Friday, October 01, 2004
TiVo-blogging the debate: Watching the debate several hours after it actually occurs is a great advantage -- I can copy and paste what I want from a transcript, rather then pausing and typing it myself.
The big problem with this debate format is that the moderator really can't challenge the answers of either candidate, and with the rule that the candidates can't ask each other questions, this is not so much a debate as it is a series of mini-speeches.
KERRY: I believe in being strong and resolute and determined. And I will hunt down and kill the terrorists, wherever they are.
Unless they're in Iraq. Or anywhere else France has economic interests that they don't want the U.S. to meddle in.
LEHRER: New question, two minutes, Senator Kerry.
"Colossal misjudgments." What colossal misjudgments, in your opinion, has President Bush made in these areas?
KERRY: Well, where do you want me to begin?
First of all, he made the misjudgment of saying to America that he was going to build a true alliance, that he would exhaust the remedies of the United Nations and go through the inspections.
Senator Kerry, what makes a "true alliance"? For the first Gulf War we had a coalition of 34 nations. For Operation Iraqi Freedom we had 30. Must a "true alliance" contain France, Germany and Russia? Or maybe any two?
KERRY: You don't send troops to war without the body armor that they need.
I've met kids in Ohio, parents in Wisconsin places, Iowa, where they're going out on the Internet to get the state-of-the-art body gear to send to their kids. Some of them got them for a birthday present.
This is absolutely false.
Kerry's comment is designed to mislead the viewer into believing that our troops are going without needed body armor that is available for civilian purchase on the Internet -- not true.
As of this year, all U.S. troops are being issued the state-of-the-art body armor, so there's no need for family members to go on the Internet and buy it for them.
From a congressional hearing:
Q: Up on the Hill here a number of your officials have been peppered with questions about why there's been a lack of body armor and I ask you now in retrospect, was there a breakdown in the planning for post-war Iraq that failed to anticipate the types of hostilities U.S. troops would encounter and the types of equipment they would need. Body armor is pretty elementary Sir.
Gen. Pace: Every soldier and Marine on the ground over had body armor. The difference is, is that our industry has produced an even better body armor than what we have, so what the folks went over to the war with is what we've been wearing for several years, which is body armor that's very, very good against a certain caliber of munition. The new body armor is better against large caliber munition, industry produced it and Congress funded it and industries producing as fast as they can and as fast as they're making it we're getting it to Iraq. The projection is that by December of this year everybody in Iraq will have the new armor, so everybody has armor it's the difference between whether they have the most recent capacity armor or the armor that we've been wearing - body armor that we've been wearing for a couple years.
Q: I heard there was a shortage of armor like 40,000 troops didn't have armor?
Gen. Pace: No. About 40,000 troops did not have the brand new improved armor. All had body armor available and it's the 40,000 deficits in the new armor that's being corrected between now and December .
Were families trying to buy the newest, state-of-the-art body armor back in 2003? Yep, but it wasn't like it was lying around in shops -- the military was buying it all up -- as fast as it came off the assembly line. Then how did some of these families get it? Well, they bought stolen ones -- armor taken from other U.S. troops. If body armor hadn't have been stolen, then Kerry wouldn't have this little anecdote.
And what's the worst thing about this? Not a single media outlet debunked it in their fact check pieces. Shameful.
KERRY: The only building that was guarded when the troops when into Baghdad was the oil ministry. We didn't guard the nuclear facilities.
We didn't guard the foreign office, where you might have found information about weapons of mass destruction. We didn't guard the borders.
Nuclear facilities? Senator, you've been telling us that Saddam had no WMDs -- therefore where are these nuclear facilities that we were supposed to be guarding? Senator, there were no WMDs -- and Saddam had disclosed everything to the inspectors before we "rushed" to invade -- so wouldn't any "alleged" documents just have been duplicative?
Or maybe the inspectors weren't really working. And maybe you, senator, still believe that Saddam Hussein has WMDs squirreled away somewhere. Or maybe they were smuggled into Syria?
Each of those things is an argument for having gone in sooner, and not allowed Saddam Hussein the additional time to hide them.
And then comes Lehrer's only real gotcha of the night:
KERRY: Well, you know, when I talked about the $87 billion, I made a mistake in how I talk about the war. But the president made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse?
I believe that when you know something's going wrong, you make it right. That's what I learned in Vietnam. When I came back from that war I saw that it was wrong. Some people don't like the fact that I stood up to say no, but I did. And that's what I did with that vote. And I'm going to lead those troops to victory.
LEHRER: All right, new question. Two minutes, Senator Kerry.
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?"
LEHRER: Are Americans now dying in Iraq for a mistake?
KERRY: No, and they don't have to, providing we have the leadership that we put -- that I'm offering.
Let's cut out the clutter.
KERRY: The president made a mistake in invading Iraq.
LEHRER: Are Americans now dying in Iraq for a mistake?
Hello, McFly! *raps on Kerry's forehead*
The terrorism czar, who has worked for every president since Ronald Reagan, said, "Invading Iraq in response to 9/11 would be like Franklin Roosevelt invading Mexico in response to Pearl Harbor."
First, we didn't invade Iraq in response to 9/11. We invaded Afghanistan.
Secont, just a little history lesson for those of you who aren't WWII military buffs.
Question: What was the first place America invaded in response to the Pearl Harbor attack and what was the nationality of those we fought?
Answer: Morocco and the French.
*CORRECTION* The U.S. first invasion was Guadalcanal in the Pacific Theater three months before Operation Torch in North Africa.
KERRY: The United Nations, Kofi Annan offered help after Baghdad fell. And we never picked him up on that and did what was necessary to transfer authority and to transfer reconstruction. It was always American-run.
Yeah, the U.N. did such a good job running that oil-for-
palacesfood program, we should've turned everything over the that bureaucracy immediately. How foolish of us.
KERRY: First of all, we all know that in his state of the union message, he told Congress about nuclear materials that didn't exist.
OK, so now the nuclear materials didn't exist. So why the criticism about not securing Iraq's "nuclear facilities." If there are no nuclear materials, you really can't have "nuclear facilities."
Kerry: He also said Saddam Hussein would have been stronger. That is just factually incorrect. Two-thirds of the country was a no-fly zone when we started this war. We would have had sanctions. We would have had the U.N. inspectors. Saddam Hussein would have been continually weakening.
Kerry's "history" is factually incorrect. Let's follow his scenario to its logical conclusion. The inspectors go in, say they can't find anything, but concede that Saddam Hussein hasn't fully disclosed information on his weapons programs. Saddam draws out the inspections, gives a little here or there, but never really comes clean. And then France, Germany and Russia, their eyes wide at the prospect of finally making loads of cash on those lucrative oil contracts, propose to have the sanctions lifted. And they do get those sanctions lifted. And then there are no more no-fly zones. And then the weapons programs that Saddam still had in place are ramped up, because their are no inspectors to look over his shoulders.
So how has Saddam been weakened? He hasn't. He's succeeded after more than a decade of U.N. dithering. He's still in power. He's now got WMDs again and emboldened to take a chance at supplying people like Zarqawi with WMDs for shipment and use in the U.S.
KERRY: If the president had shown the patience to go through another round of resolution, to sit down with those leaders, say, "What do you need, what do you need now, how much more will it take to get you to join us?" we'd be in a stronger place today.
So, the man who has repeatedly called the United States' allies a coalition of the "coerced and the bribed" complains that we didn't offer more or better bribes to the French, Germans and Russians?
KERRY: Thirty-five to forty countries in the world had a greater capability of making weapons at the moment the president invaded than Saddam Hussein.
And of those countries, which ones had shown a propensity to use them in past?
Let's name some of the countries that have the aforementioned capability. United States. France. Russia. Germany. Canada. Mexico. Brazil. South Africa. China. Japan. Italy.
What a phony number.
Overall, I thought the debate was a draw. I don't think any minds will be changed by what happened tonight.
Kerry is a much better speaker than Bush, but we knew that going in. Bush had all sorts of opportunities to slam Kerry for his duplicity, but was unable or unwilling to do it forcefully.
Bush did yeoman's work at making his case, but he could've done much better. As predicted, he stuck to his talking points.
Questions not asked: As should come as no surprise, PBS's Jim Lehrer (aside from the one question I noted above) didn't really hit Kerry with any tough questions. Most of his questions were couched in terms of: "Here's what Bush is doing. Criticize."
Questions Lehrer should have asked Kerry:
Senator Kerry, you've said repeatedly that you would work with our allies to build a true coalition that would enable the U.S. to begin drawing down troops after six months. Both German and French officials have said repeatedly that they would not send troops to Iraq no matter who is president. What makes you think you can change their minds?
Senator Kerry, throughout your Senate career you have proposed deep cuts in intelligence funding and the cancellation of programs like the Apache helicopter, the B-1 bomber, the MX Missile, the Aegis Air-Defense Cruiser, the Harrier, F-15, F-14A, F-14D fighters and the Phoenix and Sparrow Air-to-Air missiles. You pushed for a nuclear freeze at the height of the Cold War. You voted against the first Gulf War. Some have said that you are dovish and have an aversion to using force. Is this true?
Senator Kerry, you've called the 30 nations with us in Iraq a coalition of the "coerced and the bribed." When Ayad Allawi came to the United States, one of your advisors called him a puppet. You've said you'd do a better job bringing allies on board. Will this be your diplomatic method if you are elected?
*UPDATE* I'll do some more later on issues raised in the comments below, but first I'd like to thank everyone, including critics, for refraining from using vulgarities. That would have gotten your comments deleted, so thanks, and future commenters take note.
Second, regarding nuclear facitilties. Kerry's charge was that the only building we protected when we went into Baghdad was the oil ministry. Implying that there were military facilities in Baghdad. That's not true as far as I can determine.
One commenter mentions Tuwaitha, which was the site of the Osirak nuclear reactor that the Israelis famously bombed back in 1981. Tuwaitha is nearly 20 miles outside of Baghdad and was guarded -- but not before some looting took place. In fact, it was guarded very quickly after we got to the area.
According to this article from the the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Marines were guarding Tuwaitha by at least April 8, 2003. Referencing a timeline [PDF format] for the Iraq conflict, the next day was notable; April 9, 2003, was the day Marines in Baghdad helped pull down that Saddam Hussein statue on live TV. Could the U.S. have secured Tuwaitha sooner? Sure, by dropping paratroopers in behind enemy lines -- but for those concerned with unneccessary casualties, it probably wouldn't have been a good use of highly trained troops.
Also, for clarification, the material at that site was not weapons grade, but theoretically could've been used in a dirty bomb -- just like radioactive material at hospitals could be used.
Regarding the Niger/Yellowcake issue that one commenter raised. Why would Saddam be seeking yellowcake from Africa when he had all of that stuff at Tuwaitha? Easy, the U.N. and IAEA knew about the material at Tuwaitha, and would've noticed it missing. Any more yellowcake imported from Africa would've theoretically been able to be used to make a weapon without the U.N. inspectors' knowledge.
More later, I'm off to work.
*UPDATE* Related/updated posts to this one can be found here and here.