TTLB Debate Coverage

Hey! My server appears to be behaving, at least for the moment. So that means debate coverage!
No promise of continual drunk liveblogging (only just started the beer), but I’ll toss a comment here and there if the urge strikes.
1) And there’s the first violation of debate rules by CNN — showing a split screen with Kerry’s reaction while Bush speaks…
2) Overall I think Kerry is coming out strong and Bush has ground to make up thus far….
3) Bush’s strongest response yet: quoting Kerry back at himself and pointing out the uselessness of the U.N. — very good stuff.
4) Not that this is a revelation, but thus far, it looks like this will be a draw. Both candidates are doing ok, no obvious gaffes, no big moments (yet). I don’t see a lot of minds being changed by this…
5) The first hint of Bush getting Kerry twisted around himself, with Bush pointing out Kerry’s vote in support of the war…
6) Ouch. As a vaguely libertarian type, I’m not thrilled that Bush is mistaking spending lots of money for accomplishments as he’s listing his homeland security achievements.
7) “A free Iraq”. A powerful phrase, and one that Bush used well.
8) OK, I’m not hypersensitive about such things. But these questions are turning out to be extraordinarily biased. Every question seems to be “so, let’s talk about the mistakes Bush has made…”
9) Kerry just stepped in it… we’re now debating whether Kerry’s position on Iraq has been consistent. Kerry insisting that he has had “one position” was a pretty obviously silly statement.
10) Yikes. Bush bitching about how it’s “hard work” to console a war widow didn’t come out quite right.
11) But Bush finished strong on that question, answering definitively that the war was worth the cost. Kerry is about to try to dodge the question… by proposing a summit! Again!
12) The grand plan becomes clear. Bush is going to hammer Kerry on that “wrong war wrong time” statement all night. It’s a good plan.
13) Bush is going to nail Kerry on his Alawi statements…. bing! And he references Joe Lockhart’s “puppet” comment… and again back to consistent messages. Bush has a consistent message tonight about sending consistent messages. What more could you want?
14) Bush is really hitting his stride now. The consistent message consistent message is a powerful theme, and I think it has more traction that Kerry’s theme, which is simply, “I can do better.”
15) Bush says “Saddam Hussein would have been stronger” — -Kerry says this is “just factually incorrect. Er, how can a prediction about the future be “factually incorrect”?
16) Excellent answer from Bush on how we’re working multilaterally on North Korea…
17) Oh my god. I can’t believe Kerry just brought up his suggestion to “give nuclear fuel” to Iran, and “see if they would use it for peaceful purposes”, or something like that. I will grant, for a microsecond, that there might be a coherent argument why this is a good policy (although I’m extraordinarily skeptical). But handing nuclear materials to Iran to see what happens ain’t gonna play well in the heartland…
18) Bush does an excellent job gracefully answering the hand-grenade question whether he thinks Senator Kerry has character flaws. A series of gracious complements, and then a transition into the Consistent Message Consistent Message.
19) I can’t believe I’m actually watching an honest-to-goodness policy disagreement and debate (on whether to have bilateral talks with North Korea). Who said democracy was dead?
20) Kerry missed an opportunity to slam Bush for his slightly-too-chummy references to Putin as “Vladimir”. Unforced error…
21) And oh lord, Kerry is coming back to his one message of the night: I’m smarter than Bush, and I can do everything better!
Final thoughts: Overall, a much more interesting discussion than I had expected. I think it is fair to say that this discussion earned the title “debate”, to my surprise. I’ll give Lehrer credit for running a tight (but not too tight) ship — while standing by my (and Hewitt’s) dismay at the Kerry-slanted nature of the questions.
In the end, though, I don’t think it will be enough to help Kerry. Viewed objectively, this looks like a draw to me. Both candidates did solid jobs, but neither “broke through”; at the same time neither had any serious gaffes. Each side’s pundits will spin the debate as a win, and the overall CW (driven by Kerry-leaning Big Media) will be that Kerry was the winner (just because he didn’t self-destruct). But I’m betting that the polls over the next week will show perhaps a slight tightening in the race: but nothing more.
PS: Great, Jeff Greenfield (on CNN) just quoted “a conservative blog” as a source of concern that Bush wasn’t doing great. Curses, foiled again!
PPS: So which network is going to include a “tour of the blogs” in their post-debate nattering? Anybody who sees such a beast, shout it out in the comments!