Following the uniquely-formatted, town hall-style debate between the President and John Kerry, polls showed Kerry with a slight advantage over Bush, but with a margin for error of 4 percent, they are virtually neck and neck pending the final debate. The poll did show respondents were more impressed with Bush’s performance in this debate than the last, where Kerry won by a margin of 53 percent to 37 percent.
One thing many people noticed during the first debate was the faces Bush made in response to Kerry’s various comments, going from angry, to defensive, to frustrated on a whim, it was quite a show. At an appearance on the David Letterman show, Kerry joked about Bush’s expressions, saying the reason he made all those faces was because “he saw the latest jobs numbers.”
Bush’s explanation was that with Kerry’s “litany of complaints and the dour pessimism, I did all I could not to make a bad face.”
In true form, Bush’s main argument was that Kerry’s position changes too often, and that would make for a bad president. Bush also said that Kerry’s health care prescription would require him to raise taxes, claiming that his plan for new programs “don’t pass the credibility test.”Bush asserted that his health care plan would cost more than $1.2 trillion, as opposed to the $800 million that Kerry claimed.
In what turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophesy, Kerry claimed that Bush is unable to admit his own mistakes. Later on in the debate, the president was asked to name three mistakes that he made while in office. The president refused to name one, stumbling with the question for a moment before giving a hazy reply about making “bad-appointments,” thereby allocating the blame elsewhere as usual.
When asked about a report that was released this week that said no weapons of mass destruction were ever found, Bush replied that he was disappointed when they found no WMD, but that “Saddam Hussein was a unique threat. And the world is better off without him in power. And my opponent’s plans lead me to conclude that Saddam Hussein would still be in power, and the world would be more dangerous (if Kerry had been president).”
When Kerry expressed concern that America is currently in Iraq by themselves, as opposed to being there with allies, Bush interrupted the moderator to insist that we were being aided by Britain and Italy.
Returning to a point that’s become a constant during the debates, Bush attacked Kerry’s senate record, repeatedly exclaiming, “You can run, but you can’t hide… I don’t see how you can lead this country in a time of war, a time of uncertainty, if you change your mind because of politics.”
In response to a question about appearing wishy-washy, Kerry used the situation in Iraq, saying “the president didn’t find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, so he’s really turned his campaign into a weapon of mass deception.” Kerry then said that his opinions on education, jobs, and the Patriot Act have remained the same throughout his campaign. When Bush’s menacing looks and proclivity to making random small advances across the stage towards Kerry didn’t work, he resorted to name-calling, saying Kerry was a “tax-and-spend liberal.”
Kerry’s response: “The president is just trying to scare everyone here by throwing names around. I mean, ‘compassionate conservative,’ what does that mean? Cutting 500,000 kids from after-school programs, cutting 365,000 kids from health-care, running up the biggest deficits in American history. Mr. President, you’re batting 0 for 2.”
Overall the debate went by without any real knock-down punches from Bush, which can only be good for Kerry. As for who won the debate, Kerry took the prize again, but by a much smaller margin than in the first debate. Bush won a few more points this time by controlling his grimacing, though his smirking was only a moderate improvement. And Kerry’s answers were more direct than in the first, which may not have been enough to change the minds of die-hard Bushies, but it probably helped him connect with the swing voters.