Liveblogging BK III

Yes I will. Watch this space.

Watching on NBC tonight. The warm-up on NBC says the debate is on domestic issues, then lists a bunch of them, but not the environment. (Update: And yes, the topic is never mentioned. Bush’s undeniably — even by Bill O’Reilly — worst issue, and it never comes up.)

Once again, Kerry enters a beat late, to make it clear who the crowd is cheering for. His smile is broad and confident; Bush’s looks nervous.

First Q. to Kerry: Will our children ever live in a world as safe and secure as the one we grew up in? (What world did Shieffer grow up in? I remember the Bomb, and my parents remember WWII. And what does that have to do with domestic policy, the agreed topic of the debte?) A. Yes, we can be safer, but the Prez made the wrong choices. Kerry again gives a list of what isn’t being done. Kerry says he’ll do it as Roosevelt and Reagan (!) did, with alliances.

B: stay on the offensive , spread freedom and liberty. 3/4 of the al-Qaeda leadership has been brought to justice. Afghani elections. Freedom is on the march! “Comprehensive plan.” Kerry called terrorism a nuisance, compared it to prostitiution and gambling. That’s wrong. Homeland security bill; my opponent voted against it.

K: Bush took his eye off the ball, outsourced the job. Said he didn’t much think about bin Laden. (That’s true.) Bush smirks and denies it, says the claim is “one of those exaggerations.”

Q to Bush: We’re short of flu vaccine. Howsa bout?

A from Bush: “We relied on a company in England.” (False. Chiron is a US company with an English plant.) When we found the stuff was bad, we didn’t let it in. (False: the Brits stopped it.) If you’re not at special risk, don’t get the shot. Litigation problem: manufacturers have backed off. Legal reform.

[If Kerry doesn’t murder this one, he doesn’t deserve to win.]

K: Health care is getting worse under Bush. Five million have lost health insurance on Bush’s watch. Recites numbers of uninsured. (WTF does this have to do with being short of flu vaccine?) Bush has turned his back on wellness (?). Plan to cover all Americans.

B: A plan is not a litany of complaints, or to have a program you can’t pay for. $5 Trillion over ten years. Bait and switch.

K: Families that can afford it would have to buy in. “We’re not giving this away for nothing.”

[Why wasn’t Kerry programmed to hit Bush on flu vaccine.]

Q to Kerry: With the price of everything going up, how are you going to balance the budget?

K answer: Pay as you go. Bush stopped doing it. Then recites all the bad things about the Bush economic record. (Is Kerry not going to answer any of the questions as asked?) Roll back tax cuts for the risks, enact McCain-Kerry reforms, roll back subsidies for job export, which the new tax bill expands.

B: His rhetoric doesn’t match his record. Voted to increase taxes 98 times, against cutting taxes 128 times. Voted 227 times to waive the budget caps, which would have cost the country money. From Massachusetts (sneer), a colleague of Teddy Kennedy (sneer): pay as you go means you pay and he goes on spending.

This is truly disgusting.

Q to Bush: What do you say to someone who has lost his job to someone overseas making a small fraction of your old wage?

B: Economy of the 21st century. Make public education work. I went to Washington to solve problems. We fixed the schools. Education is how to help the person who lost a job. Trade adjustment assistance so people can go to community college. (Eating what in the meantime?)

K: Hey, he didn’t talk about jobs, he talked about education. But first, about fiscal responsibility: being lectured by Bush on fiscal responsibility is like being lectured by Tony Soprano on law and order. Bush has cut job training money, given back a little back this year because it’s an election year. Prices are up, real wages aren’t.

Q to Kerry: Is it fair to blame the Administration entirely for bad job performance.

A No, just for the part they’ve screwed up. I won’t promise to stop outsourcing, but I will promise to level the playing field. Tax breaks for job export. “That’s not smart. I don’t want American workers subisidizing the export of their own jobs.”

At least, a good crisp answer from Kerry.

Bush says he increased Pell grants, and Kerry is engaging in a litany of misstatements. We increased Pell grants. We put money back in workers’ pockets. Keeps reciting his 98-127-227.

Kerry comes back on the Pell grants. More qualify, but they are getting less money. Ted Kennedy is the conservative senator from Massachusetts. Kerry is “on the far left bank.”

Q. to Bush on gay marriage: Is homosexuality a choice?

A. I don’t know. But we have a choice, to treat everybody decently. People can live as they want. But we shouldn’t have to change our basic institutions under judicial orders. Kerry voted against DOMA. If it gets overturned, marriage will be defined by courts. That’s not in our nation’s interest.

[Home run for Bush. Superb answer.]

Kerry: Of course you’re born with it. People struggle with it. If people live out how God made them, we should respect that. I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. But I don’t think we should mess with the Constitution, or deprive people of basic rights. DOMA wasn’t needed: the states have always been able to regulate marriage.

[Another good one for Kerry.]

Q to Kerry: Some Bishops say it would be a sin to vote for you, because you support a woman’s right to choose abortion, and stem cell research. Quotes Kennedy on being a President who happens to be a Catholic. But faith without works is dead.

A: I respect them, but I can’t legislate my articles of faith. I won’t let people change Roe v. Wade. The President hasn’t said. Quotes Kennedy on “a President who happens to be a Catholic.” “Here on earth, God’s work must truly be our own.”

Bush: Culture of life. Partial birth abortion. Alterantives to abortion: adoption, abstinence.

Q to Bush: Why are health care costs going up? Sick laugh. Market forces. HSAs. Liability reform. Defensive medicine. Information technology. “Equivalent of buggy and horse days.” (Did the President just put the cart before the horse?) Generic drugs.

Kerry: The Administration has stood in the way of common-sense efforts to reduce medical costs. The President deprived you of the right to buy cheaper drugs. Medicare should be able to negotiate drug prices. The President made it illegal for Medicre to negotiate prices. That’s a large part of your 17% increase in Medicare premiums. If people don’t get preventive care, it costs more. We have to get health care for everyone.

Bush: He hasn’t lead. 300 bills, only five passed.

Kerry: Liar! I passed sixty bills. Expansion of health care in the 1990.

(Looks as if Bush’s game is to use attacks on Kerry to duck all difficult questions.)

Q to Kerry: How are you going to pay for your health care program?

Kerry: Two networks have called Bush’s characterization of my plan false. Not a government takeover. You still have choice. Desribes his plan in some detail. Completely ducks the question about cost, except for “competition will help lower prices.” Subsidize small businesses to cover their employees. Save costs by preventing disease.

Bush: I’m not sure it makes sense to quote major news organizations … never mind.

Lewin report. Cost estimate. Getting new people into government health plans. Eight million people will go from private insurance to govenment insurance. Government health care will be lower quality and rationed. “Our health care system is the envy of the world.”

K: If the President believes that government medicine is poor quality, maybe that’s why he cut the VA and Medicare.

B: We increased the VA faster than Clinton did.

(Little sardonic smile from Kerry.)

Q to Bush: private savings accounts for social security. Where’s the trillion dollars coming from?

Bush: I won’t cut the checks. Pat Moynihan. Better rates of return. Not addressing the trillion-dollar problem. Waiting will cost more.

Bush isn’t screaming as much as he did in the second debate, and he’s more animated than he was the first time, but he’s pretty incoherent.Kerry is still holding it together.

K Invitiation to disaster. Two trillion dollar hole, per the CBO. Cut in benefits of 25-40%. The President hasn’t explained where the $2 trillion comes from, and he’s already got $3 trillion in unfunded promises.

Q to Kerry: Greenspan says this can’t be fixed without recalibration. Are you just going to leave it as a problem for our children?

A Hey, we fixed this in the 1990s, building up a huge SS surplus. Bush gave it away. Greenspan backed that, I don’t. With growth, we can pay down the debt. If we need to make adjustments, we will. But the first and most important thing is to start creating jobs. Eleven presidents since Hoover had problems, none of them lost jobs.

Bush: He forgot to tell you he voted to tax social security benfits. Most of the tax cuts went to low and middle income Americans. Kerry was against it. Tax relief spurred consumtion and investment to get us out of this recession. I inherited a recession, and 9-11 cost us a million jobs. The way to grow this economy is not to raise taxes on small businesses.

Q to Bush: Lots of email this week on immigration. What to do about it?

Bush: Security issue, economic issue, human rights issue. We’re doing good stuff. I was a border state governor. People come for economic reasons. Temporary worker card. “As long as there isn’t a … uhh… a uhh …an American willing to do the job.” No amnesty. Don’t reward illegal behavior. Kerry supported amnesty.

Kerry: The benefit of the tax cut has been wiped out by rising prices. Take-home pay is the lowest proportion of national income since 1929.

K: Bush promised to reform immigration. He broke that promise. Tighten borders. Need guest workers, but also need to crack down on illegal hiring. Earned legalization for people who have been here for a long time, have worked hard, paid their taxes, and their kids are Americans.

B: If he says the border is looser, he doesn’t understand the border.

K: The fact is our borders aren’t as secure as the ought to be.

(Bush shown with very uncertain smile.)

Q to Kerry: Raise minimum wage?

Kerry: Absolutely. This is a difference between me and Bush. Value of the minimum wage is now the lowest it’s been in 50 years. They won’t even let us vote on it. People who are working hard, playing by the rules, can’t get anything. I’m tired of politicians who talk about family values but don’t value families. Equal pay for equal work: Bush isn’t pushing that.

Bush: Mitch McConnell had a plan to increase the minimum wage, which I supported. NCLB is really a jobs act. Education is the new civil right. Stop just passing kids along. Speaks passionately and convincingly. But never talks about minimum wage after that first mention.

Q to Bush: Are you for overturning Roe v. Wade?

A. You’re asking me about a litmus test. No litmus test.

Kerry: Bush ducked the question. I won’t appoint a judge who wants to undo a Constitutional right. I think abortion is such a right, so I won’t appoint a judge who will undo it. The Prez wants to leave ambiguity.

Now on NCLB: underfunded by $28 billion, reneged on his promise, raising local taxes.

Bush: Only a liberal Senator from Massachusetts would call a 49% increase too little.

Kerry: You don’t measure it in terms of a percentage increase. You measure it in terms of whether you get your job done. 500,000 kids lost their after-school programs so your rich friends could get a tax cut. That’s not in my gut. That’s not my value system.

Round to Kerry, big-time.

Q to Kerry. (A gift.) What about the back-door draft?

A Mistakes by the President. Our military is over-extended. Add two active-duty divisions, take the pressure off the Guard and Reserve. The President broke faith with this nation in the way he led us to war. He did not use force as a last resort. We’ve spent $120 billion. Bush took his eye off Osama.

Bush: Best way to take the pressure off is to win. 125,000 Iraqis to be trained by the end of the year. Guys I talked to didn’t call it a back door draft, they thought it was an opportunity to serve our country. Global test. Global test. Global test. I will never turn over our security to leaders of other countries.

Kerry: No nation will ever have a veto over us. But we ought to pass a truth standard.

If Bush needed to reverse his slide, he’s not doing it tonight, unless just chanting “liberal” actually works.

Bush: Kerry voted against Desert Storm.

(Kerry smirks.)

Q to Bush: You promised to extend the assault weapons ban, but didn’t. Why?

Bush: I was really for it, but I was told it wouldn’t pass. Law abiding folks ought to have guns. Prevent bad guys from getting guns. Chase people who commit crimes with guns.

Kerry: Failure of leadership. I’m a hunter, but I’m also a law enforcement guy. Agencies wanted assault weapons ban. They don’t want to go into a drug bust facing an AK-47. Because of the President’s decision today, law enforcement will be facing more dangerous situations. And terrorists will be able to buy assault weapons at gun shows, as Osama’s handbook said. If I’d been told we couldn’t pass a bill, I would have taken the fight to the country.

Q to Kerry: Are we at the point where we can move past affirmative action?

A: No. Alas, we aren’t. Stlll discrimination out there, including against women. Making progress, but not enough. I’m against quotas. “Mend it, don’t end it.” But there are too many people in this country who face the stark resistance of racism. Bush hasn’t met with NAACP, Black Caucus, civil rights leadership.

Bush: I have met with CBC, at the White House. I don’t believe in quotas. I believe in education. (Makes his education speech again.)

Q to Bush (a gift): You were asked whether you’d checked with your dad about invading Iraq, and you said you’d checked with a Higher Power.

Bush: Faith is important to me. I pray a lot. As an American, you’re free to believe or not. If you’re a Christian, Jew, or Muslim you’re equally an American. I feel it when people pray for me. Faith-based initiative. God wants everyone to be free. Freedom in Afghanistan is a gift from the Almighty.

Kerry: I respect what the President, and I share he faith. Everything is a gift from the Almighty. People have different faiths. I was taught that the two greatest commandments were to love the Lord and to love your neighbor as yourself. I think we have a lot more loving your neighbor to do. Separate and unequal school systems. Faith without works is dead. We have a lot more work to do. (Kerry joins Bush in endorsing the rights of non-worshippers.)

Q to Kerry: The nation was united after 9-11. What happened?

A: Let me pay a compliment to the President. He brought us together. The hug Tom Daschle gave him showed there were no Democrats or Republicans then. But that’s changed. He campaigned as a uniter, but he’s presiding over the most divided country in recent memory. Locking Democrats out of meetings doesn’t produce unity. I work across the aisle. No secret meetings in the White House with special interests. Campaign reform. Mentions McCain twice.

Bush: My biggest disappointment is the lack of unity. I worked with Democrats in Texas. NCLB. I even worked with Ted Kennedy. (Odd smile; will everyone notice that he’s spent the evening trashing Ted Kennedy?) Kerry mentioned Mc

Cain: McCain is for me, because he knows my opponent has a policy of retreat and defeat in Iraq. (Will the viewers notice the contradiction here?)

Q to Bush: What did you learn from the women in your life?

A: To listen to ’em. To stand up straight and not scowl. Talks about meeting Laura. She speaks better English than I do. Love at first sight.

Kerry: We’ve all married up. Some would say me more than others. But I can take it. Quotes his mother when he told her he was running: “Integrity. Integrity. Integrity.” My wife and daughters also kick me around, make sure I don’t take myself too seriously. President Bush is a great father.

Final statements:

Kerry is focused, confident, and even a little bit eloquent. No content except one more denial that he’d give others control over our security.

Bush: Optimism, rising sun v. setting sun. Then a laundry list of claims. Pursue the enemy. Spread freedom.


Okay, you guessed it. Looks to me as if Kerry won another one, at about the same level as the second debate. No big gaffes on either side, and only a few outright lies by Bush, who performed better tonight than in the previous two encounters. Bush seemed to be still trying to energize his base, while Kerry was reaching to the center. Unless just saying “liberal” works, it’s hard to see much in the way of gains for Bush.

Spin on NBC: the anchor is obviously pro-Bush, stressing the “liberal” stuff with Giuliani and hitting Bob Kerrey with “how’s John Kerry going to pay for his programs”? What were Kerry’s domestic programs in the Senate (clear implication he didn’t have any). Kerrey does pretty well.

Fact-checker calls Bush a liar for saying Kerry called terrorism a nuisance. Says the word was first used in this context by Scowcroft. Big score for Kerry, if anyone is watching.

Fact-checker says Kerry promised to cover all the unisured, but would in fact cover only half.

“Our fact-checkers found the President in a major contractiction.” Shows tape of tonight, with President denying he’d said he didn’t care about bin Laden, then showed tape of Bush saying exactly that.

Yes, Bush did meet with the CBC.

A friend who watched said Bush seemed more personable than Kerry. I, of course, am utterly incapable of seeing that.

The undecideds in PA. Most of them say Kerry won tonight, but they split 3-2 for Bush. One voter points out that Bush said we shouldn’t import drugs from Canada because they weren’t safe, but tonight said we might be able to import flu vaccine from Canada. Good catch: it belongs in the Kerry stump speech from now on.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: