9 p.m. Incumbent George W. Bush, Sen. John Kerry enter, exchange greetings. Lip-reading shows Kerry is saying: "Quest-que c'est le bushisme du jour?" Bush fires back: "I'll look taller after PhotoShop, Kerr-bear." Rumors of a bulge exaggerated. Debate reveals there is nothing to presidential package.
Woman asks Kerry if people are right to call him "wishy-washy." No, says Kerry. It's just that Bush's wishful thinking on WMD led to character attacks that don't wash. Addresses poor domestic record, declares Bush first president in 72 years to lose jobs. Bush pounces: Fuzzy math! Everybody knows I am only 58 and a half years old! Makes quippings of mastication. Insists tax cuts were aimed right up the middle class. Pained looks on Missourians, general shifting in seats confirm they took it up the class, all right.
9:15 p.m. Woman asks Bush if unjustified invasion of Iraq could possibly be justified, since justification proved not to be justified. Bush expresses bitter unhappiness that weapons capable of destroying large numbers of people did not exist. He then proves that not all U.S. manufacturing has declined when he gives a Carol Merrill wave at the latest excuse to roll off the White House assembly line -- Saddam Hussein was a rambler and a gambler. Bush struts. Damn system gamer! Oddly, he does not mention others involved in this corruption. So no word yet if, when airstrike will be launched against U.S. oil companies.
Man asks if Kerry would use Bush plan in Iraq. Kerry quotes senior Republicans calling the plan "incompetent," "beyond pitiful," "beyond embarrassing," "in the zone of dangerous." (So is that a yes or a no?) Bush spits out front teeth. Says the crappy plan is working so well he's going to toss an additional $7 billion on it. Kerry suggests going after Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan might have been a good idea. Bush says we're working on it, hard work, working hard, firm resolve, on the hunt, you do the hokeypokey and you turn yourself around, that's what it's all about.
Woman tells Bush, speaking of getting all pissy, my mother and sister caught holy crap during their overseas summer vacation because YOU just had to invade Iraq. Bush jeers, Well, I hate that poncho, so now we're even. Adds: Don't worry, they're just a bunch of dumb foreigners who don't understand my plan. Kerry says there is no plan. Bush says, 'member I was sittin' in the office, the oval one, lookin' at generals? Well, then I went down to the basement, where there was more generals, and I looked at every darn one of 'em. That's what a president does.
9:30 p.m. Woman mentions casually that Iran sponsors terrorism, has long-range missiles, will soon have nuclear weapons -- could this be a problem? Bush looks surprised. Iran? Is that a swing state? Kerry sees Iran, raises one North Korea, and ups the ante with Russia. Makes the case that nuclear weapons buildup plus Bush's inattention does not add up to safer world. Bush yells at audience to simmer down now.
Man asks Bush about the draft. Between convulsions, Bush distracts draft-age demographic by revealing the existence of a second Internet. Kerry says that using stop-loss policies to keep people from getting out of military service amounts to a back-door draft. Bush jumps off stool, barking and grinding his teeth. Moderator tries to pet him, sustains lacerations. Bush snarls: Tell that to the Italian guy and the Brits. Hey, we've got 30 countries helpin' us out. Kerry says: You forgot Poland. Smoke coming out of Bush's ears spells out these words: "Poland can kiss my grand coalition."
Woman says to Kerry, So far so good, we haven't been horrendously attacked again lately. Any thoughts? Kerry claims adequate homeland security could come in handy. Bush says he doubled, tripled the funding. Except that he did neither. It's what you call PATRIOTIC license. Snaps: "I'm worried. I'm worried. I'm worried about our country." Figures that oughta do it. Sheesh, nosy broad.
9:45 p.m. Man asks Bush why he blocked importation of cheaper drugs from Canada. Bush explodes: You can't handle the drugs! Anyway, I didn't, not yet, and when I do it'll be to keep you safe. Drugs'll kill you, man. Sorry about the Parkinson's. (Wuss.) Kerry says that Bush took $139 billion from Americans and gave it to drug companies. Bush says, Well, you could've done something for Medicare in the Senate if you love sick people so much. Kerry says: We did. Cites 1997 legislation and says, Oh, by the way, we balanced the budget, too.
Woman asks Kerry, So what's with the trial lawyer V.P.? Kerry invites her to download and review voluminous PDF detailing in-depth plan for tort reform. Kerry then gets real. Points out that litigation accounts for less than 1 percent of the total healthcare cost. Notes that premiums in Missouri have gone up 64 percent. Offers affordable premiums instead, and tax cut for 98 percent of Americans. Bush falls off stool, calls Kerry the K-word: Kennedy. Then the L-word. Then the -- demands that Charlie Gibson tell him what letter comes next. Kerry says, M, as in, What do you mean kicking 500,000 kids out of after-school programs, cutting 365,000 kids from healthcare and running up the biggest deficits in American history? Bush stomps feet, says: You're not the boss of me.
Man asks Bush, If you're such a Republican, why haven't you vetoed a single spending bill? After the first sucker punch, Bush explains that when you turn a $5.6 trillion surplus into a $2.6 trillion deficit, the fiscally responsible thing to do is to blame everybody else and keep running up the tab. Furious that no one appreciates the shallowness of his recession.
10 p.m. Guy dares Kerry to look into the camera and tell Americans that in his first term he won't raise tax burdens on families making less than $200,000. Kerry looks into the camera and tells Americans that in his first term he won't raise tax burdens on families making less than $200,000. Highlights the $1,000 child-care credit and $4,000 college credit. Bush asks Gibson: Is my time up yet? Look on some Missourian faces says: "24 days."
Man asks Bush to rate himself as an environmentalist. Over howls of laughter, Bush bellows, "Off-road diesel! Hydrogen autos!" Kerry calls Bush's environmental policy "Orwellian." Bush fumes -- so what if he is oil wellian? Bush retorts: "I guess you'd say I'm a good steward of the land." Nobody says it. Guess not.
Woman asks Kerry how Americans can stay competitive in manufacturing and earn a living? Kerry suggests that not making it lucrative for companies to give all our jobs away might help. Bush is suddenly eager to talk about health insurance. Promises voters a "catastrophic plan" and says that, whatever it is, it's sure different from saying, "OK, let me incent you." Says he met a feller named Grant who's created actual jobs. No, really. He's not making it up.
10:15 p.m. Man comments on expansion of the PATRIOT Act, asks Bush why his rights are being watered down. Bush says they aren't. Not at all. Don't be such a baby. Shut up. We can have you arrested for wearing the wrong T-shirt and you want to get all up in my ass about the PATRIOT Act?
Woman asks Kerry, Why use embryonic stem cells? Kerry says not letting people die could be a viable way to show respect for life. Bush says, I can say the word "ethical" more times than he can say it. And I'm louder.
Speaking of vacancy, a man wants to know how Bush would fill one on the Supreme Court. Bush says he's not tellin', then recounts mangled version of the Dred Scott decision. Kerry fast-forwards from 1850s to 2000, when Bush declared, "What we need are some good conservative judges on the courts." Oh, yeah, that, says Bush.
10:30 p.m. Woman asks Kerry what he would say to a voter who believes abortion is murder. Seems to be, um, asking for a friend. Georg -- Georgia, uh, Bosh. Yeah, that's it. Kerry affirms his faith, then mentions a once popular concept -- the separation of church and state. Bush says he doesn't get it. Chews on Charlie Gibson's leg.
Bush accuses Gibson of putting "a head fake on us." Woman asks Bush for three examples of mistakes he made and how he fixed them. Bush grinds her bones to make his bread, then says, 1) History will look back at me; 2) I am responsible; and 3) I didn't make any mistakes except for some appointments of people who quit and then went on "The Daily Show" with their damn books. Kerry helps Bush recall other mistakes. Bush does not seem grateful.
Kerry, in closing, says that America's best days are ahead of us. Bush yells: "Are not." Hollers that we're safer but not safe. Screams a reminder at everybody watching in Afghanistan: Don't forget to vote tomorrow. For all you Afghan gals, remember to ask your husband for permission. (If you get beaten, find other ways to enjoy being free.) God bless America. And dammit, the next time, someone's in for a world of hurt.