Thursday, October 14

Last night, the President was punchy and fiesty, with a number of good lines. He seemed to have found the happy medium, stylewise, between his performances in the first two debates.

Line of the night? I liked "A plan is not a litany of complaints." But I think the one that will prove most effective came from the following exchange:

BUSH: ...My opponent, the senator, talks about foreign policy.

In our first debate he proposed America pass a global test. In order to defend ourselves, we'd have to get international approval. That's one of the major differences we have about defending our country.

I'll work with allies. I'll work with friends. We'll continue to build strong coalitions. But I will never turn over our national- security decisions to leaders of other countries.
We'll be resolute, we'll be strong, and we'll wage a comprehensive war against the terrorists.

SCHIEFFER: Senator?

KERRY: I have never suggested a test where we turn over our security to any nation. In fact, I've said the opposite: I will never turn the security of the United States over to any nation. No nation will ever have a veto over us.

But I think it makes sense, I think most Americans in their guts know, that we ought to pass a sort of truth standard. That's how you gain legitimacy with your own countrypeople, and that's how you gain legitimacy in the world.

But I'll never fail to protect the United States of America.

BUSH: In 1990, there was a vast coalition put together to run Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. The international community, the international world said this is the right thing to do, but when it came time to authorize the use of force on the Senate floor, my opponent voted against the use of force.

Apparently you can't pass any test under his vision of the world.

As the president would say, I'm not sure where to start on this one.

The first thing I notice in this is that Kerry is still trying to explain the global test (No. 2 pencils only, please), only now it's morphed into a "truth standard." As Hugh points out, the fact that we're still talking about global tests tells us who committed the more serious gaffe in the first debate.

This also shows that the president understands, in a way the senator fails to or refuses to understand, what it means to work with friends and allies. What happens if, say, we have an even more convincing case for invading another country than we did for Iraq, yet our "allies" still refuse to believe our justification? A President Kerry (shudder) would either have to do proceed in spite of our failing the arbitrary test (which really doesn't depend on truth but on our "allies'" willingness to go to war), or would, in fact, have to cede the security decisions of our country to the will of another.

I do not, right now, consider France to be acting as an ally. Russia is a different situation, as they have a special set of problems, but France's opposition to the war was a tribute to its own vanity. What happened in the oil-for-escargot scandal was nothing short of betrayal.

Allies do not betray one another.

When the above exchange took place, Bush supporters everywhere breathed easier once the president finally made reference to Kerry's vote against the war in 1990.

This could not have worked more perfectly for the president. He was able to give the line without it sounding contrived and without having to go off-topic. The fact that everyone had noticed the president's previous omission of this fact in the debates meant that everyone was looking for it, assuring it would not go unnoticed. The president's delivery was serious, understated and devastating.

'Apparently you can't pass any test under his vision of the world' is a devastating line because it exposes Kerry's foreign policy for what it is: totally incoherent.

A few other quick notes: Kerry's handling of matters of faith is downright troubling. I can't believe he repeatedly calls attention to the fact that he's Catholic as he proceeds to embrace gay marriage and abortion on demand. Kerry looks uneasy when these topics come up; the president looks very comfortable. And the question of whether homosexuality is a choice does not belong in a presidential debate. I believe Bob Schieffer was trying to trap the president. Amazingly, though the question didn't require it, the candidates did try to address the real issue of gay marriage.

But try to make sense of Kerry's answer:

We're all God's children, Bob. And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as.
I think if you talk to anybody, it's not choice. I've met people who struggled with this for years, people who were in a marriage because they were living a sort of convention, and they struggled with it.

And I've met wives who are supportive of their husbands or vice versa when they finally sort of broke out and allowed themselves to live who they were, who they felt God had made them.

I think we have to respect that.

The president and I share the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. I believe that. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.

But I also believe that because we are the United States of America, we're a country with a great, unbelievable Constitution, with rights that we afford people, that you can't discriminate in the workplace. You can't discriminate in the rights that you afford people.

You can't disallow someone the right to visit their partner in a hospital. You have to allow people to transfer property, which is why I'm for partnership rights and so forth.

Now, with respect to DOMA and the marriage laws, the states have always been able to manage those laws. And they're proving today, every state, that they can manage them adequately.

What is his position on gay marriage? Can anyone distill it for me?

And this?

I respect their views. I completely respect their views. I am a Catholic. And I grew up learning how to respect those views. But I disagree with them, as do many.

I believe that I can't legislate or transfer to another American citizen my article of faith. What is an article of faith for me is not something that I can legislate on somebody who doesn't share that article of faith.

I believe that choice is a woman's choice. It's between a woman, God and her doctor. And that's why I support that.

Now, I will not allow somebody to come in and change Roe v. Wade.

The president has never said whether or not he would do that. But we know from the people he's tried to appoint to the court he wants to.

I will not. I will defend the right of Roe v. Wade.

Now, with respect to religion, you know, as I said, I grew up a Catholic. I was an altar boy. I know that throughout my life this has made a difference to me.

And as President Kennedy said when he ran for president, he said, "I'm not running to be a Catholic president. I'm running to be a president who happens to be Catholic."

My faith affects everything that I do, in truth. There's a great passage of the Bible that says, "What does it mean, my brother, to say you have faith if there are no deeds? Faith without works is dead."

And I think that everything you do in public life has to be guided by your faith, affected by
your faith, but without transferring it in any official way to other people.

That's why I fight against poverty. That's why I fight to clean up the environment and protect this earth.

That's why I fight for equality and justice. All of those things come out of that fundamental teaching and belief of faith.

But I know this, that President Kennedy in his inaugural address told all of us that here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own. And that's what we have to — I think that's the test of public service.

The choice is simple. Bush speaks with moral clarity, Kerry with a jumbled pseudo-spirituality.

It angers me to hear politicians of either party abuse Scripture by misquoting it or taking it out of context. The senator, and Al Gore in 2000, both did this, and it portrays them in a most unflattering way. They won't win over any evangelical votes by manipulating the Bible. I suspect the Lord might not like it either.

Kerry has committed serious errors in each of the debates, but many voters might have missed them if they weren't paying close attention. That's why the blogosphere is so important. Not because everyone reads blogs, but because many opinion leaders blog, and the blogosphere helps us refine our arguments and sift out the truth. It's the power of the tail, which Hugh discussed a while back and Rick expounded upon as well: Information filters through exponentially to all of our social networks as we discuss and debate here in the blogosphere.

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