October 8th, 2004


I heard the first half of tonight's debate on the radio, and I thought Bush sounded really angry and defensive. When I went back and watched that part on TV, it didn't seem quite as bad, largely because of the weird disconnect between his tone of voice and the perpetual half-smirk on his face; he was clearly trying to look a little softer than he sounded.

Overall, I thought Kerry got in some really good answers in the first half, especially in his rebuttals ("The military's job is to win the war; the president's job is to win the peace"; "Compassionate conservative? You're 0 for 2"). He was also effective in bringing back Bush's own quotes, and quotes from other Republicans, to haunt him. Then again, it's hard for Kerry to lose the Iraq argument, given the Duelfer report.

I also thought Kerry did pretty well in the domestic policy part, but he seemed to stumble a bit on the social policy questions at the end; it's hard not to sound weaselly when you're trying hard not to offend the religious right too badly (e.g. having to say "family planning" instead of "contraception").

I was really amused by Bush's answer to the question of who he would nominate to the Supreme Court. He said something like, "I haven't made a decision yet. Besides, I want them all to vote for me." I know what he meant was "I want all the judges I might choose from to vote for me in the election", but it was hard not to hear it as "I want all the Supreme Court justices to vote for me again when the popular vote is split 50-50 and we have to do a recount in Florida."