Open Thread: Debate is On

Update 5 8:35 closings: Kerry's is good. Concrete plans. He's presidential. Articulate. Engaged.

Bush: Soft-speaking, mealy. Touting his economic successes. He still doesn't get it. Instead of a plan, he announces goals. "We will be safe."

8:30: Bush is asked to name three of his mistakes. He bobs and weaves, trying not to say he didn't make any but not acknowledging any specific ones. Kerry has Bush's mistakes down pat. Gets in another shot at Bush for going to war.

"Saddam was a risk to our country, man." Man?

Update #4: 8:20 pm Kerry is good on the Patriot Act abuses. He opposes sneak and peek's. He opposes detentions where people can't challenge their confinement. But he says he supports the Act. Which portions?

The stem cell questioner has to be a plant. Could anyone who is that much against embryonic stem cells not be a pro-lifer whose mind is made up? Bush's relaxed answer shows he knows he has this questioner, there's no threat. Nonetheless, Kerry is great on his second shot at the answer.

Onto the Supreme Court: Bush says he hasn't decided who to put on the Supreme Court yet. He wouldn't pick a judge who ruled against the Pledge of Allegiance or the one who decided Dred Scott. How timely. He would pick strict constructionists. No litmus test except for how they interpret the Constitution. Kerry blows Bush out of the water on this one.

Another pro-lifer question. Uncommitted, please. I'm surprised Charlie Gibson allowed these questions to be posed in such a partisan manner.

Update #3 8:07 pm: Bush says he's been a good steward of the land. Now we know we can't believe a word he says. Kerry is becoming more confident and natural as the debate goes on. He's in his stride now, and Bush seems angry and petulant.

Update #2 7:50 pm. This debate is kind of a snooze. The audience is about as homogenous as you can get. Very little diversity. Too many are keeping their arms folded across their chests when one or the other talks, hardly the sign of an uncommitted voter.

Update #1 7:35 pm: Bush loses his cool on the draft rebuttal. He disregarded Charlie Gibson's asking a different question and insisted on continuing his way. Shouting out, "Tell that to Tony Blair." He lost his cool, no question about it.

Kerry asks them to join him in rolling back the president's tax cut for people earning over $200,000. He'll provide health care to all.

Bush says Kerry will create government-sponsored health care. "That's what liberals do." Kerry responds that labels don't mean anything--what matters is having a plan and he has a plan.

Bush bashes trial lawyers next. "He put a trial lawyer on the ticket."

Original post 7:pm

Let's go....it's starting now.

Charlie Gibson of GMA and ABC News picked the questions. The questioners are supposedly all undecideds.

Nice greeting Kerry and Bush gave each other. They are sitting at little school desks.

First question: To Kerry, is he too wishy-washy?

Kerry's answer was a little flat.

Now to whether the war in Iraq was justified despite there being no WMD's. As expected, Bush is much better in this town hall format. He's animated, using a lot of hand gestures.

Kerry says he has never changed his mind about Iraq. He's being forceful while Bush is being genial. He needs to leave the statistics out. They don't translate.

Bush should drop the "I do it all the time" line. It's a turn-off.

Kerry is a little too defensive. He isn't smiling or relaxed.

Bush just turned insincere. "We've got a great country. I love our values." Please.

Bush's answer on rebuilding alliances with other countries was weak. In fact, it was admission that he won't. He trashed the International Criminal Court again. He wasn't too articulate..."An unaccounted judge" sits on the International Criminal Court."

Ace for Kerry on this answer. The military's job is to win the war. The President's job is to win the peace.

The Draft: Bush says there will be no draft while he is President. Kerry: Our military is overextended. Back door draft right now. Kerry is finally loosening up. He's going to do what Reagan and Eisenhower did.

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