Overall, Bush stuck heavily to a very few lines. As AB pointed out, one of his favorites was his rhetorical question: how can you be commander-in-chief if you say this was the “wrong war, wrong time, wrong place?” Bush used this exact phrase seven times times during the debate. And he used the phrase “mixed signals” or “mixed messages” nine times, by my count.
Sometimes, he went to his prepared lines instead of answering the question. There were several questions posed directly to Bush that he never actually answered, including:
- “Do you believe the election of Senator Kerry on November the 2nd would increase the chances of the U.S. being hit by another 9/11-type terrorist attack?”
- “You have said there was a, quote, ‘miscalculation,’ of what the conditions would be in post-war Iraq. What was the miscalculation, and how did it happen?”
- “Does the Iraq experience make it more likely or less likely that you would take the United States into another preemptive military action?”
Overall, Bush seemed defensive and slightly whiny.
- My favorite Kerry line (again agreeing with AB):
“It’s one thing to be certain, but you can be certain and be wrong.”
- My favorite reality check:
Bush was quite insistent on the fact that Poland was a major ally as the US went to war in Iraq, and seemed offended that Kerry didn’t mention them as such. Of course, he failed to mention that the president of Poland has since said that the Bush administration “misled” him about the existence of WMDs.
- My favorite completion of a Bush line:
“It is hard work to go from a tyranny to a democracy. It’s hard work to go from a place where people get their hands cut off, or executed, to a place where…”
…where they get their heads cut off?
- My favorite characterization of the debaters:
“I felt like I was watching a debate between Gollum and Strider.” (From Elaine Supkis)
- My favorite catch of an inappropriate remark:
Kerry: “I acknowledge [the president’s] daughters, I’ve watched them, I’ve chuckled a few times at some of their comments.”
Bush: “I’m trying to put a leash on them.”
Kerry: “I’ve learned not to do that.”
No president who has presided over Abu Ghraib should ever say he wants to put anyone on a leash.
(From Andrew Sullivan, via kuros)
The full transcript is available lots of places, including here.