Live blogging 2nd debate

Question #1: Is Kerry a flip flopper?

Kerry in defense of himself doesn't cite Iraq because he knows he has flip flopped. Bush did well on this one and hit on Iraq and Kerry's flip flops.

Question #2: Iraq war problems?

A draw on this. Bush did better defending the war but Kerry is able to point out what has gone wrong.

Question #3: Is Kerry's plan different?

Kerry recites the litany of more nations and more training. Bush counters, we are doing that and can you really trust Kerry who has denigrated the war effort. Again, Kerry emphasizes UBL only and Bush counters it is a wider war. Bush's energy seems greater tonight that last week.

Question #4: Bush, how will you restore our alliances?

Doing what is right can be unpopular. Kerry insists we could have brought the UN Security Council on board. Kerry counters that they didn't have enough troops and had poor planning for post-war Iraq.

Question #5: Kerry, what would you do about Iran?

Kerry goes off topic and talks about Russia loose nukes. He brings up bunker buster bombs. He also brings up North Korea. He tacks on I would deal with any threat. Bush responds and says he is doing multi-lateral talks. Wooo... he brings up the unpopular "axis of evil" phrase.

Question #6: Will there be a draft?

Bush says we won't bring it back. We adjust troop levels in South Korea and Europe. Technology allows us to do more with less people. Kerry doesn't support draft either. He cites generals who support him. He cites the army is over-extended. Will add 40,000 more troops. Back to alliance building. Very testy exchange on both sides.

Question #7: Why have there been no new attacks on US soil? What would you do?

Kerry says alliances help intelligence. He attacks the weakness of Homeland Security department. Bush counters we spend $30B. Best defense is a strong offense. Patriot act is important. Bush goes back and defends the war on Iraq. Lots of counter-punching. Very lively.

Question #8: Bush, why are you blocking drug re-importation of drugs from Canada?

Bush responds by saying we got to be careful that the drugs aren't really from 3rd world and not good. If we can do it right we will have it. Medicare drug program on the way. Kerry counter attacks that Bush admin hasn't done it right. Who got it right? Kerry brings up the Federal debt. Huh? Anyway, I'm sure there needs to be some fact checking on the history of the drug re-importation issue.

Question #9: Kerry, you picked a lawyer who sues doctors to be VP. What's the deal about health care cost and lawsuits?

Kerry says they will fix malpractice laws. 1% of costs is lawsuits. Bush says defensive medicine costs aren't factored into that number. Bush says Kerry wants a Federal take over of health care and I'm against it. Some numbers flew around. Fact check, please!

Question #10: You have spent too much money. Why?

Bush says we came in on a recession and there is a war. Kerry hits back saying nobody should cut taxes during a war. Bush counters that the tax cut shorted the recession. Kerry tosses out a bunch of numbers. Fact checking needed here.

Question #11: Will you make a tax pledge for those below $200,000?

Kerry says, yes. Bush counters Kerry will spend or break his spending promises. Both sides are citing numbers and who knows what the heck is the real number when you are talking billions and billions of bucks. Remember 2000 when Gore and Bush were tossing around billions and billions of dollars of the surplus to be used for Social Security reform and Medicare reform?

Question #12: Bush, what is your environmental record?

Bush cites some of the areas they have worked on. Kerry says those things aren't very much. Kerry cites Kyoto. Bush says it wasn't a good treaty. Don't see Greens ever supporting Bush.

Question #13: About jobs?

Kerry argues about outsouring and manufacturing tax credits and health care and education. Bush counters with tort reform, small business buying pools for health issurance, legal reforms and regulation reform. Bush says small biz often pay taxes via personal tax code. Kerry claims that Bush is wrong on which small biz taxes. Fact checker please?

Question #14: Patriot act is taking away my rights, why do it?

Bush defends the act saying it is the same rules being applied to organized crime. Kerry counters there have been abuses.

Question #15: Stem cell question, adult versus embryonic?

Kerry empathized with questioner. He then goes on to defend embryonic cell use in hope for cures. Bush says balancing science and ethics is important. Saving life by destroying life is something one doesn't do lightly.

Question #16: Supreme court nominee?

Bush wants strict interpreter of law. Kerry cites Bush likes Scalia and Thomas and he would like Potter Stewart.

Question #17: Abortion views and Federal funding of it?

Kerry says he is Catholic and has that view. He says though we can't legislate an article of faith. Kerry sounds like he favors Federal funding for abortions. Bush cites partial birth abortion ban and parental notification. He says no Federal money will go to abortion.

Question #18: Bush have you made mistakes and what you did?

Afghan, no. Iraq, no. On the big decisions I believe I was right. History will judge. On some details, I've made mistakes. On some appointments I've made mistakes. Kerry says Iraq was a mistake.


Kerry: Solid close. It all sounds good. Leads with national security and then goes to domestic.

Bush: He leads with domestic concerns and economy is recovering. He then goes onto the national security issues.

Instant analysis: Very contentious. Not as brutal as the Veep debate but still lots of punching and counter-punching. My impression is that Bush's energy level was much higher. Both sides have strong opinions and will attack the other side.

I thought last week it was a draw on the substance though on style, I'd have to agree last week Kerry had an edge. Kerry became more than the cardboard cutout that was the dominent impression of him.

This week, on style, Bush bounced back and did much better than last week and reassured his base and may sway the undecided because he is a person of conviction. That whole section on doing the unpopular was an effective moment.

On a few occasions numbers were flying around and I'm sure the fact checkers will go over it.

Bush has weaknesses on substance (problems in Iraq and sluggish economy) that he has to defend. Kerry has attacked those like a prosecutor and was pretty effective. Will undecided voters conclude it is a time for a change? That is the key issue.

The other half of the time for a change issue is whether Kerry is a plausible alternative. Enough did in 1976 to send the unknown Carter to the WH but it was close. In 1980, Reagan had the same task and became plausible and the people voted for the change.

The choice couldn't be more clear. These two differ in the way they look at things and the way they present themselves.

This format seemed more interesting than the first debate. It seemed as if allowing the candidates to talk to the questioner made the issues more real and less like a recitation of talking point. Though, in the end, they are still reciting talking points but they have to work it into a conversational tone which I think actually makes for more interesting television.

In some ways, this seems to work better for Bush who is the more people oriented of the two candidates. He seems more energized when he is talking to a real person as opposed to a camera or a moderator. The prior format of talking to the camera and moderator works better for Kerry who is used to Senate "debate" speeches. If you have been to the Capitol and sat in on a session you will know Senate "debate" speeches are often made to a room with only a handful of people and the CSPAN2 cameras.

My take: a draw. Both sides will find things to like in what they saw. The undecided have lots of impressions to absorb. They can't claim ignorance of the substance and style of the two candidates after tonight's event. They have to decide what is important to them and then which candidate fits their view of what is important to them.

UPDATE: CNN factcheck, MSNBC/WP fact check, citing AP fact check,'s fact check.


Stormwind said…
Factcheck.ORG, the one the VP gave out the address for incorrectly in that debate, is a "seemingly" neutral spot for finding more details on the things the candidates are saying. I hadn't seen the CNN articles, though I did hear them saying they were going to be doing fact checks for all the debates. Thanks for the link.

Your assessment about this debate being a draw overall is probably correct. I think both sides will be pleased with their candidate's performance. I didn't write anything about it on Tangents, but did on Corner. My guess from reading your blog is that you lean right. You probably wouldn't like my overall opinion on Bush and I've given up on neutrality.

Your post is nicely written, stays pretty close to neutral and is a fair assessment. I am glad I stumbled upon it.