Debate Notes – first half hour

Before the debate, host Charlie Gibson of ABC's Good Morning America ran through a play-by-play description of the end of the Boston Red Sox' victory over the California Angels. His mic was fine with the audio to C-SPAN, but it didn't pipe to the audience. He did repeat for them, though, that Senator Kerry's constituents might be in the streets celebrating.

Mama T said to Laura Bush: "And how are you? It's good to see you." She's been campaigning for too long. I heard Mrs. Bush reply, "[unintelligible], Theresa."

140 people, Gibson picks the questions

Sheryl Otis asks: Kerry, are you too "wishy-washy"?

Kerry answers: "The President didn't find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, so he changed his campaign into a weapon of mass deception." He explained that he supports Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, etc., but he objects to the way the President executes them. This is similar to one of his positions on the Iraq war.

Bush notes that Kerry does change positions. "He confuses people." And he detailed them, while Kerry looked on confidently from his seat. "You've got to be consistent."

Robin Dahl: President admits no WMD but justified invasion because of his intent, etc. Does he believe this is a reasonable justification for invading Iraq when so many other countries fit the same description. The President answered that different countries require different reactions. In Saddam, both he and Kerry saw a unique threat: "a serious, serious threat." He tried diplomacy, but Saddam used the UN Oil for Food program to try to get rid of sanctions, to restart his weapons program. Kerry promised a complex answer. He said the world is more dangerous because the President has made it so. He said the President wants to believe that Kerry flip-flopped because of various domestic issues. "I've never changed my mind about Iraq." He was right to authorize force, but "I would have used that force wisely." (He wasn't President when he authorized force.) The President rebuts with Global Test: "That's the kind of mindset that says sanctions were working." Kerry said the objective of sanctions was to get rid of WMD, "and they worked."

Anthony Baldy for Kerry: Would you proceed with the same plan for Iraq as President Bush: elections, withdraw troops? Kerry said he won't, because "you can't hold elections with the chaos that's going on today." He's citing Lugar, Hagel… ugh. He accused the President of pushing the allies away. President Bush is almost chuckling.

That's what I was waiting for. This means he knows how to win this debate.

The President is talking about Allawi and his optimism, and he the political rhetoric he heard on TV here "made him pessimistic." "He talked about a grand idea, let's hold a summit." The President listed allies by name and said that they were not going to join anyone in a fight for a mistake.

Kerry says Osama bin Laden was "the right enemy, and the right place was Tora Bora." Bad move.

President Bush: "It's a fundamental misunderstanding to say that the war on terror is only about Osama bin Laden. … This is a global conflict that requires firm resolve."

I have to slow down. We all watched the debate.

President Bush pointed out that foreign countries love America but are sometimes unhappy with the decisions we make.

Kerry said that everything the President said promises four years of the same. He said that the President "retired General Shinseki" for saying that we probably should have more troops for post-Saddam Iraq. This lie has been refuted countless times. Shinseki had decided to retire a year earlier.

The President said that of course, he listens to his generals. The President said winning the peace needs more than generals.

Kerry: "I don't think you can just rely on U.N. sanctions." President Bush was shown shifting his jaw. Kerry's talking about Iran and yellow cake and the additional bombs in North Korea. The President, his eyes are almost twinkling.

Kerry promised to reduce proliferation.

The President said, "That answer almost made me want to scowl." The President is talking about the naiveté and dangerousness of bilateral talks. It's what Clinton did, he said, and they failed. The President said that he is making progress with all places.

Bush… "I hear there's rumors on the Internet that we're going to have a draft." He said that an all-volunteer army is best suited to fight the wars of the 21st century. "We don't need mass armies anymore." More effective weapons instead of troops. We don't need as many troops in Europe to fight the Soviet Union. "We're withdrawing, not from the world but we're withdrawing manpower." And he's talking about tech.



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