In the comments to one of my rapid-fire posts, Paul expressed concern about Kerry's "global test" line that Bush seemed all too eager to jump on. To be honest, I'm not worried about that.
We all know what was up. Rove and Bush were rehearsing the debate, and right after repeating "stick to principle!" for the 87th time, Rove leaned into Bush's ear and told him to look for something, anything
that sounded even remotely like Kerry saying that America should sacrifice its own goals in favor of those of other nations.
What Kerry said was not about international veto power. Rather, it was an abstract
comment about America's international credibility.
Regardless (or "irregardless"), Bush pounced, in his stuttering, repetitious way (for some reason, people call it "folksy"), saying over and over again "global test? what is this global test?"
Anyone who's been paying attention knows exactly what he was trying to do, and thus, knows that it wasn't Kerry's point. To those who haven't been paying attention that closely, it must have looked like Bush was genuinely clueless about something Kerry said. So I'm not worried about that.
In large part, both candidates said a lot of things they've been saying on the stump before. The difference, of course--other than all those large words Kerry was using--is that we've heard what Bush has had to say a lot
more than we've heard Kerry. The end result? Each exchange went something like this:
Kerry: Well organized, detailed answer.
Bush: String of platitudes
Kerry was able to counter a lot of the long-term attacks against him (flip flopper, the 87 billion quote, etc). What I noticed about Bush is that he did what he always does: Returns to the same two or three points over and over again (the wrong war wrong time comment, etc). Either because he's an incumbent, or because his record is a target-rich environment, or perhaps both, Kerry was able to stay on the offensive for much of the debate.
The problem with Bush was that he took his bumper-sticker campaign with him to the lectern. He kept saying that John Kerry is "inconsistent" and keeps "changing positions" on Iraq, at least half a dozen times he said this, but he essentially never offered any support for this assertion.
Whoops! Hold on, my phone is beeping, I have to anser a tixt missage.
From a character standpoint, the biggest victory for Kerry was his identifying the problems that occur when "stubborn" and "wrong" converge.
And in the "sigh" department, Kerry did not give the pundits an opening. Frankly, I can't believe he didn't break out in laughter a coupld times; my friend kept remarking how it looked as if he was holding back a smirk. Bush, on the other hand, seemed almost snippy at times.
Other random thoughts:
I'm trying to decide how I feel about Kerry not out-and-out calling Bush a liar.
Neither "bring them on" or "mission accomplished" really came up in this debate. Is Kerry waiting to bring the hammer down two weeks from now? We'll see.
More thoughts later, as it's time to argue with my friends.