Kerry Loses the second debate at Washington University

I'm sure everyone on the Internet(s?) who saw the debate has an opinion on who did better, so I might as well give mine. I'd like to think that as a non-voter who dislikes both candidates pretty much equally and disagrees with most views of both, my opinion is a bit more impartial than people who were already biased on way or not. I spoke informally with a few other people after seeing it, and they seemed to think that Kerry had "won" this one as well as the last - though the people who thought so already supported Kerry.

I may take some time to further discuss certain parts of the debate later on. Some brief observations for now: The Iraq war section was awful. Exactly the kind of thing you would expect if you're cynical about politics - Kerry criticizes the war, says (again and again) that there were no weapons of mass destruction, Bush points out that Kerry himself thought there were weapons and that the war was a good idea. Neither gives any real solid statement on their plan for the future of Iraq. Kerry says we acted unilaterally, Bush reminds him that we didn't, Kerry doesn't care because the allies we did have were mostly small countries that don't really count. Kerry says he would have gotten a real coalition for the war, though doesn't explain exactly how that would have happened, etc. and so on. Pointless.

My cynicism wore off a bit when they started talking about stem cell research and abortion - a bit less of the "he said that" and "no I didn't, but he said this" stuff going on. Both Bush and Kerry gave decent answers (for politicians) to the stem cell questions. Bush seemed more straightforward on the abortion issue. I thought Kerry really flopped when he tried to pull the pro-life (maybe? I gathered it from the Catholic comment) who supports choice politically stunt. He tried to argue that he couldn't oppose abortion based on his own personal beliefs, despite his willingness to support whatever else he does on personal beliefs. I guess it's the apparent religious connection, even though abortion is not necessarily or even primarily a religious issue. I suppose Kerry must think he has some reason to oppose murder or torture or genocide that isn't a personal belief, which is ridiculous. Facts don't instruct you on right or wrong.

Bush made a similar error when he talked about appointing judges who would strictly interpret the law in a way that implied they would or could be fully impartial. I'm sure some judges are capable of keeping their personal biases out of decisions to some extent, but certainly not fully. It is interpretation of the law, after all - if laws were clear cut and the question of how to apply them was an objective one, we wouldn't have the kind of judicial system we do. Of course, Kerry made pretty much the same mistake yet again, saying that he supported the idea that good judges are ones whose personal biases don't show up in the opinions accompanying their decisions. What, there are judges who can interpret the law without letting their own views influence the decisions? I'll believe that when I see it - of course, when that happens, we won't ever have a conflicted court because all of these unopinionated judges would come to the same decision.

But anyway, with the stem cell research and abortion talk, I'll go to bed with the feeling that it wasn't completely word-wrangling. My verdict for now would be that Bush presented himself and his views better than Kerry by a moderate margin. I still wouldn't vote for him or support him over Kerry, though, so neither performance could have been that great.

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