Highlights From The First Debate

Since last night’s debate is going to be the topic du jour in the blogosphere today, I thought it would be worthwhile to go through the transcript and cull out what I think were the highlights of the debate for W.

You’ll notice that Bush stayed on message and hammered home the idea that John Kerry can’t lead in the war on terror because he’s a dovish, anti-war, candidate who constantly shifts positions. Given that Kerry sounded about like Joe Lieberman in late 2002 and now sounds like Howard Dean part deux, I think that’s an excellent thing to focus on.

Now, that’s enough about what I think. Here are the debate excerpts and yes, the phrase “wrong war, wrong place, wrong time” pops up more than once…

George Bush: “My opponent looked at the same intelligence I looked at and declared in 2002 that Saddam Hussein was a grave threat.

He also said in December of 2003 that anyone who doubts that the world is safer without Saddam Hussein does not have the judgment to be president.

I agree with him. The world is better off without Saddam Hussein.”

George Bush: “Saddam Hussein had no intention of disarming. Why should he? He had 16 other resolutions and nothing took place. As a matter of fact, my opponent talks about inspectors. The facts are that he was systematically deceiving the inspectors.

That wasn’t going to work. That’s kind of a pre-September 10th mentality, the hope that somehow resolutions and failed inspections would make this world a more peaceful place.”

John Kerry: “Well, you know, when I talked about the $87 billion, I made a mistake in how I talk about the war. But the president made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse?…”

Jim Lehrer: “Are Americans now dying in Iraq for a mistake?”

John Kerry: “No, and they don’t have to, providing we have the leadership that we put — that I’m offering.”

George Bush: “First of all, what my opponent wants you to forget is that he voted to authorize the use of force and now says it’s the wrong war at the wrong time at the wrong place.

I don’t see how you can lead this country to succeed in Iraq if you say wrong war, wrong time, wrong place. What message does that send our troops? What message does that send to our allies? What message does that send the Iraqis?

No, the way to win this is to be steadfast and resolved and to follow through on the plan that I’ve just outlined.”

George Bush: “My opponent says help is on the way, but what kind of message does it say to our troops in harm’s way, “wrong war, wrong place, wrong time”? Not a message a commander in chief gives, or this is a “great diversion.”

As well, help is on the way, but it’s certainly hard to tell it when he voted against the $87-billion supplemental to provide equipment for our troops, and then said he actually did vote for it before he voted against it.

Not what a commander in chief does when you’re trying to lead troops.”

George Bush: “My opponent says we didn’t have any allies in this war. What’s he say to Tony Blair? What’s he say to Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland? You can’t expect to build an alliance when you denigrate the contributions of those who are serving side by side with American troops in Iraq.

Plus, he says the cornerstone of his plan to succeed in Iraq is to call upon nations to serve. So what’s the message going to be: “Please join us in Iraq. We’re a grand diversion. Join us for a war that is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time?”

I know how these people think. I deal with them all the time. I sit down with the world leaders frequently and talk to them on the phone frequently. They’re not going to follow somebody who says, “This is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

John Kerry: “…When we went in, there were three countries: Great Britain, Australia and the United States. That’s not a grand coalition. We can do better.”

Jim Lehrer: “Thirty seconds, Mr. President.”

George Bush: “Well, actually, he forgot Poland. And now there’s 30 nations involved, standing side by side with our American troops.”

George Bush: “The only consistent thing about my opponent’s position is that he’s been inconsistent. He changes positions. And you cannot change positions in this war on terror if you expect to win.”

Jim Lehrer: Has the war in Iraq been worth the cost of American lives, 1,052 as of today?

George Bush: “You know, every life is precious. Every life matters. You know, my hardest — the hardest part of the job is to know that I committed the troops in harm’s way and then do the best I can to pro Carolina. She and her son Brian, they came to see me. Her husband PJ got killed. He’d been in Afghanistan, went to Iraq.

You know, it’s hard work to try to love her as best as I can, knowing full well that the decision I made caused her loved one to be in harm’s way.

I told her after we prayed and teared up and laughed some that I thought her husband’s sacrifice was noble and worthy. Because I understand the stakes of this war on terror. I understand that we must find Al Qaeda wherever they hide.

We must deal with threats before they fully materialize. And Saddam Hussein was a threat, and that we must spread liberty because in the long run, the way to defeat hatred and tyranny and oppression is to spread freedom.

Missy understood that. That’s what she told me her husband understood. So you say, “Was it worth it?” Every life is precious. That’s what distinguishes us from the enemy. Everybody matters. But I think it’s worth it, Jim.

I think it’s worth it, because I think — I know in the long term a free Iraq, a free Afghanistan, will set such a powerful in a part of the world that’s desperate for freedom. It will help change the world; that we can look back and say we did our duty.”

George Bush: “Now, my opponent says he’s going to try to change the dynamics on the ground. Well, Prime Minister Allawi was here. He is the leader of that country. He’s a brave, brave man. When he came, after giving a speech to the Congress, my opponent questioned his credibility.

You can’t change the dynamics on the ground if you’ve criticized the brave leader of Iraq.

One of his campaign people alleged that Prime Minister Allawi was like a puppet. That’s no way to treat somebody who’s courageous and brave, that is trying to lead his country forward.

The way to make sure that we succeed is to send consistent, sound messages to the Iraqi people that when we give our word, we will keep our word, that we stand with you, that we believe you want to be free. And I do.”

John Kerry: “…No president, though all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America.

But if and when you do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you’re doing what you’re doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons…”

George Bush: “Let me — I’m not exactly sure what you mean, “passes the global test,” you take preemptive action if you pass a global test.

My attitude is you take preemptive action in order to protect the American people, that you act in order to make this country secure.

My opponent talks about me not signing certain treaties. Let me tell you one thing I didn’t sign, and I think it shows the difference of our opinion — the difference of opinions.

And that is, I wouldn’t join the International Criminal Court. It’s a body based in The Hague where unaccountable judges and prosecutors can pull our troops or diplomats up for trial.

And I wouldn’t join it. And I understand that in certain capitals around the world that that wasn’t a popular move. But it’s the right move not to join a foreign court that could — where our people could be prosecuted.

My opponent is for joining the International Criminal Court. I just think trying to be popular, kind of, in the global sense, if it’s not in our best interest makes no sense. I’m interested in working with our nations and do a lot of it. But I’m not going to make decisions that I think are wrong for America.”

Jim Lehrer: “New question, Mr. President. Do you believe that diplomacy and sanctions can resolve the nuclear problems with North Korea and Iran? Take them in any order you would like.”

George Bush: …”(W)e signed an agreement with North Korea that my administration found out that was not being honored by the North Koreans.

And so I decided that a better way to approach the issue was to get other nations involved, just besides us. And in Crawford, Texas, Jiang Zemin and I agreed that the nuclear-weapons-free peninsula, Korean Peninsula, was in his interest and our interest and the world’s interest.

And so we began a new dialogue with North Korea, one that included not only the United States, but now China. And China’s a got a lot of influence over North Korea, some ways more than we do.

As well, we included South Korea, Japan and Russia. So now there are five voices speaking to Kim Jong Il, not just one.

And so if Kim Jong Il decides again to not honor an agreement, he’s not only doing injustice to America, he’d be doing injustice to China, as well.

And I think this will work. It’s not going to work if we open up a dialogue with Kim Jong Il.”

George Bush: “My concerns about the senator is that, in the course of this campaign, I’ve been listening very carefully to what he says, and he changes positions on the war in Iraq. He changes positions on something as fundamental as what you believe in your core, in your heart of hearts, is right in Iraq.

You cannot lead if you send mixed messages. Mixed messages send the wrong signals to our troops. Mixed messages send the wrong signals to our allies. Mixed messages send the wrong signals to the Iraqi citizens.

And that’s my biggest concern about my opponent. I admire his service. But I just know how this world works, and that in the councils of government, there must be certainty from the U.S. president.

Of course, we change tactics when need to, but we never change our beliefs, the strategic beliefs that are necessary to protect this country in the world.”

*** Update #1***: Over at Best Of The Web Today, James Taranto has noticed something very interesting about many of the sensible remarks John Kerry made last night that makes you wonder if he really meant what he said. See if you can spot the pattern =D…

— “I’ll never give a veto to any country over our security. But . . .”

— “I believe in being strong and resolute and determined. And I will hunt down and kill the terrorists, wherever they are. But . . .”

— “We have to be steadfast and resolved, and I am. And I will succeed for those troops, now that we’re there. We have to succeed. We can’t leave a failed Iraq. But . . .”

— “I believe that we have to win this. The president and I have always agreed on that. And from the beginning, I did vote to give the authority, because I thought Saddam Hussein was a threat, and I did accept that intelligence. But . . .”

— “I have nothing but respect for the British, Tony Blair, and for what they’ve been willing to do. But . . .”

— “What I want to do is change the dynamics on the ground. And you have to do that by beginning to not back off of the Fallujahs and other places, and send the wrong message to the terrorists. You have to close the borders. You’ve got to show you’re serious in that regard. But . . .”

— “I couldn’t agree more that the Iraqis want to be free and that they could be free. But . . .”

— “No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to pre-empt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America. But . . .”

— “I’ve never wavered in my life. I know exactly what we need to do in Iraq, and my position has been consistent: Saddam Hussein is a threat. He needed to be disarmed. We needed to go to the U.N. The president needed the authority to use force in order to be able to get him to do something, because he never did it without the threat of force. But . . .”

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