I was born in 1979, and in that year, Carter was President and Reagan was challenging him. It was a week before the election, and common belief was that the country didn't want to re-elect Carter, but felt very uneasy about Reagan, viewing him largely as an empty suit. With those seven days left, Carter and Reagan met for their one and only debate, and Reagan devastated Carter with his "There you go again," line. In that debate, the country saw that they could trust Reagan, and he won almost 52 percent of the vote, while Carter garnered barely 40.
Bush is not re-electable, at this point in the game, unless Kerry isn't electable to begin with. In the first debate, Kerry began to prove to the country that he was strong enough to take on the job. I believe that he did roughly the same in this debate. However, in my opinion, he did this by default because Kerry's inability to truly counter the President's arguments were bested only by the President's inability to stir up confidence in anyone but his strongest supporters.
The President was much more clear in this debate. He had vigor and an attitude. Though it seems I'm in the minority of my party, I think it was much more shrewdly directed. Instead of the annoyed and flustered President from the first debate who's answers were scattershot in their direction, you had a President who was angry and incredulous, but in a much more directed way. With a better clarity of message.
However, this attitude didn't help many of his answers. Though he had the most honest moment of the debate ("Want some wood?"), it was largely an inconsequential moment. He also had the most "huh?" moment when he said that his choice in a supreme court justice would have to be someone who opposed the Dred Scot decision. Good to know that he's not wanting to put slavery back on the table. Other than that he was very strong in his approach to Stem-Cell research and abortion, but these were issues that only served to show his base that he was still with them, and are highly unlikely to sway those voters who weren't already swayed by them to begin with.
And then there were the moments that he simply teed up answers for Kerry. It is because of these answers that the win cannot go to Bush, but Kerry did very little in fielding them. For Example...
The President is asked to name three mistakes that he had made out of the 1000's of decisions he has made as President. The President's reply was this:
I have made a lot of decisions, and some of them little, like appointments to boards you never heard of, and some of them big. And in a war, there's a lot of -- there's a lot of tactical decisions that historians will look back and say: He shouldn't have done that. He shouldn't have made that decision. And I'll take responsibility for them. I'm human.There are two things here which are just begging to be hit hard. The first is that the President, for the second time on national television has been asked to name a mistake, and, though his answer is better than the deer in headlights answer he gave a year ago in his press conference, this is still a meandering and fantastic answer that begs one to question how it is possible that his campaign has yet to be able to come up with a decent answer for it. The second is his attempt to take the recently released Duelfer report and attempt to manipulate it into something that confirms what he and his administration have said all along. Even the most loose interpretation of what the Duelfer report says has to concede that it shows that not only did the diplomatic plan work on Saddam Hussein in 2002, but it also had worked since 1992, when he, did, in fact, disarm in response to the UN inspectors' demands.
But on the big questions, about whether or not we should have gone into Afghanistan, the big question about whether we should have removed somebody in Iraq, I'll stand by those decisions, because I think they're right. That's really what you're -- when they ask about the mistakes, that's what they're talking about. They're trying to say, "Did you make a mistake going into Iraq?" And the answer is, "Absolutely not." It was the right decision. The Duelfer report confirmed that decision today, because what Saddam Hussein was doing was trying to get rid of sanctions so he could reconstitute a weapons program. And the biggest threat facing America is terrorists with weapons of mass destruction.
We knew he hated us. We knew he'd been -- invaded other countries. We knew he tortured his own people. On the tax cut, it's a big decision. I did the right decision. Our recession was one of the shallowest in modern history. Now, you asked what mistakes. I made some mistakes in appointing people, but I'm not going to name them. I don't want to hurt their feelings on national TV. But history will look back, and I'm fully prepared to accept any mistakes that history judges to my administration, because the president makes the decisions, the president has to take the responsibility.
Kerry has a real chance to do some real and lasting damage here. Here is his response:
I believe the president made a huge mistake, a catastrophic mistake, not to live up to his own standard, which was: build a true global coalition, give the inspectors time to finish their job and go through the U.N. process to its end and go to war as a last resort. I ask each of you just to look into your hearts, look into your guts. Gut-check time. Was this really going to war as a last resort? The president rushed our nation to war without a plan to win the peace. And simple things weren't done. That's why Senator Lugar says: incompetent in the delivery of services. That's why Senator Hagel, Republican, says, you know: beyond pitiful, beyond embarrassing, in the zone of dangerous. We didn't guard 850,000 tons of ammo. That ammo is now being used against our kids. Ten thousand out of 12,000 Humvees aren't armored. I visited some of those kids with no limbs today, because they didn't have the armor on those vehicles. They didn't have the right body armor. I've met parents who've on the Internet gotten the armor to send their kids. There is no bigger judgment for a president of the United states than how you take a nation to war. And you can't say, because Saddam might have done it 10 years from now, that's a reason; that's an excuse.Kerry cannot even muster up the ability to say "Don't you see? The President was just asked if he'd made a mistake in the last four years, and he can't name any. Well there are 1000 families today who can attest to the fact that the President has made mistakes." He simply repeats his "catastrophic mistake" line from the first debate and says that we don't have enough troops. Those are facts, but they lacked the power that a full on assault at the President's judgment could have given him at that time. John Kerry can only benefit from being perceived as strong, or at least stronger than the President.
This is just one thing, but couple it with Kerry's inability to go for the jugular in the first debate by saying, "Don't you see? The President still thinks we have won when the war is still being waged" and it could become the linchpin that shows how drastically out of touch this President is with the situation he's created.
John Kerry needed the equivalent of a "There you go again," but instead, he watched the pitch sail by.