Too bad that Bush said this twice in tonight's second debate, and neither time was it addressed to Osama bin Laden. It was addressed to John Kerry. We saw a different Bush this time, less repetitive, more vociferous and slightly more normal-seeming. This is enough for a lot of pundits to declare him the winner, with the basic idea that each candidate will be judged not by comparing him to the other, but by comparing him to his own prior performance. As Bush was really rotten in the first debate, he clearly excelled in this one, right?
Wrong. That's not the way to decide who wins a debate for the president of the United States. Though it's a tempting way to get around the big elephant sitting in the debate room that everybody pretends not to notice: That Bush simply isn't smart enough to be a president of anything. I'm sorry to say it, but it's a fact.
So Bush wasn't as whiny and repetitive as last time, but he still wasn't good. He kept attacking Kerry as if Kerry was the incumbent president, responsible for every decision of the Senate, and as if he himself was a John Wayne coming in from the wilderness, ready to shoot the barroom empty. He also offered very few facts or factoids and he seemed to be unaware of being the owner of a small business in the timber industry. In fact, he is the owner of one:
President Bush himself would have qualified as a "small business owner" under the Republican definition, based on his 2001 federal income tax returns. He reported $84 of business income from his part ownership of a timber-growing enterprise. However, 99.99% of Bush's total income came from other sources that year. (Bush also qualified as a "small business owner" in 2000 based on $314 of "business income," but not in 2002 and 2003 when he reported his timber income as "royalties" on a different tax schedule.)
I wasn't impressed with Bush, naturally. He didn't even bother to listen to the mediator. But I wasn't as impressed with Kerry as I was last time. True, he won the debate on issues and on clarity and demeanor, I think, but neither Bush nor Kerry would answer all the questions the audience and the mediator posed. And Kerry failed to really hammer home how awful Bush has been to the environment.
On the positive side, Kerry did come out for some issues that are important to women and he handled the difficult questions fairly well. Compare the discussions of the so-called partial birth abortion by Kerry and Bush. Kerry used the example of a teenager raped by her father to show how difficult it is to make laws that are based on all-or-nothing thinking (in this case about parental notification of a minor's abortion). Bush simply repeated that one is either for the partial birth abortion ban or against it. This shows a lack of understanding about human pain. I don't want a president who can't relate to the anguish of a teenager having to ask the rapist for a permission to get an abortion.
Who won? Kerry did, but the media is going to spin this into something else if they only can. So make certain that you tell them what my opinion is....