Has anyone else noticed that Bush keeps winking at people in the audience? Not a big deal, but is it appropriate to make eyes at people when your opponent is answering a question about nuclear proliferation? He looks like a defendant trying to win over the jury.
But Bush is definitely looking better than last time -- although maybe a bit short-fused. He and Kerry are both fierce debaters tonight, with Bush practically shouting down mild Charlie Gibson to get in a follow-up comment at one point.
Substance-wise, we've noticed a few whoppers so far. Bush again used the "we've taken care of 75 percent of al-Qaida" line, which just isn't true. It's impossible to know how many al-Qaida operatives or leaders have been captured compared to how many have been added to al-Qaida's rolls through recruitment -- or how many would-be terrorists have been added to splinter groups. This regular line from Bush, a 9/11 commissioner says, was "pulled from someone's orifice." But it doesn't matter if it's untrue. Bush says it anyway -- sounds good, so it stays in the speech.
And on Iraq, if I were an undecided voter in the audience, I'm not sure the "[Saddam] was trying to get rid of sanctions" argument sounds all that persuasive. Talking about Kerry, he said: "That's the kind of mind-set that says sanctions were working ..."
As the New York Times pointed out this week, the Duelfer report proved sanctions and inspections worked in preventing Saddam from building a banned weapons program. There were no WMD. Was it worth going to war because there was a chance Saddam might have someday gotten out of sanctions and maybe restarted a weapons program? With one of the next questioners getting up to raise the issue of Iran -- a country that actually has a nuclear program -- it sounds pretty weak.
And does al-Qaida really "no longer have a place to plan" because we invaded Iraq, as Bush said? Al-Qaida has an estimated 18,000 people in 60 countries. Do we really think al-Qaida has no place to plan? Silly.