Lets 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 youre 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 Kerrys 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 Bushs way or Kerrys 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.