After watching the full 90 minute debate last night, I believe John Kerry was the victor. As many pundits have noted, Kerry was smooth and well spoken, while Bush was agitated and nowhere near the top of his game. To be sure, Bush had his moments, but the night belonged to Kerry for one simple reason: George Bush had several opportunities to expose the flaws in John Kerry's arguments, and he struck out.
So now it's USANow's turn to bat.
John Kerry repeatedly hammered Bush on the fact that the Iraq war is a distraction, and as a result we're allowing trouble to brew in North Korea and Sudan. What Bush should have said:
"My opponent has said for several years that Saddam Hussein must be disarmed. My opponent had access to the same intelligence to which I did, and voted in support of military action. As to whether we should be focused on North Korea or Sudan, it is clear to anyone who has followed world events for the past 20 years that Iraq presented the clearest and most imminent danger to world peace. Iraq's nuclear weapons program was not as advanced as is North Korea's, due in part to Israel's pre-emptive strike on a nuclear facility many years ago. But regardless of their progress on the nuclear front, Iraq was ruled by a dictator intent on waging war in the middle east. This dictator attacked 3 separate nations over the past 20 years. This dictator deployed chemical weapons. This dictator would clearly do whatever he could to harm Israel and the United States. North Korea, on the other hand, has done no such thing. Certainly the intent of my administration is to help in the containment of North Korea's nuclear weapons program, but if I had to choose between containing North Korea or Iraq under Saddam Hussein, I'd make the same choice once again. With his statements, my opponent is showcasing the type of judgement that makes him unfit for command. He does not understand the nature and severity of global threats, and he does not understand that it is impossible to simultaneously negate every world threat. We must address the most severe threats first, and that is what we've done in Iraq."(confident head nod to moderator)
John Kerry said this administration let Osama Bin Laden escape in the mountains of Tora Bora. Kerry said Bin Laden is still in Afghanistan. What Bush should have said:
"What my opponent fails to realize is that the commander in chief does not dictate battlefield tactics. I am as disappointed as anybody that we have not yet brought Bin Laden to justice, but to suggest that his escape was a result of a poor strategy is a mistake. More importantly, it is not clear that Bin Laden is in Afghanistan. It is suspected that he is actually in the tribal regions of Pakistan, which leads me to a very important point. Before September 11th, Pakistan was not necessarily our ally. In fact, Pakistan helped bring the Taliban to power, and was a supporter of the Taliban. But through the diplomatic efforts of my administration in this war on terror, we are now receiving unprecedented cooperation from Pakistan. They are with us in our search for Bin Laden. They were instrumental in capturing Khalid Sheikh Muhammed. And in the face of great public opposition at home, President Musharraf remains committed to our alliance and committed to dismantling Al Qaeda. My opponent campaigns on the premise that we have no allies. My opponent says we are going it alone. My opponent says we have alienated the entire Muslim world. I'll ask my opponent to tell that to President Musharraf next time he visits our great nation." (confident not to moderator)
John Kerry said we have spent $200 billion in the war against Iraq. What Bush should have said:
Actually, $80 billion of that is allocated to the war in Afghanistan. I'm just thankful that my opponent's vote against so many of our key weapons systems were not deciding votes. Had other senators voted so consistently against defense initiatives, our military would not have had the tools they needed to perform so admirably on both fronts. (confident nod to moderator).
So there you have it; Three John Kerry hanging curveballs, and three missed opportunities by George Bush to knock the ball out of the park.