Bush-Kerry Debate (1)
October 1, 2004
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Bush was well-briefed, articulate and scowling. Kerry was well-briefed, articulate and, well, presidential. The debate centered, justifiably, on the war in Iraq, although Bush kept wanting to make it a debate on who is more steadfast. Kerry didn’t quite make the point he should be: that, when you make a mistake, it’s muleish to be maintain the same path. Bush hammered on the “steadfastness” theme:
- “People know where I stand. “
- “The best way to defeat [terrorists] is to never waver, to be strong…”
- “The way to win this [war on terrorism] is to be steadfast and resolved and to follow through on the plan that I‘ve just outlined”
- [World leaders are] not going to follow somebody who says, “This is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
- “I decided the right action was in Iraq. My opponent calls it a mistake. It wasn‘t a mistake. “
- “I think what is misleading is to say you can lead and succeed in Iraq if you keep changing your positions on this war.”
- “And you cannot change positions in this war on terror if you expect to win. “
- “You cannot lead the war on terror if you keep changing positions on the war on terror.”
- “The way to make sure that we succeed is to send consistent, sound messages to the Iraqi people that when we give our word, we will keep our word, that we stand with you, that we believe you want to be free.”
- “But by speaking clearly and sending messages that we mean what we say, we‘ve affected the world in a positive way. “
- “I think by acting firmly and decisively, it will mean it is less likely we have to use force [in other venues]. “
- “But what I won‘t do is change my core values because of politics or because of pressure.”
- “If America shows uncertainty or weakness in this decade, the world will drift toward tragedy.”
- “By being steadfast and resolute and strong, by keeping our word, by supporting our troops, we can achieve the peace we all want. ” (second to last statement in his summing up).
(These have been gathered from MSNBC’s transcripts). Bush really does believe that showing any wavering indicates a “change in core values.” And it is the case that a strong and resolute offense against terrorism abroad is more effective than shifty policy. It’s disingenuous , however, to suggest that any change in strategy or tactics is a change in core values.
Kerry’s experience as a Vietnam vet and Vietnam protestor makes him uniquely qualified to lead us out of the quagmire that Iraq has turned into. Kerry famously asked, “How do you ask a man to the the last man to die for a mistake?” It may seem like cheap irony that Kerry may have to face this very question. But if anyone has the wisdom and experience to do this well, it’s Kerry.
The debates served well to show the clear differences between Bush and Kerry.