Salon readers, euphoric, somber, some of them Canadian, weigh in on Thursday night's presidential debate.

By Salon Staff
Published October 3, 2004 1:26AM (UTC)
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[Read "It's the IQ, stupid," by Tim Grieve and War Room's debate coverage.]

My expectations for last night's debate were low: I was hoping for a Kerry tie, and hoping to ultimately see him elected against slightly unfavorable odds. I was hoping for what I perceived as the best-case scenario.


Instead, I was astonished to see my president trembling. Struggling. Grasping. I found it uncomfortable to watch.

I thought Kerry would struggle to explain himself in only 90-second rebuttals. It turned out that Bush struggled to fill out that amount of time. You could plainly see the fear in him after 15 minutes. It was strangely emotional. Some of the pauses were five-second, three-act tragedies.

But more than Bush's failures, I was astonished to see the confidence and strength in Kerry. He spoke with a sense and logic that have been absent from American politics for as long as I've followed it. He was not detached, and not at all phony. He spoke with appropriate gravity on serious matters. He articulated positions that were specific and defined.


Kerry has been blasted for his subtlety and nuance -- but tonight he showed America how important the "little things" are. These are in fact, the pieces of the puzzle that George Bush can't seem to solve.

I knew before the debate that I would vote for John Kerry. But I never expected to believe in him.

-- Rob Conzelman


Watching the foreign policy debate, I was amazed to watch President Bush rip into John Kerry for denigrating the contributions of allies such as Poland, when the president himself pushed his historic allies to the side in order to rush to war in Iraq.

As a Canadian, I can say that the USA is our greatest ally. After 9/11 we opened our skies and airports to possibly hostile planes so you could clear your airspace after the attacks. We, along with France, Germany and so many other countries (including Arab countries), quickly saw the connection to Afghanistan and offered our help when you asked. We are still there, with 1,900 troops on the ground.


But when the president laid out the case for Iraq to America's allies, we were concerned and reluctant. The argument for war wasn't sound, and Bush's "with us or against us" attitude has isolated America at a time when you could use your friends the most.

I realize it is up to the American public, and not the rest of the world, to elect America's president. But the war on terror affects every country on this planet. Speaking for myself, I really want the American public to elect a strong leader that will lead the world through this crisis.

After watching last night's debate, I am sure that man is John Kerry.


-- Dan Deresh

I take issue with Salon's article "It's the IQ, Stupid." I think the word "stupid" gets used incorrectly to describe Bush, and it lets him off the hook too easily. Stupid would give him an excuse for not knowing things. A more accurate description of Bush would be that he is lazy and uncurious.

It has been reported that Bush's IQ is about 130, well above average. He went to the best schools. He had well-educated parents. In every way Bush should be a thoughtful, intelligent person. So, it is not a lack of education that makes him ignorant.


I think it's more accurate to suggest he's ignorant because he's spoiled -- he doesn't care about learning because he already knows everything and he is always right. He doesn't know how to work hard for something because he has never had to do it. He partied his youth away. He then relied on family connections to get him into Yale, the Texas Air National Guard, Harvard Business School, and then to set him up in business. Every time he would get into trouble and potentially have a learning experience he would get bailed out by his parents.

-- Curtis Crowson

Tim Grieve is justified in feeling pumped up by Kerry's performance, and while the apparent victory isn't likely to cause a huge shift in the polls, it might tip the scales back in our direction.

But Mr. Grieve failed to mention the great paradox of John Kerry's position on Iraq, and the president's successful (if awkward and mechanical) efforts to counteract it. Sen. Kerry is caught in a Catch-22: He wants simultaneously to convince the country that invading Iraq was a huge mistake and to assure us that he'll be able to wage the ongoing war -- the same war he characterized as a colossal error in judgment and a "huge mess" -- more effectively than the president.


The fact of the matter, according to expert after expert after expert and reported not too long ago in Salon, is that the war is un-winnable. Period. Perhaps Kerry muzzled himself for political reasons, but if anyone ought to be able to acknowledge what we've gotten ourselves into in Iraq, it's John Kerry. When Sen. Kerry says that as president he will "win" the war, let's hope he has a different idea of what it means to "win" than his predecessors.

Thirty some years ago, Sen. Kerry put the question to Congress: "How do you ask someone to be the last person to die for a mistake?" He'd better start thinking of an answer to that question if he really means to do what he said on Thursday night.

-- Ed Tarkington

Salon Staff

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