(All times Mountain)
6:56pm. One martini down, another poured. Waiting for the candidates. Promise to self for a job well done (assuming) a nice smoke on the pipe later. It’s sitting right next to me, along with lighter, tamper, and a fresh pouch of Noble Bachelor (an oxymoron if ever there was one).
6:59pm. I keep hearing reports that Kerry got a manicure today. What’s the problem? The man wants to look pretty, but it’s not like there’s much he can do with his face. Cocktail, anyone?
7:01pm. And we’re off.
7:05pm. “Yes, I do,” says Kerry, and then wasted half a minute thanking everybody. “I can make us safer.” I expect both guys to claim this, maybe they even both beleive it – but it’s BS in the Terror Age.
7:07pm. “I have a better plan.” Nice line, necessary line. But he sounds rushed, and the hand gestures seem unconnected.
7:09pm. Bush is doing that rapid blinking thing already, but he’s speaking slower and more comfortably. Call it a draw. And somebody hire me an at-home bartender – I’m in need of another martini.
7:35pm. “They’re not going to follow somebody. . .” Sweet. Kerry’s taking some rapid note. I’m watching this on Fox. Anyone on other channels getting verboten reaction shots?
7:36pm. Time to mix another drink. I might miss the mext question.
7:39pm “Meanwhile, North Korea has gotten nuclear weapons.” Actually, they got them under Clinton. And that’s no critique of Clinton. There’s nothing, short of a disastrous war, that would have stoppen NK.
7:41pm. I have a fresh cocktail, and Kerry sounds better. Causal connection? Probably, but you’d have to ask Teresa to know for sure.
7:43pm. “Osama bin Laden doesn’t determine American policy,” or words to that effect. Not well delivered, but the words themselves were perfect.
7:44pm. “I would have preferred that he [Bush] did more diplomacy.”
7:45pm. Here’s what we have so far. Kerry is an impressive attack machine. Bush impressively refuses to budge. If I had to guess, the question most viewers will ask is, “In time of war, do I want the debate team captain, or the guy he can’t move?”
7:48pm. “I will hunt and kill the terrorists wherever they are.” That’s the second (third?) time Kerry has used that line, and it’s a loser. For Kerry, it’s a promise. For Bush, it’s a perceived fact.
7:50pm. Kerry is hedging, in a nuanced fashion, his promise to withdraw troops. It’s a MEGO moment, and even a junky like me is getting lost in his answer. On the other hand, I’m drinking.
Also, Kerry’s every answer seems to hinge on “look how much smarter I am.” As I wrote last night, there’s a danger there for Kerry. Try to sound too smart, and he risks making the rest of us feel dumb. That’s no way to win an election.
7:52pm. Ahh – Bush has his opening on Allawi.
Yet Bush is giving us a strangely weak defense of our best ally in the world’s sickest region. It could’ve been a knockout blow. Instead, he gave Kerry a chance to sound smart again, and duck the issue.
7:54pm. We’re back live – for now. Be easy on the page reloads, please.
7:57pm. We’re almost to the two-thirds mark now, and it looks like a draw. A draw is a loss for Kerry, for reasons I’ll get into around midnight or so Eastern Time.
8:00pm. “The president has always had the right of pre-emptive strike.” Kerry said that. His Senate record, however, doesn’t support it. Kerry has scored debate point after debate point, but I’m not sure he’s done so in ways that will be reflected in the polls. His whole “allies” rant seems to depend on his own, personal magnestism – and that’s the only thing he hasn’t demonstrated tonight.
8:02pm. Finally. I mean – finally. Bush is attacking Kerry’s multilateral foundation. Maybe that’s just red meat for semi-Jacksonians like myself. Maybe it’s a real attack. Maybe (probably) it’s how he really thinks. Whatever the cause, it plays well with me, and should play well with security moms.
8:04pm. MOO-lahs. I love it when Bush tries to pronounce foreign words. For all I know, it’s an act. But it left Kerry saying, again, “I think we could have done better.”
I’m bored with both of these guys, and have been almost from the start. But Kerry just annoys me. And he thinks he’s going to win me over by complaining we aren’t TALKING to North Korea? What’s there to talk about? Clinton exhausted talk with them ten years ago. And what did it get us?
8:07pm. Time to make another drink. The talk has drifted to Darfur, which is more InstaPundit’s realm than mine. Back in two minutes.
8:10pm. Bush is showing his multilateral stripes when talking about Sudan. He also sounds pretty informed. Now, Sudan is an unmitigated disaster. It’s also where Bush has been the most multilateral. Draw your own conclusions.
8:13pm. Kerry is smiling as Bush praises Kerry’s daughters and longterm service in the Senate. That was perfect. Bush’s complaints aren’t as well-developed, but he (like Kerry has all night) sounds sincere.
8:15pm. Kerry sounds just as sweet. It’s been a nice moment for them both – and right now, Kerry is (in my mind) scoring his best points of the night. Why? He sounds less like a debater, and more like a human. Kerry has finally found the right pitch. Problem is, the debate is almost over. Only 15 minutes to go.
8:17pm. Methinks he doth protest too much. Kerry, for the umpteenth time tonight, has said he’s never wavered on Iraq. The record says different and, even if it didn’t, that windsurfing TV ad makes it the public perception.
Again, on this response, Kerry has the right tone, and he doesn’t sound overly wonk-y. But it’s even later in the evening – twelve minutes to go.
8:18pm. Kerry’s talking nuclear test ban TREATY? In an age where we-can’t-know-who is trying we-can’t-know-what with nukes?
Prediction: He’ll get ripped for this one on Friday, or perhaps as late as Monday by more thoughtful pundits. Stupid stupid stupid.
8:22pm. I explained months ago why I think bilateral talks with North Korea would be a mistake. I’ll link to that old post later, if someone would be so kind as to remind me. It’s a loser for Kerry, at least in the post-debate spin cycle.
8:24pm. Last question, and neither guy has flubbed anything. I’ll have final thoughts in 90 minutes, after I’ve had a chance to reply to some emails and digest some vodka.
8:26pm. Oh, who am I kidding? I love the sound of my own voice too much to make you wait an entire 90 minutes. Besides, there’s been so much good email, some of it will find its way to the blog, long before I write my final thoughts around midnight.