Carol Platt Liebau: Bush is the <i> Real </I> Strong Closer

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Bush is the Real Strong Closer

A clear win for President Bush. Yes, he was a little flummoxed (understandably) by the bizarre question about the flu vaccine, and he should have explained a little better about why the minimum wage costs jobs, he could have emoted a bit more about affirmative action (explaining how he supports opportunity for all people, as all people should), but I quibble.

President Bush landed the heavy blows and Kerry didn't look so good. Kerry was pale and sweaty, and kept going back to answer previous questions -- not a sign of confidence. Just as "I've been consistent" is a signifier that, in fact, Kerry hasn't been consistent on whatever issue is at hand, he kept saying "I respect" everything that he, in fact, has shown little sign of respecting, such as the right to life, the importance of religious faith, or his support for the right to bear arms. (And while Kerry was quoting the Bible, he got it wrong, saying "Thou shalt love thy God with all thy heart and body and soul" -- it's all thy heart, all soul and all thy mind).

The story of Kerry in the debates has been the story of pandering. He won't raise taxes, but he's going to give health care to everyone, and he won't raise taxes on anyone over $200,000 but he's going to raise the minimum wage to $7.00. Where is the "leadership" or the "tough choices"? AWOL, just like any meaningful Kerry legislation in twenty years in the Senate.

Where Kerry really lost it was on abortion and gay marriage. About whether homosexuality is a choice, President Bush was willing to say "I don't know" -- but to explain that the issue is the sanctity of marriage, and the willingness of activist judges to redefine it against the will of the people. Kerry took the low road by discussing Mary Cheney -- reflecting, I believe, the stereotype on the left that holds that the "religious right" will be upset about Cheney having a gay daughter). And what was interesting was to hear Kerry talk about situations where women find out they are married to gay men -- kind of an odd digression, designed (as most of his pitch was) to appeal to women.

On the abortion/stem cell question, he basically admitted that he disagrees with Church teaching, and said in one breath that "I cannot legislate an article of faith" but then went on to say, in effect, that everything he does has to be "guided by faith but not based on it" (huh)? President Bush also landed a solid blow on Kerry about opposing the ban on partial birth abortion.

In fact, Bush came after Kerry tonight -- in a very low-key, woman-friendly way -- and landed a lot of blows on him:

--Bush will stay on offense in war on terror; Kerry is for a "global test"
--He nailed Kerry on voting against tax cuts 127 times, and for busting the budget caps 277 times;
--Kerry opposed DOMA;
--Kerry voted against the partial birth abortion ban;
--Kerry has no record of leadership on health care -- 20 years and no bills;
--Kerry plan will cost $1.2 trillion and lead to a government takeover of health care, which in turn will lead to rationing and less choice;
--Kerry voted to tax social security;
--Kerry voted for amnesty for illegal immigrants;
--Kerry has no plan to relieve what he has called a "back door draft"
--Kerry voted against the first Gulf War, despite all the countries in the coalition.

It's interesting that usually it's the challenger who's talking about the future; tonight, it was the President. All Kerry has done is criticize the past, and for all the dialogue about "I have a plan", well, we didn't hear one about anything except health care, and that was shown convincingly to be deeply flawed.

Kerry has no plan:
--On Iraq (at least one that's different from the President);
--For Social Security;
--On immigration reform (aside from the age-old invocation of cracking down on employers).

And the questions that Bob Schieffer thought might be hard for the President -- on the role of religion in his leadership, and on women -- the President knocked out of the park. He was warm, self-deprecating, and his answer on the religious question allowed America to look right into his heart. He connected; he was fantastic.

Thank you, Mr. President. Great job.


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