Almost time for tonight’s Presidential debate, the last of this election season’s round. Will Bush actually look like a President? Or, more likely, will we get to see him stumble and fall yet again?

As before, I’ll be watching on C-SPAN, and will update this post with my usual random babbling after the debate’s done with.

Quiet room right now, waiting for things to get started. Always the most entertaining bit. ;)

And we’re off. Bob Schieffer is moderating. Same rules as ever, blah blah. Tonight’s topic is domestic affairs (I thought we took care of that in the Clinton era…).

Bush and Kerry have taken the stage.

Interesting — this is the first time the split-screen has had Kerry on the left and Bush on the right. Fits, though, I suppose.

That was a fairly dumb first question. “Will our children ever live in a world as safe and secure as we were when we grew up?” In other words, the Cold War, the threat of nuclear annihilation, the Vietnam War, and so on. Sure, it was on other countries’ soil instead of ours, but is that really “safe”?

So far, both answers have been more of the same. Bush already brought up Kerry’s “nuisance” quote (which I don’t really think was that bad, though it is terribly easily spun).

Bush just said that he doesn’t think he ever said he wasn’t worried about Osama bin Laden — it should take all of about thirty seconds for people to find links to that particular quote. [Update:]{.underline} Bingo, bingo, and bingo. Told ya.

Oh — we’re working with Canada to get enough flu vaccine. This must be a different Canada than the third-world Canada that Bush was so worried about allowing to flood the US market with unsafe foreign drugs last week.

Kerry’s on about health insurance. Feels to me like he’s floundering — what does this have to do with the flu vaccine shortage? Gotta admit, Bush at least answered the question.

It’s hard for me to tell on the RealVideo stream, but Prairie’s commenting that Kerry doesn’t look healthy — pale, and bags under his eyes.

Damn those Chinese ceiling fans. If it weren’t for them, we’d all be in better shape. (From Prairie: “designed for short people, so they hang down too low on our american ceilings… all those decapitations are getting depressing”)

Okay, Bush has to have an earpiece — no way he’s remembering all those numbers, and he’s not glancing down at notes that I can see. (This is only half-serious, btw.) Knowing exactly how many times Kerry voted on all these items?

The best way to keep jobs in America is to make sure the education system works. While I’m sure that’ll help, how about closing the loopholes that have so many companies outsourcing their work overseas?

Interesting question on whether it’s fair to blame the administration for all job losses. Kerry started fairly well — even admitting that he can’t stop all outsourcing. He keeps coming back to what Bush has done wrong, though…and by the time he gets through those points (and he mentions as many as possible each time), he doesn’t really end up saying much about what he’s actually going to do.

Bush: “My opponent says we’re spending the Government’s money. No, we’re spending your money.” No shit. (Yes, I’m taking that out of context. Whee.)

Interesting: “Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?”

Gaaaah — I can’t type fast enough while listening to keep up with Bush. He actually started well enough, with a quick “I don’t know” for the actual question (I don’t like his answer, but I can accept it), and professing to respect people’s rights. But then he went on and on about his proposed Constitutional Amendment and his rationale behind it.

Kerry’s actually answering the question — “It’s not a choice.” He’s still against gay marriage, but for “property rights”. Sigh.

This is one of the best things I hear Kerry say: “I believe that I can’t legislate my beliefs on someone else.” (Paraphrased.)

Bush started blinking faster when Kerry started quoting Bible verse.

Bush dropped his “culture of life” phrase again. Basically, he took this and went right into the abortion question. Abstinence programs…dammit, nice idea, doesn’t work.

Bush, in response to a question on who bears responsibility for medicare cost increases: “Gosh, I sure hope it’s not the administration.”

What? Medicine doesn’t use IT? Hospitals are in the technological dark ages? I had no idea…I must have missed the leeches last time I had blood drawn.

Dammit, Kerry — again, he’s not answering the question — that is, how he’s going to pay for his health care plan. It sounds like a good plan, but where is the money going to come from?

I’ve gotta admit, Bush is doing better this time — still stumbling over his words from time to time, but he’s managing to keep his anger in check so far.

Each of them keep saying that the other can’t handle money for crap, but neither of them are really saying where the money they want to spend is realistically going to come from.

Okay, apparently all the money Kerry is ever going to need is going to come from rolling back the Bush tax cut for people who earn over \$200k/year. Gotta admit, I question that.

Just for the record, it’s only in the past few years — I think starting with the Bush administration, but admittedly, it may have started with Clinton (I can’t remember off the top of my head) — that I’ve been owing money on my taxes. It’s awfully hard for me to take Bush seriously when he says that the tax cuts went to low- and middle-income earners when I keep owing more money each year.

Nice “spirit fingers” from Kerry when talking about fingerprint identification (bonus points if you can identify the movie that’s from).

Kerry’s fired up on the minimum wage/equal wage question — this is more animated than I’ve seen him yet tonight.

Why is Bush suddenly on No Child Left Behind? He blew right past minimum wage.

Bush really did duck and weave to avoid coming out and saying that he wants to overturn Roe v. Wade (and good for Kerry for pointing that out).

But where are the people going to come from, Kerry? If we don’t reinstate the draft, and military recruitment is dropping, how are we going to fix that to get troops on the rotations they should be on? We know that it’s Bush’s fault, but how are you going to fix it?

Of course the soldiers you talked to had high spirits, Bush, you and your handlers won’t let a dissenting opinion within a hundred feet of you.

Bush: “The best way to prevent people causing crimes with guns is to prosecute them after they commit the crime.” He also admitted that he didn’t encourage the passing of the assault weapons ban because he was told it wasn’t going to go anywhere — but couldn’t he have at least tried to encourage moving it along?

Good, Kerry made that same point.

Did someone tell Bush that education was the focus, or a hot-button issue, or something? That seems to be all he can talk about tonight. He’s turning every question, no matter how unrelated, into being about education.

Ooooh – Bush got directly asked how much his faith plays into his policy decisions. “I never want to impose my religion upon anybody else.” Somehow, that’s really hard to believe. “Armies of Compassion?” What is that? Afghanistan’s freedom is a gift from the Almighty. Y’know…I’m not anti-religious by any means, but Bush is just creepy. He’s too religious — everything ties into it.

Not entirely sure what I think of Kerry’s response, simply because my video feed went all wonky and I lost a good amount of it.

From Prairie: “Bush is NOT married to a strong woman”

Last question and Bush has suddenly turned the “folksy charm” on strong, as he talks about his wife. I don’t like him, but I have to admit, he does do this well, and I can see why people find him so personable.

Ack — lost some of Kerry’s answer there. Heard laughter afterwards, but that was about it.

Closing statements, Kerry’s first.

I do wish that Kerry could say “idea” instead of “ideer”.

Kerry’s summing up everything…and, well, it’s all the same stuff we’ve been hearing through all the debates.

This is a first — Bush actually tried to paint himself as an optimist. Other than that, same ol’ same ol’, just a slightly smaller dose of “vote for me or die” mixed in.

And that’s it.

I’ve got to admit, Bush did a lot better this time than he did in the first two…and Kerry seemed more of the “old Kerry” to me — but maybe that’s just because he looked so much better in comparison to the fumbling Bush of the last two debates. Overall, this debate wasn’t nearly as clear-cut a win for Kerry as I thought either of the prior two were. Shame, really, as things are still looking really close.

I’ve never hid the fact that I’m not a huge Kerry fan, and if each of the three debates had been like this one, I’d be even more worried than I am now. Still, there’s no way you could get me to vote for Bush, and I refuse to waste my vote on a third-party candidate, so Kerry it is.

As long as Bush gets booted out of office, I’ll be happy, and we’ll see where things go from there.

iTunesWicked” by Keoki from the album Ego-Trip (1997, 7:00).