Debate: The Morning After

I still think the questions were biased, essentially focusing on Bush’s record and ignoring Kerry’s. So here’s my question-by-question rating of bias for Lehrer’s performance:
1) Do you believe you could do a better job than President Bush in preventing another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States?
Bias: Neutral
2) Do you believe the election of Senator Kerry on November the 2nd would increase the chances of the U.S. being hit by another 9/11-type terrorist attack?
Bias: Neutral
3) Colossal misjudgments. What colossal misjudgments, in your opinion, has President Bush made in these areas?
Bias: Against Bush. “Please elaborate on all the ways your opponent has screwed up, Senator.” That’s not a debate question, that’s an open door.
4) What about Senator Kerry’s point, the comparison he drew between the priorities of going after Osama bin Laden and going after Saddam Hussein?
Bias: Neutral
5) As president, what would you do, specifically, in addition to or differently to increase the homeland security of the United States than what President Bush is doing?
Bias: Neutral, and a good question.
6) What criteria would you use to determine when to start bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq?
Bias: Neutral
7) Speaking of Vietnam, you spoke to Congress in 1971, after you came back from Vietnam, and you said, quote, How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? Are Americans now dying in Iraq for a mistake?
Bias: This one might actually have a slight anti-Kerry spin to it, as it put him on the hot spot. I’m in a generous mood, we’ll call it biased against Kerry.
8) You have said there was a, quote, “miscalculation,” of what the conditions would be in post-war Iraq. What was the miscalculation, and how did it happen?
Bias: Against Bush. “Now that Senator Kerry has had an opportunity to describe your screwups, President Bush, it is your turn: What do you think about your screwups?”
9) You just — you’ve repeatedly accused President Bush — not here tonight, but elsewhere before — of not telling the truth about Iraq, essentially of lying to the American people about Iraq. Give us some examples of what you consider to be his not telling the truth.
Bias: Against Bush. “Now that you’ve illuminated us all about how Bush is a screwup, please also tell us how he’s a liar.”
10) Has the war in Iraq been worth the cost of American lives, 1,052 as of today?
Bias: Against Bush. A valid question, but phrased in a biased way. If you’re going to get specific about the cost in lives, get specific in terms of the benefits as well — no more Saddam, no more executions, budding democracy, etc.
11) Can you give us specifics, in terms of a scenario, time lines, et cetera, for ending major U.S. military involvement in Iraq?
Bias: Neutral
12) Does the Iraq experience make it more likely or less likely that you would take the United States into another preemptive military action?
Bias: Against Bush. “Since you screwed up Iraq, Mr. President, have you learned your lesson?”
13) What is your position on the whole concept of preemptive war?
Bias: Neutral.
14) Do you believe that diplomacy and sanctions can resolve the nuclear problems with North Korea and Iran? Take them in any order you would like.
Bias: Neutral
15) Clearly, as we have heard, major policy differences between the two of you. Are there also underlying character issues that you believe, that you believe are serious enough to deny Senator Kerry the job as commander in chief of the United States?
Bias: I’m going to call it neutral, but it certainly was loaded, which is a slightly different thing than bias.
16) If you are elected president, what will you take to that office thinking is the single most serious threat to the national security to the United States?
Bias: Neutral
17) It’s a new subject — new question, and it has to do with President Putin and Russia. Did you misjudge him or are you — do you feel that what he is doing in the name of antiterrorism by changing some democratic processes is OK?
Bias: Against Bush. A valid question, but again, phrased against Bush — “did you misjudge him”.
So: 17 questions in all, 1 one of which I (generously) call as biased against Kerry, 10 neutral ones, and six biased against Bush. That’s not a neutral playing field, folks, that’s what we call in the biz, “statistically significant.”
A few suggestions on how it could have been better:
– Why were there no questions about the benefits of a free Iraq? Suggestion: “Senator Kerry, you’ve focused on disarming Saddam Hussein, and have argued that there were ways to do that other than war. But would simply disarming Iraq yield the same benefits as deposing Saddam entirely?”
– Why no questions on Senator Kerry’s record? There is an argument that it makes sense to focus on the incumbents’ record in a debate like this, but I don’t buy that. This isn’t a referendum on Bush. It is a choice between two men applying for the job, and the questions should have focused equally on each man’s qualifications and record.
– Why no questions on any foreign policy items except Iraq and terrorism? This isn’t really a bias issue, but even as a single-issue voter, I would have liked to have at least had a question or two on everything else going on in the world. (Okay, there was Darfur, but that was about it).
Others weighing in:
Bill at INDC isn’t convinced there was bias
Hewitt, as mentioned below, does
BoycottCBS comes up with 39% pro-Kerry-tilted, 6% pro-Bush-tilted, and 56% neutral/fair.