I watched the debate last Friday with a few friends. We took a shot every time President Bush said his job was “hard work” and whined like an irritated teenager. Overall, I was more impressed with the president than in the first debate. Then again, he had nowhere to go but up. So after listening to all the lies, and finishing a few bottles of rum, I have one message for the president: You can run, but you can’t hide.
The president once again spun and distorted John Kerry’s record and agenda for the country. He once again tried to weasel away from his own record and paint Kerry as an unacceptable alternative. The press is calling the debate a draw, but I think John Kerry won because of the clarity of his vision and the strength of his convictions.
The president doesn’t just see the world through rose-colored glasses; he’s closed his eyes and vowed never to reopen them. President Bush believes the war is going well. When asked by an audience member to name three mistakes he has made while in office, he couldn’t even think of a single one. Thankfully, a number of his Republican colleagues can think of many problems with the president’s Iraq policy. Donald Rumsfeld, commenting on the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship, said, “I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two.” Paul Bremer said, “We never had enough troops on the ground.” Asked why so little reconstruction money has been spent in Iraq, Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar stated, “This is incompetence in the administration.” John McCain said the president is not being “as straight as maybe we’d like to see” with the American people. Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel believes “We’re in deep trouble in Iraq … We need more help from our allies.” These clips sound a lot like those Kerry TV ads I keep seeing.
While claiming in the first debate that 100,000 Iraqi troops have been trained, the president failed to tell us that most of these have received only three weeks of security training. These are no soldiers. While claiming that Iraq posed a grave threat, he ignored the increasing nuclear capabilities of Iraq and North Korea. He now ignores the Duelfer Report, which has shown the effectiveness of the sanctions on Iraq. The report states that “UN sanctions curbed Saddam’s ability to import weapons, technology and expertise into Iraq.” The Iraqi nuclear program ended in 1991 after the Gulf War, and the report “found no evidence to suggest concerted efforts to restart the program.”
On domestic policy, this debate got downright comical. The president — a self-proclaimed “good steward of the land” — told us that he wants to reduce pollution from “off-road diesel engines.” That’s his plan. My lungs feel cleaner already. Bush also ended some of those nasty rumors floating around the “Internets” about the reinstatement of the draft and his approval of the Dred Scott decision. The president distanced himself from that 147-year-old Supreme Court case, saying that he would not appoint members to the Court who “allow their personal opinion to get in the way of the law.” It is assumed, however, that judges personally opposed to abortion and privacy rights will be considered.
On taxes, the president said that Kerry would hurt small businesses. Kerry reminded him that under the vague Republican definitions the president himself is counted as a “small business” because he earned $84 from a timber company in 2001. The president seemed shocked by this: “I own a timber company?” Well, you do, Mr. President. It’s in your 2001 federal income tax returns and your 2003 financial disclosure forms. Not only are you the leader of the free world, but you are also a small business.
In contrast, John Kerry was clear and articulate. He demonstrated the need for a fresh start in Iraq and a new direction on the economy, health care, education and the environment. Kerry was respectful of audience members who disagreed with him on social issues of abortion and stem-cell research. Going into the third and final presidential debate this Wednesday, John Kerry will seal the deal with the American people. Having proved his capacity to be commander-in-chief, he will clearly show the need for change at home.
Brett Edkins is a junior in Pierson College.