It will come as no surprise to you that I’ve posted about last night’s debate between Bush and Kerry. And if you’ve been paying any attention to George lately, it will come as no surprise that he lied about a lot of stuff.
Obviously, I think Kerry won, but I’m not the only one. This morning’s papers describe the scene: Bush is described as coming off as "petulant," "tight-mouthed," and "frustrated." Meanwhile, Kerry was "presidential," "in control," "serious and substantive." As the New York Times writes, "if the question was whether Senator John Kerry would appear presidential, whether he could present his positions clearly and succinctly and keep President Bush on the defensive when it came to the critical issue of Iraq, Mr. Kerry delivered the goods." The Boston Globe agreed, saying, "Last night, John Kerry won as clear a debate victory as we’ve seen since Ronald Reagan outdueled Jimmy Carter in 1980." And, the NYT writes, "Kerry’s confident, calm manner may have paid off. CBS was one of several news organizations that conducted instant focus group surveys during the debate. A few minutes after the candidates finished their closing statements, CBS News said 51 percent of the 200 uncommitted sample voters thought that Mr. Kerry had a clear plan for Iraq. Only 38 percent thought the president did." Research by Democracy Corps details Kerry’s "significant gains among likely voters who watched the debate," including major gains in "personal favorability, the security issues that dominated the debate, and key leadership attributes."
STICKING TO THE WRONG COURSE: Bush tried to assail Kerry’s leadership last night, saying nine different times that Kerry’s "mixed messages" and "mixed signals" mean he’s not steadfast enough to lead. Bush, however, has confused bullheadedness with leadership. In Iraq, for example, he is clinging to the precept that staying the course is more important than being on the right course. Slate’s William Saletin writes that Bush’s stubbornness means a disconnect from the reality on the ground in Iraq: "Ignore the evidence that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs had deteriorated. Ignore the evidence that Saddam had no operational relationship with al-Qaida. Ignore the rising casualties. Ignore the hollowness and disintegration of the American-led ‘coalition.’" Kerry last night said, "It’s one thing to be certain. But you can be certain and wrong."
MISSTATING IRAQI SECURITY FORCES: Bush last night repeated his claim that we have 100,000 Iraqi security forces trained. It’s not true. Last Monday, the Pentagon said that "only about 53,000 of the 100,000 Iraqis on duty have now undergone training." According to Pentagon documents obtained by Reuters, of the 90,000 in the police force, "only 8,169 have received full training." "Many police lack equipment or vehicles. Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the U.S. official in charge of training, has been unable to fill his staff needs."
MISSTATING AL QAEDA CAPTURES: Last night, Bush repeated his oft-stated claim that three-quarters of known al Qaeda leadership has been captured. What this ignores: "al-Qaida is still considered a mortal danger in part because it refills its ranks and leadership."
MISSTATING THE RATIONALE FOR WAR IN IRAQ: Bush tried to rebut Kerry about the prewar need for more patience on Iraq, saying diplomacy wouldn’t have persuaded Saddam to disarm. Writes the Boston Globe, "It was almost as though the president has forgotten that no stockpiles of forbidden weapons have been found in Iraq."
MISSTATING VOTER REGISTRATION SUCCESS IN AFGHANISTAN: Bush stated, "10 million people have registered to vote in Afghanistan." The problem: most sources agree there aren’t even 10 million eligible voters in the country. Human Rights Watch this week released a report showing that figure included "multiple registrations of many voters. In a lengthy report, the respected organization also documented how human rights abuses are fueling a pervasive atmosphere of repression and fear in many parts of the country, with voters in those areas having little faith in the secrecy of the balloting and often facing threats and bribes from militia factions."
MISSTATING NORTH KOREA DIPLOMACY: Bush inexplicably claimed Kerry’s proposal to have direct talks with North Korea would end the six-nation diplomacy that the administration has pursued over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, claiming it would also "drive away China, a key player in the negotiations." He was unable to explain this charge, however: "He never said why, and there are many examples in which the United States has negotiated with a nation in several different forums at the same time." In reality, "each of the other four countries in the talks has held direct t
alks with North Korea during the six-party process ? and China has repeatedly asked the Bush administration to talk directly with North Korea."
MISSTATING BRINGING KHAN TO JUSTICE: Bush last night stated, "The A.Q. Khan network has been brought to justice," referring to the leader of a Pakistani nuclear smuggling ring. Not true. Khan was pardoned by President Pervez Musharraf. In fact, reports the Washington Post, "not a single person involved in his network has been prosecuted anywhere." Yesterday, the International Atomic Energy Agency complained Pakistan is blocking all access to Khan.
MISSTATING NUCLEAR NONPROLIFERATION EFFORTS: Last night, Bush said he’d increased spending by "about 35 percent" on nonproliferation efforts since he took office. The Washington Post points out that in his first budget, "he proposed a 13 percent cut ? about $116 million ? and much of the increases since then have been added by Congress."
WATCHING TELEVISION IS HARD WORK: The New York Times reports Bush was "unnerved" by Kerry’s reference to his personal military service. "Mr. Kerry repeatedly referred to his first-hand experience sending men into battle in Vietnam," leading the president to repeat that "he understood that fighting was hard work and added, ‘I see on the TV screens how hard it is.’"