. Same damn look to the debate stage we have everywhere else. Why do these things have to move around the country at all?

Hmm... pre-debate buzz is that Kerry won the last debate? On what planet? Oh... right. Bob Schieffer is moderating this debate, so we're already entering the "non-biased" zone. Wink, wink. Suuuure, Kerry won last time. And Karl Rove agrees just like you say.

8:00 pm Blah, blah, blah. God am I glad I don't have to be a television pundit. Can you say "filling time?" Shocking analysis tells us, yes this debate matters. Yes, these guys have more issues they'd like to talk about than just domestic policy.

Oops... here we go.

8:03 pm And we have our first Blogger problem of the night. No response at all. Not good. I'm still here, but you can't see me. We'll try to post again right before we begin. But rest assured, I'll keep plugging away until I post.

The candidates are out. There's the terribly overanalyzed opening handshake. Try to post again...

8:08 pm First question to Kerry about safety and security.

Thanks and blah blah. Now to the answer. Yes. We're not as safe as we ought to be because Bush rushed to war and pissed off the French. We should be scared about ports, and luggage, and not enought fire-houses (when has this been a federal thing?!). He'll get the terrorists... but with allies.

Bush response. Yes we'll be safe if we stay on the offense and spread freedom and Democracy. Accountability for those who harbor terrorists. Afghanistan elections. Freedom is on the march. Zings Kerry on the terrorism equals nuisance line already. Homeland security - Kerry voted against the bill.

Extension.

Kerry back to taking eye off Osama and the outsourcing thing. Says Bush forgot about the real war on terror.

Bush makes a joke about Kerry exagerrating. Declines to agree to Kerry's assertion.

8:15 pm Next question to Bush. Why are we short of flu vaccine? Huh?

Bush response. Explains in great detail how it happened. English company production contaminated. Calls on people who aren't vulnerable not to get one. And now we're into litigation. Vaccine manufacturers afraid of getting sued, so they've backed off on vaccine production. Interesting choice. But the soundbite here will be "don't get a slu shot."

Kerry: Bush is to blame. People losing insurance. Wow. Kerry sure can memorize numbers out of meaningful context. That's gotta be worth something. He has a ... say it with me.... PLAN.

Back to Bush. A plan is not a litany of complaints. And it's not laying out things you can't pay for. Empty promises. Good response.

Kerry now. Since we took the senior prescription plan, now everyone ought to get it. It's not a giveaway. Good come back.

8:18 pm. Question to Kerry about paying for his programs.

Kerry: Pay as you go. Bush screwed it all up. And he lost our jobs. And he reduced our pay. And he made you Big Macs smaller. Sorry... drifting. This is getting pretty wonkish. And droning. He's asking America to trust him to take care of this. He'll handle the dull details.Just trust him. Bush screwed up.

Bush: Kerry's rhetoric doesn't match record. He votes for tax increases and against tax cuts. Massachussets liberal. Ted Kenndey type. The middle class will get stuck with Kerry's bill.

8:23 pm. Question to Bush about offshoring causing job losses.

Bush: Make sure workers get a chance for new training. Most especially we need better education. Education, education, education. Help displaced workers through education. Weak answer in my opinion.

Kerry: Kerry zings him for talking about education instead of jobs. And then he's back to the last question. Makes a Tony Soprano joke about Bush's fiscal responsibility. Costs are rising but wages are going down. President doesn't care. Kerry will spend more.

8:27 pm. Question to Kerry about blaming Bush when new tech might make jobs obsolete. Good questions.

Kerry: Was laying in wait for this one. Very good prepared response. Hardcore answer here. Kerry is in his zone. Standing up for the worker without the Gore-like throbbing forehead veins.

Bush: Bush says Kerry is misstating the Bush record. Tax relief helped workers. Money in your pocket. Bsh turning this into a tax-cut question. Kerry opposes tax-cuts and prefers government spending. Kerry's record doesn't match rhetoric over fiscal sanity.

Back to Kerry: Everybody can play with these votes. True, but a stupid soundbite. Sounds like an admission. Now we're back to pell grants. He missed the bigger issue.

Bush: Senator, nobody's playing with your votes. Ooh. Big spinning Kerry as a Massechussets liberal, ruined by Bush chuckling in self-satisfaction at the end.

8:30 pm Question to Bush: Does he believe homosexulaity is a choice?

Bush: He doesn't know. Real question is what government should do. Shouldn't get involved in homosexul practice. The goes into gay-marriage (which was where Schieffer was going anyway). Defense of marriage between man and a woman. Keep it out of the courts and into legislature.

Kerry: "We're all God's children." Hmm... doubt we'll hear about Kerry's religious extremism tomorrow. Drags Dick Cheney's daughter into this again. Is this tactic really polling that well? Seems cheap. Blah blah blah. He's not against gays and they're sometimes victims and that's wrong.

8:34 pm Question to Kerry about Catholic bishops condemning him for his abortion and stem-cell views.

Kerry: He's a Catholic. He can't legislate his faith. He will defend Roe vs. Wade. He was an altar boy. Invokes John F. Kennedy. What on earth took him that long? Remarkable restraint. This is textbook stuff he's been saying his entire campaign.

Bush: Promote culture of life. Fuzzy soft stuff. Reasonable people can redice number of abortions. Partial birth abortion ban vote showed Kerry is out of mainstream. This is a weak answer. Bush truly does not want this to be an issue in this campaign.

8:38 pm. Question to Bush about healthcar costs rising and who to blame.

Bush: Stupid joke. Didn't go over well. There are problems. Here's what he's doing about them. Now we're into lawsuits. This is a huge cost we need to address and Kerry won't. Medical field not using new technology enough (my current client will like hearing that).

Kerry: Bush stood in the way of reducing costs. Canadian drug imports - Bush blocked. Medicare bulk purchases - Bush blocked. Need healthcare insurance.

Bush: Kerry has 20 year record. No record of leadership on this. Bush lead. He showed results.

Kerry: Bush misleading - Kerry passed 67 bills.... not necessarily in his own name. Huh? He's been huge on this. One assumes he thinks he can back this up.

8:43 pm Question to Kerry on how he'll pay for his programs.

Kerry: Trust the media - Bush is lying (and that is an accurate paraphrase. Come on! Make me work for these shots!) . No one has to pay anything if they don't want to, somehow. Universal healthcare has never sounded so easy and cheap. There seems to be no downside at all. We can't afford NOT to do it.

Bush: Bush takes a shot at the media as not being someone to trust about Bush misleading. Ooh. Somewhere Hindrocket just shot beer out his nose. Makes the point about federal control reducing quality worldwide.

Kerry: Uses Bush's point to take a shot about the VA and Medicare being underfunded. Kerry insists he's not proposing government healthcare. Aww... it sounded so good above.

Bush: Veterans are being well cared for.

8:48 pm Question to Bush about paying for Social Security plan. These are pretty good questions tonight, by and large.

Bush: Remember how the Dems said last election if I was elected you wouldn't get your check? You got your checks, right? Bush believes cost of doing nothing far excedes cost of trying something.

Kerry: Disaster if young people control their own SS money. We need their money to pay for today's retirees. Will cut benefits. Damn. Screw you seniors. Give me back my damn money! I didn't ask for this. Kerry is apparently totally committed to whistling past the SS bankrupt graveyard.

8:53 pm Question to Kerry - aren't you leaving SS problems for future generations?

Kerry: Basically just asks you to take his word that if you follow his plan, SS is just fine. No need to worry. La-la-la-la-la. If any problems come up, he'll call a... wait for it.... committee. And that will fix everything. Bush lost jobs. He's just the worst ever. Boo to Bush.

Bush: Kerry voted to tax SS benefits more than once. Kerry balh blahed but no plan. Tax cuts went to middle class. Kerry opposed tax cuts.Tax cuts cured recession. Keep taxes low.

8:58 pm Question to Bush on illegal immigration.

Bush: He sees this as a bibg problem too. He was a border governor. People will come here to better their lives. Should be temporary worker card for them, as long as no American wants the job. Brings illegals out of the shadows. And let me take a moment to control my wretching for a moment.... There. Better. He doesn't believe in amnesty for illegals. So he says.

Kerry: Back to taxes and his claim that we're all apparently worse off then we've been since the late 1920's. Anyone buying this? Want to buy an elevator pass to my rambler? Kerry has a plan that sounds a heck of a lot like the presidents. And that should disturb people on either side of the aisle.

Bush: Kerry doesn't understand how borders work.

Kerry: Tries to drop enough wonnkish terms to dazzle us that yes he does know, nyah, nyah.

9:00 pm Question to Kerry: Is it time to raise minimum wage?

Kerry: Woooo daddy, yes it is! He's dry humping the mike now (metaphorically). Bush hates women too. So do the rest of us Republicans, apparently. Did you know we can raise wages by legislation and we'll all be rich? Kerry knows.

Bush: I support increases minimum wage too. Greeeeeat. No Child Left Behind Act is the focus now for now good reason. Bush is using this to get in a planned education sound-bite. And Shieffer can't stop him according to format rules. Bwaaah-hah-hah! But stupid all the same.

9:05 pm Question to Bush on abortion.

Bush: Responds he'll have not litmus test in appointing judges. And that's all. Told you he didn't want to make this an issue.

Kerry: Abortion is a right equivalent to the 1st amendment. Judges gave us this right - that's only a very loose paraphrase. Attacks No Child Left Behind.

Bush: Kerry has a litmus test on abortion. And defends No Child Left Behind.

Kerry: Attacks Bush on education, invokes class envy. Wasn't this question about abortion? Nice try Bob. Neither campaign wants to talk about it.

9:10 pm Question to Bush: Why no extension of assault weapon ban.

Bush: I supported extension, but it couldn't pass Congress. And I support gun ownership.

Kerry: Bush should have extended ban. I'm a hunter. And apparently once was some kind of drug-beat cop like in NYPD Blue. He's have extended ban by getting cops to storm Congress or something.

9:15 pm Question to Kerry - Has affirmative action gone far enough? Wow. Good questions from Schieffer tonight!

Kerry: Nope. Affirmative action is WAAAAY behind. We've made teeny bits of progress, and everyone who has anything to do with that is great! But we need WAAAAAY more. First president not to meet with NAACP. He's not inclusive (Condi Rice and Colin Powell raised eyebrows here).

Bush: Yes he has met with black Congress leaders. No quotas. Education needed. Are we sensing a theme here? Small business loans needed. Minority owned business helped by Bush's policies. Sheesh. We're finally into his ownership society theme. Isn't this a bit late?

9: 25 pm Question to Kerry: Polarization since 9-11 coming together.

Kerry: Compliments Bush on handling 9-11. We're not there today. We're divided now and it's Bush's fault. Kerry is committed to changing this. He has done it. Invokes John McCain. Find common ground. ZZZZzzzz.....

Bush: Work together. Cites issues they've worked together on. Washington is a tough town by nature. Invokes 2000 election divisions. Bad call. Turns John McCain promouncement back on Kerry by reminding that McCain endorses Bush - especially over Iraq.

9:30 pm. Last question is a softball. Say nice things about your wives.

Bush: Makes a well received joke. Then gets sentimental about the time he met his wife.

Kerry: Makes bizarre joke about marrying up. And then seems to realize that has deeper implications than intended. And does a decent job playing it off, but stupid, stupid, stupid! Integrity, integrity, integrity. Kerry is blowing the biggest softball of the night. Ends well though.

Closing statements:

Kerry: He offers tested leadership that can calm the waters of a troubled world. We can cure our problems. He fought to defend country as a young man to defend country, and he'll do it as president. Our best days are ahead. Someone must have told him his last closing statement came off a wee bit pessimistic.

Bush: Painting of West Texas as a metaphor for optimism. Recycled stuff, but I wonder how many know that. We've come through tough times. We'll continue to grow and improve over the next four years. We'll win War on Terror if we never waver. We'll spread freedom and liberty.

And that's all.... Schieffer is beaming. He knows he did a good job despite the CBS albatross around his neck. Take a bow Bob. You earned it.

...

Final thoughts after a much needed refill. My martini shaker went to bed.

...

"Immediate impressions" would be a better term than "final thoughts."

Lord, are the Fox pundits glowing. They seem to think Bush gave his best performance. Kerry was flat, and the Bush folks are very happy. Hmm.. not sure I agree with the extent of their enthusiasm.

But overall, I'd give the edge to Bush tonight. Much like the second debate, I wouldn't be surprised to see the general consensus arrive at a "draw."

The only potential BIG gaffe of the night I saw was Kerry's reference to Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter. Stupid, unnecessary, and slightly forced too, so you know it was planned. Someone in the Kerry camp is an idiot.

The rest of the night was honestly a little wonkish for me to believe it made huge impact. I believe by this point there are virtually no true undecideds. A few people willing to be talked out of their decision perhaps. But tonight didn't likely do much of that.

I think both camps came out of tonight with all the talking points they wanted. So now it comes down to which campaign is reading the tea-leaves correctly. And there are only two big tea leaves to read: Iraq, and national security. Bush scores well here, and tonight didn't harm him.

Kerry wanted to make tonight about healthcare, but in my opinion he botched it. He ended up on the defensive about not nationalising healthcare, where he wanted to be purely on the offense over drug importation, and health coverage. I also think this was a general misreading of which issue to focus on. The jobs issue was a bigger Bush vulnerability.

Bush wanted to first, smack-down anything Kerry scored points on, and second turn the discussion to education and security. He succeeded, sort of. Sometimes it got a little strained though.

My call is a narrow Bush win. And a generally misplayed strategy by the Kerry camp contributed to it.

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