I thought Bob Schieffer did a magnificently bad job. I really couldn’t believe the question about the President’s faith:
You were asked before the invasion, or after the invasion, of Iraq if you'd checked with your dad. And I believe, I don't remember the quote exactly, but I believe you said you had checked with a higher authority. I would like to ask you, what part does your faith play on your policy decisions?
What in the world is this question supposed to elicit? What did Bob expect Kerry was going to be able to say “in response?” This struck me as an overt effort to give the President a chance to speechify in his trademark Unprepared Student style about faith at the end of the proceedings. I was especially surprised when the question turned away from what I thought was going to be something a wee bit challenging, like, “What led you to reject the judgment of your father and others in his administration that invading Iraq was a mistake because of the risk that we would get bogged down in a quagmire with no real exit strategy?”
The real stunners of the night to me were:
-- When the President blamed the flu vaccine shortage on foreigners (the British), said we were working with some less foreign foreigners (the Canadians), and that the patriotic thing to do was to simply do without. Yikes!
-- The President lying about his intemperate remarks about wanting Osama dead or alive (of course). I think this may well be the symbolic nail in the coffin of his re-election campaign. It’s just too easy for the media to replay the two clips right after each other. And as far more perceptive minds than I have noted, it cuts right to the heart of the public’s dissatisfaction with the administration. It is a clear demonstration of the “taking their eye off the ball” charge, it is a clear demonstration that the President is plainly a liar, it is a clear demonstration that the President lacks the maturity to accept any kind of responsibility, and it is a clear demonstration that the President lacks the judgment to handle such an awesome responsibility.
-- I was struck by how obviously inconsistent the President’s remarks were about government sponsored health care. On the one hand, he seemed to think it was, I suppose like all government services, poor quality and likely to lead to abuse (“government- run health will lead to poor-quality health”). But on the other, he seemed quite proud of the government run health care programs: “Veterans are getting very good health care under my administration.” I’m surprised even the muddled press hasn’t picked up on this. Pretty obvious, in my view.
-- The President saying that what unemployed workers really are interested in is education, specifically the No Child Left behind Act. Well, in about three weeks Mr. Bush may have the opportunity to learn first hand what unemployed people are interested in. I’m pretty sure it ain’t higher fourth grade reading scores. He topped off this corker with the “reading is the new civil right” quote. Which I thought was pretty remarkable. What’s the next civil right, I wonder? The right to electricity? Freedom from the 100 hour workweek? (Actually, if Bush wins, we might just be campaigning for that…)
-- Kerry’s smackdown of Bush’s lame defense of his funding for NCLB – actually, two of them. First, “He'll tell you he's raised the money, and he has. But he didn't put in what he promised, and that makes a difference in the lives of our children.” A point which was not rebutted. Second, “You don't measure it by a percentage increase. Mr. President, you measure it by whether you're getting the job done.” KO, Kerry.
-- One for those paying close attention, perhaps, but I thought it was choice: Kerry’s smackdown of Bush defense of his performance on Pell grants. “But you know why the Pell Grants have gone up in their numbers? Because more people qualify for them because they don't have money.” Kerry surely could have hit this more crisply, but for those paying attention, this was pretty devastating: Bush can cite one million more families qualifying for Pell grants because he has made more families worse enough off that they qualify. Too bad the available pool of funds hasn’t been increased (in fact it’s been decreased).
Oh, and by the way, just why won’t anyone in the press ever hold these Repubs responsible for their bad judgments. Every single time we’ve raised the minimum wage, the Repubs have been 100% certain that a catastrophic economic collapse will ensue, and they’ve been wrong every single time. In fact, every time we do something over the Repubs objections (which is every time we do something that doesn’t have as its primary purpose benefiting corporate America), the objections turn out to be crap. And never once have I seen a reporter call these guys on it. They’re now claiming that if Kerry gets in, he’ll tax everyone to death. Didn’t they make the same claims about Bill Clinton? Weren’t they proven embarrassingly wrong?
And that concludes the screed for the day. Respond, if you dare…