3rd Presidential DEBATE NOTES: first half hour

Moderator Bob Schieffer has the crowd still but coughing.

The President took a pen from his pocket, and C-SPAN reverted to the split screen it used in the first debate.

Kerry's grateful to be there "to share similarities and differences with the American people." Toning down the hostility of the campaign trail.

(Can we be safe and secure?)
And he's complaining that the President rushed us to war, ignores cargo holds, etc. He's promising to hunt down terrorist and kill them, with stronger alliances and good intelligence.

The President will spread freedom. "Freedom is on the march." Afghan elections. Ridding Iraq of a dictator. Kerry smiled with teeth when the President mentioned reducing terrorism to a "nuisance."

Kerry says the President doesn't said he was not worried about Osama bin Laden, the real goal of the war on terror. The President replied that Kerry was using "something called a distortion."

Flu vaccines. The President said we relied upon a company out of Britain. He asked for the healthy to allow the most vulnerable to get the shots, "help us prioritize." He says he will not be getting a flu vaccine this year.

Kerry said that the flu vaccine problem is symptomatic of that the American health care system doesn't work for the American people. He's ignoring flu vaccines and accusing the President of "turning his back on the health of the American people." He complained that we're the only industrialized country that does not have a national health care plan.

The President replied, "I just want to remind everyone that a plan is not a litany of complaints."

Kerry promises to reduce the deficit by reinstituting "pay as you go." He's going to "roll back the President's unaffordable tax cuts." He's got the stats tonight! And Bush is smiling.

Bush: "Well, his rhetoric doesn't match his record." The President is citing how many times Kerry has voted to raise taxes, raise the budget cap, etc. "When you're a colleague of Ted Kennedy." That got a smile out of Kerry, and the President is using stuff from the stump. And the President seems to have a bit of spittle at the corner of his mouth.

For people who lose their jobs to overseas workers who'll do it for less, the President wants to offer them education. He's talking about education, not pushing kids through without learning. Education, raising standards.

Kerry said: "I want you to notice how the President switched from jobs and talked about education." He got off a pop culture reference, "Tony Soprano." Jobs being created in Arizona, he said, "pay about $13,000 less than ones we are losing." He said he does not blame the President for the job losses, just for not doing what he could to stop it. Kerry claims to have walked into a Union Hall, looked someone in the eye, and told him that he was not going to stop outsourcing. Fiscal discipline.

The President: "Whew… in this last litany of misstatements…." Kerry said the President reduced Pell Grants; he increased them. His tax cuts helped the middle class. "The way my opponent talks, we're spending the government's money. We're not. We're spending your money." The President is mentioning Kerry's votes. Kerry replies that his votes meant nothing.

Bush: "There's a mainstream in American politics, and you're sitting on the left side." Ted Kennedy is the "conservative Senator from Massachusetts." The President says he doesn't know if homosexuality is a choice. "I just don't know." But he said we have an obligation to respect people. And to protect marriage. He's deeply concerned that judges are making those decisions, "and not the citizenry of the United States."

Kerry says it's not choice, and the President ought to "talk to Dick Cheney's daughter." "What they felt God had made them." What they felt? Then it is a choice according to Kerry.



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