Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Kerry at War with Himself

Let’s face it: Kerry proved to be in a no-win situation at the first presidential debate. His Senate record since 9/11 combined with his wavering campaign statements prevented him from being either for the war or against it in any principled way. Kerry could not find a coherent way to voice an anti-Bush/non-Howard Dean middle ground on the war against terrorism on which he has staked his presidential prospects. Bush forces him to defend the noble sacrifices of our troops while Kerry tries moments later to criticize our even being in Iraq. This is the kind of "nuance" for which Democrats have praised Kerry but through which he is unable to articulate what his plan for Iraq would be.

Kerry can repeat forever that he has a plan, a better plan, a stronger plan for winning the war in Iraq and getting our troops home, but he is at pains to explain just what that plan is. Mercy, at one point the man actually said if you wanted to know what some plan of his was, you could just look it up at his website! You could just sense Dems and Indies across the nation screaming at the television: "Tell us, please, please tell us what it is! Give us a reason to vote for you!"

Simply put, Bush was more adept at setting the terms for the debate over foreign policy and put Kerry the challenger on the defensive rather than the other way around (like you’re supposed to do to an incumbent). The president actually made Sen. Kerry say, "I have never wilted in my life." Pathetic. On several occasions, Bush countered Kerry’s assertions of weak implementation or insufficient resources with specific numbers and the results of his administrations efforts to get the bad guys.

Also, Kerry never explained how he would bring additional nations on board for the fight in Iraq; he simply asserted that this was the best way forward. Not a bad distinction to make before the American people, who will have to decide if Bush’s way or Kerry’s expanded multilateralism is the best approach to finishing the job in Iraq and continuing the fight against global terrorism.

I thought Bush, despite a few awkward pauses and repetitive statements, won this round handily. Kerry has yet to give the clear, succinct, and coherent plans for a Kerry presidency that are necessary to fire up voters enough to replace the current administration.

Discussions - 13 Comments

Kerry solidified himself as presidential tonight in a debate that was supposed to be Bush’s strength. The seeds for the Kerry comeback story have just been planted.


Kerry lost among whatever small sliver of undecided voters was carefully following the positions and the logic of the two candidates.

But if most of the undecided viewers are people who want to vote Democratic and just want stylistic reassurance that Kerry isn’t a peacenik, then Kerry won.

If Bush were a smarter man and quicker on his feet, he could have put Kerry away. Indeed, he could have done real damage to Kerry by discussing his far-left record. But he didn’t. He certainly got in some good lines, but didn’t do nearly as well as he should have.

Lucas I am with you. Of course Bush already had my vote, but I did watch the whole thing and lectures from Kerry were long on platitudes but short on specifics. Kerry does not win Fla or Ohio by going anti-war. Without either he is toast. It remains to be seen if he gets back Michigan and New Jersey. Let the voters step away from the smoke and haze for a day or so. It will then be clear that draws are not what Kerry needs or can afford.

What struck me as one of the most amusing parts of the debate was when Kerry said:

"Secretary of State Colin Powell told this President the Pottery Barn rule, if you break it, you fix it."

Any kid can tell you that this is not the rule they know. The rule is if you break it, you "bought" it.

It was laughable to picture someone knocking something off of a shelf in a store, having it break into a million pieces, and then with a great sigh of determination pull out their super glue to put it back together again. Or to think of a store manager, telling a customer that they cannot leave until every last piece of that item they just shattered is returned to its original place.

It wasn’t a major gaffe that will be shown on the news networks, but it was an amusing one perhaps for Jay Leno.

Kerry immediately recovered, by saying that if you break something you own it, and then you have to fix it and try to do something with it. He was referencing Bob Woodward’s book which implies that behind the scenes Powell, being concerned with the complications of the war, referred to "the Pottery Barn rule of foreign policy:" you break it you own it.

It would seem though that the average American would not get this seemingly obscure reference. I can’t help but wonder if the Pottery Barn comment (aside from trying to quote the popular Powell), was perhaps put in there to make Kerry appear to be hip, trendy, and in touch with the average American. It would seem to have had the reverse effect by stumbling on a simple "rule" that even small children can recite.


You could just sense Dems and Indies across the nation screaming at the television: "Tell us, please, please tell us what it is! Give us a reason to vote for you!"

When I saw myself in the mirror, I was smiling. But then again, I am Republican voting for Kerry. He did a great job - very presidential.

I thought the message was this:

Kerry: I want to work with the world to solve our problems. (Kept calling for summits.)

Bush: I want to attack the world to solve our problems. (Continually promised to remain on the offensive.)

I am a conservative one-issue voter (foreign policy), so Kerry has my vote.

That seems awfully petty, Brit. I suppose you had not considered the idea, while we are dwelling on this, that "buying" a broken item is one method of "fixing" the problem you caused.

I doubt it was an attempt to sound "hip." It was just a good analogy. We broke Iraq, we need to fix it. Kerry is unhappy on how the Iraq invasion took place, but he understands our duty to fix it.

You can concentrate on how funny you think an analogy is, or you can concentrate on the dead children and growing insurrection in Iraq.

the idea that Bush won this debate in any sense, substantively, stylistically, or thematically is one of denial. I don’t know that Kerry "dominated", but he quietly established a strong presence that the president was unable to match.

Actually Daniel, I find the notion that we "broke" Iraq to be pretty silly in itself. Saddam Hussein broke Iraq. Certainly things are not all sunshine and honey over there right now, but the notion that the "dead children" there represent blood on our hands is downright ridiculous. Saddam was killing children and other civilians at a far greater rate than the insurrectionists are doing now and with America there and Saddam deposed, there is a reasonably good chance that the Middle East will soon have its first Muslim representative democracy and that the people of Iraq will finally be able to experience freedom instead of a figurative jackboot on their collective throats.

Summits were not about to bring freedom to Iraq or to take down Saddam or to eliminate Iraq as a safe haven for terrorists. The very notion is absurd. The fact that you think that notion carries any weight is sad.


"Well, I think -- listen, I fully agree that one should shift tactics, and we will, in Iraq." -Bush

"Saddam was killing children and other civilians at a far greater rate than the insurrectionists are doing now..."

This statement is disgusting in that you will not acknowledge we are the ones doing the killing over there. 15,000-30,000 Iraqis have been killed by our bullets and our bombs. Even if you think it is justified, at least acknowledge the facts.

The insurrectionists are fighting to throw our invading forces from there lands, just as you would do if a foriegn power invaded the U.S. and routinely bombed it and shot up the streets.

Open your eyes, Dominick. This is not some entertaining academic debate. This is real people with real families that are dying. This is our country’s security at risk as we cultivate the hate of the world against us.

Our invasions, torture, and death disgust me. I am ashamed and only hope that we fix our nation.

"Saddam was killing children and other civilians at a far greater rate than the insurrectionists are doing now..."

This statement is disgusting in that you will not acknowledge we are the ones doing the killing over there. 15,000-30,000 Iraqis have been killed by our bullets and our bombs. Even if you think it is justified, at least acknowledge the facts.


I don’t recall saying that we hadn’t killed people in Iraq. What I said is that Saddam was killing his own people at a far greater rate and he was killing innocent civilians rather than terrorists. Certainly we have been responsible for the deaths of some civilians as well, but there is an ethical difference between accidental deaths and intentionally killing innocents as Saddam did. If you don’t understand that distinction, then frankly you are so ethically-challenged as to not have an opinion worth considering.

So yes, we are doing some killing over there, but the insurrectionists are bombing and killing Iraqi citizens with reckless disregard for the lives of those citizens, whereas we are targetting terrorists. I should hope you can tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys here…

This is our country’s security at risk as we cultivate the hate of the world against us.

Newsflash Daniel. A large segment of the world hated us before we invaded Iraq and they would have hated us if we hadn’t invaded at all. They flew two airplanes into the WTC. Perhaps you recall the incident. Apparently you are the one who needs to open your eyes. Holding our heads in the sand was not going to prevent future attacks. Now we are fighting the terrorists on their turf, which I vastly prefer to having to fight them here.

That seems awfully petty, Brit.

C’mon, Daniel. Kerry screwed up a quote. It was funny, except perhaps to "single-issue conservatives" (yeah, right).

"Fix it" means to repair something -- to glue the pieces back together. Your suggestion is that this is what buying the broken item would do is laboriously disingenuous.

To Lee,

Is the idea that a Conservative can be so turned off by this war as to vote solely in protest against it unbelievable to you? I find it quite possible as it is the current situation of many people whom I have talked with about this topic.

Lori, come on. Ya know, John McCain was and still is for the War on Terror and the War in Iraq. If he won the Presidency, he has said he would have gone in. Would you think he "killed" 1000 troops. Did FDR kill 250,000 troops?

You write about "petty comments". Mrs. Kettle meet Mrs. Black.

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