Since this should get long, the liveblogging is in the extended entry.
9:01 Charles Gibson says the audience is non-committed. That's not what I heard earlier today. They were saying they might support a candidate but not strongly, whatever that means.
9:03 Bush must be annoyed that they're not starting on time.
9:04 Kerry's response to the claims that he's wishy-washy: The President didn't find WMD. Oh, and then he starts to respond to the sound-bite flip-flop claims.
9:05 Kerry's proposing further tax cuts? "I'm going to give you a tax cut." Why is he assuming this woman makes less than $200,000?
9:07 Good -- question why the justification for Iraq doesn't work with other countries. Bush: Every situation is different. Yes, but how is North Korea different? Unique threat in Saddam Hussein because thought had WMD, threat much greater, thought could give to al Qaeda. Good: Oil for Food being used to get rid of sanctions. He isn't making the connection clearly, but some of the information no one's talking about is there.
9:11 Kerry: The only reason the president is attacking me is because he hasn't done anything. Here we go with the allies again. He insults the allies we did have, and he doesn't address the real issue with the allies who were in Saddam's pockets.
9:12 Bush: Global test and assuming sanctions work in same mindset. Sanctions weren't working. Kerry: Sanctions to remove WMD, not Saddam. They worked. What about the Oil for Food argument Bush just gave? Kerry lost this one. He didn't even address the argument.
9:13 What's going to happen if Kerry gets elected and discovers chaos in Iraq is harder to deal with than he's making it sound? Bush had a point when he kept saying it was hard work, and those who make fun of that are living on another plane, as Kerry is when he thinks he can get into office and make Iraq no long chaotic just by training troops outside the country and by bringing in the one or two countries with their 50 troops who might be willing to go in there without being bribed.
9:16 Bush: We're training troops. We'll have a summit and then tell them it's the wrong war at the wrong time in the wrong place. They won't follow an American president who says "follow me into a mistake".
9:17 Didn't find out no WMD until got there. He said he had them. We thought he had them. War on terror isn't just bin Laden. It includes making sure terrorists don't get WMD. Can't just focus on Afghanistan. Good -- that's the main argument I wanted him to give.
9:18 Bush: I made some decisions that have caused people to not understand the great values of our country. Compares with Reagan and our unpopularity in Europe. I made the decision knowing it was unpopular but because I thought it was in the interest of our security. Unpopular not to give in to Arafat. Palestinians should have a state but leadership willing to reject terrorism. Didn't joint the Hague with its unaccountable judges. Sometimes you make unpopular decisions because they're right. You don't want a president who wants to do what's popular that isn't right.
He's really on a roll now. I think he's doing very well.
9:21 Kerry: He broke his promise to do this sort of thing only with an exit plan, etc. Fired some guy who suggested we needed more troops. Broke his word that he'd take our allies with us. Bush: I asked General Franks if we had enough troops. He said we did. Kerry: Winning the peace is larger than military component. Military wins the war. President wins the peace. Didn't have enough to do that and needed more allies for it.
I just don't have any sense that more countries or even more troops would have stopped al Qaeda and other terrorists from pouring into Iraq.
9:24 Kerry: On Iran, he's going to ... well, we didn't have WMD in Iraq. North Korea is building nukes, and Bush did nothing. Well, what am I going to do? Get Germany, Britain, France together. Bush: We've done that, but Kerry wants to undermine that with bilateral talks.
9:27 Internets? We're not going to have a draft. Best solution is to specialize, find people hiding. Don't need mass armies anymore. Don't need mass troops in Europe as if USSR would invade Europe, replace with equipment. Then less rotations, easier on families, easier to keep all-voluntary army. Kerry: Name-dropping of generals and colonels who support him. We've got a back-door draft. That's an insult to the National Guard and the reserves. Then he insults the allies by saying we're going alone. Good -- Bush pickes up on that, but not good -- Bush interrupted the moderator who was about to set him up for that.
9:32 If Missouri were a country in the coalition, it would be the third-biggest country in it. That's not a real coalition. It's still an insult to those countries, but the real problem with this is that there's no way he's going to get much bigger than that to help anyway.
9:34 Now Kerry's calling us rich. If he wants to tell me what happened to all the rest of my money, I'll allow that. Kerry says we need more intelligence budget. Bush points out Kerry's vote to cut intelligence in 1993. How can you win in Iraq if you don't think we should be there in the first place? We disrupt terrorist safe havens, disrupt people who might provide the terrorists support. It's not just al Qaeda.
9:38 Question on blocking drugs from Canada. Bush: I haven't blocked them. I just want to make sure it can be done in a safe way. Worry that it might not be from Canada. [That's the right response.] I think there's a safe way to do it, but there are other ways to get cheaper drugs -- speed up generics getting in the market, senior drug discount cards are working. In 2006, seniors will get prescription drug coverage. Kerry: Bush said it made sense four years ago at the debate. He blocked it, because the Senate passed it. We took care of the safety issues. These are American drugs with American brand names. [Problem: It's Canada's price controls that guarantee this. This has real supply-demand problems.] Kerry: I'm the little guy fighting for the middle class. He fights for the big companies -- oil, drugs, etc. Bush: Clinton blocked it too. Show me one medicare accomplishment he accomplished in 20 years. I initiated reform in one term. Kerry: we fixed Medicare [then why's it still broken?] and then balanced the budget. [That was Newt Gingrich!]
9:43 Kerry says he's going to lower the cost of health care. Not with a socialized plan! Bush: Repeats the National Journal most liberal senator thing. He doesn't understand what this will cost. Reality -- it will take raising taxes. Largest expansion of federal government ever. Liberals create government-sponsored health care, which will ruin quality of health care and lead to rationing. [That's the main argument, but he needs to say a little more so people understand why it will do that.]
9:47 Bush has said a couple times that Kerry didn't show up to vote for stuff he says he's in support of. It's stuck in the Senate because trial lawyers won't act on it, and he put one on his ticket.
9:48 To Bush: you spent a lot, had your side in control of Congress, and didn't veto any spending. Bush: We had a recession, and we're at war. That costs. Homeland Security went from $10 billion to $30 billion. That plus tax cuts for everybody [including people like us who didn't owe taxes!] makes it harder to balance the budget quickly. Hasn't vetoed spending because we work together. Says his plan will reduce it by half in five years.
9:50 Kerry: Health plan involves choice of doctor, plan. Can keep private insurance. Then proceeds to ignore all those factors Bush listed and acts as if Bush had absolute control over the job level. We've never had a tax cut during war before. [so the tax cut was bad] I propose further tax cuts for everyone except the $200,000 earners. [so the tax cut needs to be increased]
9:53 Bush: recession, 9-11, still one of the shortest recessions in our nation's history because of the tax cut. Kerry has nothing to say to that, so he says it was a tax cut for the rich. How does that affect Bush's argument?
They seemed to be repeating themselves a lot for a bit.
9:59 Bush on environement: reduce pollution of off-road diesel by 90%, refurbishing inner city sore spots, clear skies to reduce pollution, millions of acres set aside to improve wildlife, healthy forest bill to protect forests that grow but aren't harvested so tinderboxes. Hydrogen-powered cars, clean coal research. Aire quality has gone up, more land restored. Kerry: I'm conservative on welfare, cops, faith-based initiatives, balanced budget. But skies, environment left behind the way children are. These acts go backward. Reminder of EPA chief resigning in protest. Ignored global warming. Bush: Kyoto would have cost America a lot of jobs to be popular in the halls of Europe [nice phrase]. Kerry: I will fix global warming. [Wow!]
10:05 Kerry: We'll be more competitive by funding all these things he won't fund [which increases the budget and the deficit]. Entrepreneurship, freeing ourselves from mid-east oil will get us jobs. [Is this a short-term plan for getting us off mid-east oil? His magical powers don't end.]
10:07 Bush: Best way to keep jobs here is energy plan encouraging environmentally friendly energy sources, stuck in Senate, Kerry and Edwards didn't show up. Keep taxes low. Small business statistic, not same # Cheney gave. Kerry still tries to correct.
10:09 Patriot Act and rights watered down. Bush: I don't think they are. I wouldn't support it if I did. Every action against terrorists requires a court order. Necessary because parts of FBI and law enforcement couldn't talk to each other, need every tool necessary to find, disrupt terrorists at home, abroad. [That's the justification, yes, but that doesn't mean it doesn't abridge rights. That just justifies abridging rights.] Buffalo terrorist cell couldn't have been disrupted without Patriot Act.
10:11 Kerry lists Republicans who think the Patriot Act needs to be fixed, has been applied wrong, rights abused. I voted for it. I believe in it. We need things in it to do those things, but we can't change the Constitution. [Who did?]
10:13 Isn't it wiser to use non-embryonic stem cells, since they work? Kerry: I really respect the feeling in your question. Pulls a Clinton in saying people don't want their hope taken away. [How does that answer her question?] I think we can do ethically-guided stem cell research. Fertility clinic embryos will be destroyed or left frozen. These aren't from abortions. [That doesn't mean killing them isn't killing them.] It's respecting life to reach for that cure ethically. The president makes it impossible for our scientists to do that. Bush: It requires desctruction of life. I'm the first to allow funding for embryonic stem cells. We need to be careful balancing the ethics and the stem cells, so we decided not to fund further lines beyond the 70 we have. Hundreds of experiments of those active lines. Kerry: He's a waffler. He allows it and then won't allow it beyond a certain line. I don't know where you draw that line. Bush: Used dead embryos, won't kill more. [Bush clearly won this one. Kerry doesn't even seem to understand the issues.]
10:18 Bush hasn't picked anyone as a Supreme Court appointee. The usual strict interpretation of Constitution, not allowing personal opionion. Wouldn't pick someone allowing personal opinion about pledge not being appropriate for schools to interfere with Constitution. Legislators make law; judges interpret Constitution. No litmus tests except how they interpret Constitution. Kerry: Bush said he wants conservative judges four years ago like Scalia and Thomas [yes, but conservative in the sense he just said -- as they tend to be]. A good judge makes a good decision that won't reveal if conservative [as Thomas' opinion that anti-sodomy laws are stupid shows is true of him]. He goes on to repeat that he will have a litmus test ruling out judges who wouldn't protect the right to abort. [That's enough reason to vote against him right there.]
10:24 Kerry repeats the nonsense he's said before that moral issues are private. Bush: I'm trying to decipher that. [Amen!] Partial-birth abortion is brutal, Kerry voted against it, need parental notification, unborn victims of violence. Reasonable ways to help promote a culture of life in America [channeling George Will here]. Kerry: Need exception for life, health of mother [but no real threat to that in the law he voted against]. Bush isn't really explaining the problem with Kerry's position here.
10:27 Someone wants three instances of wrong decisions from Bush, what he did to correct it. Bush: lots of little decisions like appointments, tactical decisions in wars. I'll take responsibility for those. I'm human. On big questions like Afghanistan, Iraq -- I don't think those are mistakes. That's what people mean when they talk about mistakes. Saddam Hussein wanted to get rid of sanctions to reconstitute WMD, hated us, invaded countries, tortured his people. Tax cut -- recession one of shallowest in modern history. I made mistakes in appointing people. I don't want to embarass them with names.
10:30 Kerry: Needed huge global coalition, let inspectors finish, go only as last resort. Rushed without plan to win peace. Simple things weren't done. Lists Republicans who say incompetent, beyond pitiful, dangerous. Lists effects of military cuts he had supported as if Bush's fault. Bush: he voted against the $87 billion. Saddam was a risk. Saddam would be in power still. Kerry: back to the mistake in how talked vs. mistake in going to war.
10:32 Kerry: I'll never cede authority to any other nation, no other entity/institution. [I guess this allows conglomerations of countries that aren't an institution in offical form.] We're in a crisis at home because of increased health care, no funding for NCLB, protect environment. I'm an optimist. We're not respected in the world.
10:35 1.9 million new jobs in 13 months. Lists increases. We're on the move. We need to keep economy going, keep taxes low, regulations down, health care to empower individuals, less dependency on foreign energy. I won't rest until we're safe. 9-11 Commission: America is safer but not safe. Keep terrorists from WMD. Deep faith in liberty, promote freedom. Afghanistan voting tomorrow. Iraq will too.
10:37 While Gibson ends it, Kerry and Bush are both joking with each other and smiling genuinely (not the fake smile Kerry had on when he walked in). I wonder if Kerry reminded Bush that he had just said that if Kerry had been president Saddam would still be in power and the world would be safer.
10:40 Some idiot is on saying Bush's position on stem cells is incoherent because it's not pro-life to do something to dead embryos somehow. They're dead! How is that not pro-life? Is this Pat Buchanan? If so, that explains it.
10:42 Wow! Someone is saying Bush wiped the floor with Kerry (not Buchanan, someone else, but I think that was him who said the above). Oh, but he means in the fashion-show sense. Bush looked comfortable, and Kerry looked like a repeat of the boredom of last week. Chris Matthews: Kerry talked too long about taxes, which will make people mad. Someone is pointing out that these people would have gotten checks and been insulted by Kerry the same way I was. I bet!
10:44 Buchanan: Bush on drugs from Canada: yes, because he said he'd have something done by December.
10:50 Mark Racicot: I'm not for changing the Patriot Act, as Kerry claimed. In the context of whether it would have to be reauthorized, I said it would be looked at again.
10:57 Bill Kristol: Bush didn't entirely make up for his lack of aggressiveness in the last debate. Kondracke: Kerry won, on offensive, Bush on defensive. Kerry not for Tort reform but in pocket of trial lawyers, wrong on whether some general was fired. Fred Barnes: Bush at least tied, was so much better.