Polls show President Bush lost the first debate against Democratic presidential contender John Kerry. Why? Bush failed to respond to Kerry’s assertions.
Let’s deal with them.
Did Bush irresponsibly use the “authority” given him by Congress? The president spent 18 months generating domestic and international support to deal with Saddam Hussein. The president sought and obtained approval — including John Kerry’s — for authority to use force. After all, Saddam stood in defiance of numerous United Nations resolutions and — in a post-9/11 world — what commander in chief could responsibly sit by and ignore a ruler who used chemical weapons on his own people; whose military fired on British and American planes patrolling the no-fly zones; whose regime paid $25,000 to the families of Palestinian homicide bombers; and who had ties (if not operational cooperation) with terrorist groups, including al Qaeda?
The intelligence community thought — with good reason — that Saddam stockpiled WMD. Former Clinton CIA Director R. James Woolsey notes that
Did Bush fail to build a “genuine” coalition of nations? The president sought and received a unanimous U.N. resolution requiring Hussein to come completely clean about his WMD program. Anything short would trigger “serious consequences.” Yet Kerry wishes us to believe that “serious consequences” meant something less than the war. Kerry calls the current coalition “coerced and bribed.” Even though he voted for the authority to go to war, Kerry’s most recent version says, “It is not the kind of coalition we were described when we were talking about voting for this.” In 1991, with a “genuine” coalition for the Persian Gulf War, Kerry voted against it.
Were the inspections working? Define “working.” Even Hans Blix acknowledged that but for
Did Bush divert attention and resources away from Osama bin Laden to pursue Saddam Hussein? Approximately 18,000 U.S.-led troops, working with some 70,000 Pakistani troops, patrol the Afghanistan/Pakistan border looking for Osama bin Laden. Would John Kerry support a knock-’em-down, house-to-house, pull-people-out-of-holes, stop-and-question-everybody approach? After all, Kerry said, as commander in chief, he intended to conduct more “sensitive” foreign policy. Does Kerry suggest that the commander in chief resolve one terror threat before going to another, expecting each terrorist to halt terrorist activity and patiently wait his turn to be dealt with?
Did Bush make the case that Saddam had something to do with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks? The Bush administration never accused Hussein of specific involvement in the attacks. The 9/11 Commission did, indeed, find ties between
Come Nov. 2, expect the American people to draw a distinction between a debater and a leader.