October 01, 2004

"Abridged" 2004 Presidential Debate I -- Foreign Policy and Security

An Abridged* Version of the Debate

Moderator Jim Lehrer: You have two minutes to speak followed by a ninety-second rebuttal. The light will flash yellow when the Long-Winded Response Alert Level is raised to "high" and red when it is raised to "severe."

Lehrer: Senator Kerry -- isn't Osama bin Laden just itching for you to get elected?
Senator John Kerry: No, Jim, and I would like to answer that question, but first I would like to thank each member of the audience individually in alphabetical order. [10 minutes later] Now, let's get back to that important question that everyone watching has already forgotten.
President George W. Bush: Could I just interjectorate here? [Long pause.] I would like to thank ... [Long pause.] Florida as well.


Lehrer: Mr. President -- do you have a plan for winning the war in Iraq?
Bush: I do have a plan. That plan is a lot of hard work. Iraq is a lot of hard work. Quite frankly, this whole job is a lot of hard work. I understand hard work. My opponent ... he's for hard work, then he's against hard work. Hard [Long pause.] work.
Kerry: I will hunt down and kill the terrorists, wherever they are.


Lehrer: Senator -- you've talked about asking the last man to die for a mistake. Tell us about war.
Kerry: Well, I've been there, in Vietnam. I know what it's like to go into a place and not know what's around the corner.
Bush: I understand how terrible it is. I've seen the images on T.V.


Lehrer: Mr. President -- could you comment on John Kerry's character and his fitness for leadership?
Bush: Not really, but I will take this opportunity to talk about our daughters. [A minute later.] And I do respect Senator Kerry. But I believe you can't change your mind about your beliefs and values all the time.
Kerry: I agree with the President. And rather than take advantage of this opportunity to correct the public's views about my being a flip-flopper, I'd like to instead leave you with this terrible soundbite: "certainty can get you in trouble."
Bush: Speaking of trouble, would it trouble you if I interrupt you to crack a joke about trying to put my daughters on a leash?


Lehrer: Senator -- would you say that the President is a liar?
Kerry: It depends what the meaning of "is" is.
Bush: Sweet.


Lehrer: Mr. President -- what do you think about President Putin and democracy in Russia?
Bush: [Long sigh.] Jim --
Kerry: O.k., look, the President totally sighed just now ...
Bush: Listen, Vladimir and I have a great relationship. And I would like you to take special note of the fact that Vladimir and I are on a first name basis. Vladimir.
Kerry: I can't believe this is happening to me.


Lehrer: Senator -- would you tell us what you would do differently in Iraq?
Kerry: I would bring back our allies. I would build a real coalition. The President went in with just the U.K. and Australia. We can do better.
Bush: You forgot Poland.
Kerry: You've got to be joking.
Bush: Would you like to hear me pronounce the name of Poland's leader? I can do that.
Kerry: But Poland's hardly committeed any --
Bush: Aleksander Kwasniewski. Po-land. Poland.
Kerry: But --
Bush: Poland.


Lehrer: Mr. President -- can we talk some more about your international approach and pre-emptive war?
Bush: Yes. We have to be able to defend ourselves. And I didn't go to the U.N. because anybody told me to. I decided to go. And I won't make a decision because it's popular. I make a decision because it's right.
Kerry: Well, Jim, I'd like to botch this answer badly by suggesting that while the President always reserves the right to take pre-emptive action, that action should "pass a global test."
Bush: I don't know what that means, "pass a global test."
Kerry: I can't believe I said that.


Lehrer: Senator -- North Korea has gone nuclear. What do we need to do?
Kerry: We need to engage North Korea in bilateral talks.
Bush: That won't work. The multilateral talks with China will collapse.
Kerry: No they won't.
Bush: Will.
Kerry: Won't.
Bush: Will.
Kerry: Won't.
Bush: China, China, China.
Kerry: You can't believe this President when he says that it won't work. This is the President that --
Bush: Poland.
Kerry: What?!?


Lehrer: Mr. President -- could you do be doing more in the war against terror?
Bush: Jim, I think about it every morning. I talk to FBI Director Mueller about it every morning. It's hard work. And we're changing the culture of the CIA, the FBI --
Kerry: The FBI is sitting on 100,000 hours of unlistened-to terrorist tapes.
Bush: [Long pause.] It's hard work. Hard work. Very hard work. Listen, we're still going after Saddam Hussein, er, I mean, Osama bin Laden.
Kerry: Sorry, could I just squander this latest opportunity to drive home one of my main messages by saying rather awkwardly that perhaps another resolution would have done the trick with Saddam?


Lehrer: Final comments. Senator Kerry first. You have five words.
Kerry: We only get five words!?!?
Bush: War ... on ... terror. Hard ... work.


Lehrer: Thank you, Senator Kerry, Mr. President. Now if you'll please parade your identically-dressed wives on stage for the cameras.

[*] And, you know, completely abstracted from what was actually said. For the actual debate transcript, click here.

Posted by anatole at October 1, 2004 08:16 AM

Holy cat, that is awesome. Also, Poland.

Posted by: Lana at October 1, 2004 04:26 PM

"Would you like to hear me pronounce the name of Poland's leader? I can do that."

It's funny because it's true...

Posted by: Alasdair at October 1, 2004 08:00 PM

Juicy! I missed the debate (we were stuck in an airport hotel in Newark and the restaurant, "Don Shula's Steak House 2" (the "2" is big and written in red), while having 42 TV screens, refused to show the debate. Which is understandable, but we were too hungry to wait.

All of which to say thanks for summarizing!

Posted by: George at October 4, 2004 10:43 PM