All questions were screened supposedly by the moderator. However, since Charles Gibson (the moderator) didn't seem as commanding as Jim Lehrer (moderator of the first presidential debate) or Gwen Ifill (the moderator in the vice-presidential debate), I wonder how influenced he was.
This debate wasn't a clear win for Kerry. Kerry needs to get more quotable sound bites and be more personable for him to do better. While both mislead, Bush clearly seemed to be a bit more misleading.
Kerry seemed to be on the defensive more, which is a bad sign. This debate was more or less a draw. Kerry was more factual, but Bush had more of a human touch.
I'd like to see them get off the topic of the Iraq War and Defense. These topics have dominated the first 3 debates already. There is only one more debate on Wednesday that is supposed to focus on domestic issues. However I would be surprised if Iraq and Defense issues did not creep into this debate too. It's an easy tie in because they can be talking about the economy and then say how much they spent on defense and the war.
Ironically Kerry's assessment that the war cost $200 billion (it's cost $120 billion so far, but the estimated cost up until September 2005 including Afganistan is $200 billion), might work against him when Bush is explaining why there are record annual deficits under his presidency. It makes for a stronger argument on why there are deficits.
Both candidates are using the same game when talking about the deficit. This happens every presidential race for both candidates. Let me make this clearer, since this comes up so often.
There is the national debt and there is the annual deficit. Both are often called a deficit. The national debt is the total amount the US government owes financial institutions and anyone else buying government debt (we do not owe foreign governments, we owe those investing in US government debt). The annual deficit is the amount of money we overspend above the revenue the US government takes in per year.
All presidential candidates in modern times purposely call them both deficits and use the term deceptively.
When someone says they're going to cut the deficit in half in 4 years (like Kerry claims), you can be sure they're talking about the annual deficit. The national debt will still be increasing in such a plan.
When someone says that the deficit is huge and mentions a figure in the trillions of dollars, they are talking about the national debt. Even under Clinton where we had annual surpluses, one could still argue that we had a huge deficit under him (in this case deficit means national debt)
The national debt is about $7.5 trillion dollars. The annual deficit in each of the 4 years of Bush's presidency was over $400 billion. Half our tax dollars go to just paying interest on the debt. Under Bush, the national debt has increased by 50%. Only Reagan has increased the debt by a larger percent (it quadrupled under his presidency), but Bush has added more sheer debt than Reagan did in his 8 years as president. Kerry was also accurate when he said that under Bush's presidency he has added more debt than all the years between and including when President Washington through President Reagan served combined.
The war and defense and 9/11 and the bad economy do not account for the annual deficits under Bush. Not even close. If you took all of the costs of the war, extra defense, 9/11 costs and the bad economy combined in Bush's 4 years, they don't even add up to even one of his annual deficits, let alone all 4 annual deficits. Under Clinton we had surpluses of about $200 billion per year in his last 3 years as president.
This over $600 billion dollar about face annually has been caused by congress and President Bush. They have been spending like drunken sailors and they have gotten away with it.