September 30, 2004

Debate Highlights

Bush

Shorter Bush: I know we should mean what we say about committing troops and not sending mixed messages. So there.

Bush said that the "A.Q. Khan network has been brought to justice." A.Q. Khan himself is living comfortably in Pakistan, his government having promised that he won't sell nuclear secrets abroad ever again. I guess we'll have to take their word on that.

Even the networks couldn't ignore that Bush claimed 100,000 trained Iraqi security personnel. The number is double the (likely exaggeration) claimed by Iyad Allawi in his recent visit to Washington D.C.

Bush said that he knows how other world leaders think, and that they won't follow Kerry because he says that the Iraq war was the "the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time." So, for those of us following at home, Bush believes that the rest of the world won't follow someone whose position the majority of them agree with.

Bush also stated that, "It‘s hard work to go from a place where people get ... executed, to a place where people are free." Clearly, Texas has a lot of hard work ahead of it.

And memorably, Bush thinks that missile defense is the way to protect America from long run threats in the 21st century. This from the president whose campaign is based on accusing those who disagree with him of having a September 10th mindset.

If I remember correctly, Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to give a speech on September 11th on the need for missile defense. It was shelved and brushed under the rug, in the face of overwhelming evidence that missiles weren't the biggest threat to America. Note to Bush: Stop trying to fight the Cold War.

Kerry

Kerry's underlying theme was that the president needs to be trusted, and that Bush can't be. He stated it most bluntly when recounting the story of President Kennedy's Secretary of State going to France during the Cuban missile crisis, and being told by Charles DeGaulle that he didn't need to show any evidence, that the word of the president was enough. Kerry asked how many world leaders would respond that way now, a question that no one needs to answer out loud.

Kerry spoke clearly about the situation in Afghanistan, where Bush's war has made that country safe for drug dealers with private armies. He said that American casualties were going up, that elections had been postponed three times, and that they produce 75% of the world's opium. So when heroin is cheaper than it was a couple years ago, junkies around the world have Bush to thank.

Kerry drew a sharp distinction between Saddam Hussein and bin Laden's al Qaeda network after Bush defended going to war in Iraq saying that the "enemy attacked us." He reminded listeners twice that the job of catching bin Laden had been "outsourced" to Afghan warlords, who then failed. Kerry further compared troop levels in Afghanistan and Iraq, asking if Bush thought that Iraq was so much more of a threat.

Kerry talked about Iraq in similarly plain terms. Families who find themselves "going out on the Internet to get the state-of-the-art body gear to send to their kids," the vast majority of military Humvees without armor, and casualty rates that go up month after month.

Kerry also described the state of allied help. "You can't tell me that when the most troops any other country has on the ground is Great Britain, with 8,300, and below that the four others are below 4,000, and below that, there isn't anybody out of the hundreds, that we have a genuine coalition to get this job done."

Though he's been much criticized for lack of clarity on Iraq, Kerry summed up his stand by way of the Powell doctrine. "Secretary of State Colin Powell told this president the Pottery Barn rule: If you break it, you fix it. Now, if you break it, you made a mistake. It‘s the wrong thing to do. But you own it. And then you‘ve got to fix it and do something with it." He said that an important part of succeeding in Iraq would be convincing people in the region that the U.S. doesn't have "long-term designs" on Iraq, suggesting that miscalculations made by the Bush administration gave the wrong impression that the war was about oil.

Kerry didn't hesitate to name nuclear proliferation as the most pressing threat facing the country. Proliferation was a recurring theme in his remarks, and was connected to North Korea's development of nuclear weapons on Bush's watch, Russia's still unsecured stores of nuclear material, and the example set by "spending hundreds of millions of dollars to research bunker-busting nuclear weapons" while telling other countries not to develop such weapons.

What would he do about proliferation? Kerry discussed the recent history of the North Korean situation in as much detail as the format allowed, and called for a renewal of the bilateral talks that led to the inspection regime agreed on under the Clinton administration. He said that he'd invest in securing Russia's nuclear material in the next four years, instead of the 13 he claimed it would take at the current pace. And he said unequivocally that the bunker-buster nuclear program would be completely shut down in a Kerry administration.

At home, Kerry pointed out that air cargo isn't X-rayed, that only 5% of containers shipped in through U.S. ports are inspected, and nuclear and chemical plants needed better protection. He touched on cuts to first responder funding for police and fire departments, saying that these services need to "fully staffed."

Finally, before it becomes the broken record tagline for Kerry's statements, the $200 billion figure for the Iraq war is based on estimates of costs through 2005. Even USA Today used the $200 billion figure this May, describing it as the likely price tag for Iraq operations through fiscal 2005.

Some network anchors stated that the total amount spent presently was closer to $120 billion. But the costs of policies are commonly discussed in terms of their lifetime total cost, just as the cost of Bush's tax cuts are estimated based on likely cost from inception to their sunset date. Such cost estimates can span an entire decade, or more when the subject turns to Medicare and Social Security. Further, much of the budget for 2005 will have already been determined this year, with every budget appropriation and ongoing policy decision being the equivalent of a postdated check written by the U.S. government.

Why is someone as liberal as I am having to point out the way policy costs are usually discussed? Or that money you know you have to spend over the next year affects spending right now, even if the bills haven't come due yet? I don't know. It's like saying shortly after you buy a house that it only really costs the amount of the down payment and the mortgage payments to date. Frankly, it's depressing.

Selected quotes below are presented in the order in which they were spoken, via MSNBC.

Bush: "The A.Q. Khan network has been brought to justice."

Kerry: "The center is Afghanistan, where, incidentally, there were more Americans killed last year than the year before; where the opium production is 75 percent of the world's opium production; where 40 to 60 percent of the economy of Afghanistan is based on opium; where the elections have been postponed three times."

Kerry: "I've met kids in Ohio, parents in Wisconsin places, Iowa, where they're going out on the Internet to get the state-of-the-art body gear to send to their kids. Some of them got them for a birthday present.

I think that's wrong. Humvees -- 10,000 out of 12,000 Humvees that are over there aren't armored. And you go visit some of those kids in the hospitals today who were maimed because they don't have the armament.

This president just -- I don't know if he sees what's really happened on there. But it's getting worse by the day.

More soldiers killed in June than before. More in July than June. More in August than July. More in September than in August."

Kerry: "The president -- 95 percent of the containers that come into the ports, right here in Florida, are not inspected.

Civilians get onto aircraft, and their luggage is X-rayed, but the cargo hold is not X-rayed.

...And long before President Bush and I get a tax cut -- and that's who gets it -- long before we do, I'm going to invest in homeland security and I'm going to make sure we're not cutting COPS programs in America and we're fully staffed in our firehouses and that we protect the nuclear and chemical plants."

Bush: "We've got 100,000 [Iraqis] trained now, 125,000 by the end of this year, 200,000 by the end of next year."

Bush: "I know how these people think. I deal with them all the time. I sit down with the world leaders frequently and talk to them on the phone frequently. They're not going to follow somebody who says this is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time."

Bush:"It is hard work. It is hard work to go from a tyranny to a democracy. It‘s hard work to go from a place where people get their hands cut off, or executed, to a place where people are free."

Kerry: "But you can't tell me that when the most troops any other country has on the ground is Great Britain, with 8,300, and below that the four others are below 4,000, and below that, there isn't anybody out of the hundreds, that we have a genuine coalition to get this job done.

You can't tell me that on the day that we went into that war and it started -- it was principally the United States, the America and Great Britain and one or two others. That's it. And today, we are 90 percent of the casualties and 90 percent of the costs. And meanwhile, North Korea has got nuclear weapons. Talk about mixed messages. The president is the one that said, "We can't allow countries to get nuclear weapons." They have. I'll change that."

Kerry: "Secretary of State Colin Powell told this president the Pottery Barn rule: If you break it, you fix it.

Now, if you break it, you made a mistake. It‘s the wrong thing to do.

But you own it. And then you‘ve got to fix it and do something with it."

Kerry: "I think a critical component of success in Iraq is being able to convince the Iraqis and the Arab world that the United States doesn‘t have long-term designs on it."

Kerry: "Jim, the president just said something extraordinarily revealing and frankly very important in this debate. In answer to your question about Iraq and sending people into Iraq, he just said, “The enemy attacked us.”

Saddam Hussein didn‘t attack us. Osama bin Laden attacked us. al Qaeda attacked us. And when we had Osama bin Laden cornered in the mountains of Tora Bora, 1,000 of his cohorts with him in those mountains. With the American military forces nearby and in the field, we didn‘t use the best trained troops in the world to go kill the world‘s number one criminal and terrorist.

They outsourced the job to Afghan warlords, who only a week earlier had been on the other side fighting against us, neither of whom trusted each other.

That‘s the enemy that attacked us. That‘s the enemy that was allowed to walk out of those mountains. That‘s the enemy that is now in 60 countries, with stronger recruits."

Kerry: "I mean, we can remember when President Kennedy in the Cuban missile crisis sent his secretary of state to Paris to meet with DeGaulle. And in the middle of the discussion, to tell them about the missiles in Cuba, he said, “Here, let me show you the photos.” And DeGaulle waved them off and said, “No, no, no, no. The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me.”

How many leaders in the world today would respond to us, as a result of what we‘ve done, in that way?."

Kerry: "With respect to North Korea, the real story: We had inspectors and television cameras in the nuclear reactor in North Korea. Secretary Bill Perry negotiated that under President Clinton. And we knew where the fuel rods were. And we knew the limits on their nuclear power.

Colin Powell, our secretary of state, announced one day that we were going to continue the dialog of working with the North Koreans. The president reversed it publicly while the president of South Korea was here.

And the president of South Korea went back to South Korea bewildered and embarrassed because it went against his policy. And for two years, this administration didn‘t talk at all to North Korea.

While they didn‘t talk at all, the fuel rods came out, the inspectors were kicked out, the television cameras were kicked out. And today, there are four to seven nuclear weapons in the hands of North Korea.

That happened on this president‘s watch."

Kerry: "Right now the president is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to research bunker-busting nuclear weapons. The United States is pursuing a new set of nuclear weapons. It doesn‘t make sense.

You talk about mixed messages. We‘re telling other people, “You can‘t have nuclear weapons,” but we‘re pursuing a new nuclear weapon that we might even contemplate using.

Not this president. I‘m going to shut that program down, and we‘re going to make it clear to the world we‘re serious about containing nuclear proliferation.

And we‘re going to get the job of containing all of that nuclear material in Russia done in four years. And we‘re going to build the strongest international network to prevent nuclear proliferation."

Bush: "I‘ll tell you another way to help protect America in the long run is to continue with missile defenses. And we‘ve got a robust research and development program that has been ongoing during my administration. We‘ll be implementing a missile-defense system relatively quickly.

And that is another way to help deal with the threats that we face in the 21st century."

Posted by natasha at September 30, 2004 10:45 PM | Elections | Technorati links |
Comments

Excellent analysis, Natasha. I had much the same in my notes, but, while I thought Kerry had won when I turned the TV off last night, I was cautious in my take because I did not know how the media would play it today nor what the polls would show next week. So far, so good.

I think you have done a superb job of highlighting the best material from the debate.

Posted by: Scott at October 1, 2004 05:02 AM

Excellent analysis, Natasha. I had much the same in my notes, but, while I thought Kerry had won when I turned the TV off last night, I was cautious in my take because I did not know how the media would play it today nor what the polls would show next week. So far, so good.

I think you have done a superb job of highlighting the best material from the debate.

Posted by: Scott at October 1, 2004 05:03 AM