On Oct. 13, Arizona State University served as the battleground for the final debate of the 2004 presidential election.
The 90-minute meeting between President George W. Bush, and Sen. John F. Kerry was moderated by CBS anchor Bob Schieffer. Schieffer’s questions mainly referred to domestic affairs, disabling either candidate’s using the war on terrorism as a platform for the entire debate.
Slowly, the now-familiar verbal jabs began to be tossed around. It started with Kerry quoting Bush from a press conference in 2002 about not caring where Osama bin Laden is. Then Kerry criticized how the health care system was getting worse under the president, and how he had a plan to change it.
Bush took those two responses on the chin, but soon fired back. He commented that a plan is not complaining about a problem, or making programs you can’t pay for, and referred to the senator’s plans as “empty promises.”
Things started to pick up.
The third question was the first of the country’s more traditional concerns: how to keep taxes from rising.
“Pay as you go,” Kerry said. “The solution is not to increase the deficit by passing things through congress that will cost the country money we don’t have yet.”
Bush retaliated by questioning the credibility of what the senator was saying.
“Well, his rhetoric doesn’t match his record,” said Bush. “He talks about being a fiscal conservative, or fiscally sound, but he voted over – he voted 277 times to waive the budget caps, which would have cost the taxpayers $4.2 trillion.”
The mood of the auditorium was lightened for a moment when Kerry responded by saying, “Being lectured by the president on fiscal responsibility is a little bit like Tony Soprano talking to me about law and order in this country.”
Statistical onslaughts and verbal hooks continued throughout the rest of the questions, through topics of taxes, health care, job loss and social security.
After the “he hasn’t done this, or that” blaming was over the dust finally settled to show Bush and Kerry still standing. They both weighed in with heartfelt, compassionate answers on important social issues like homosexuality, faith, and family.
When it was all said and done, both men came from behind their podiums and shook hands looking like the victor. “I think Kerry won,” said Troy Haskins, a junior finance major. “But the election will be real close.”
If this debate was any indication of the remainder of the election; then the race should be tight for this final stretch through the finish line Nov. 2.
Michael Abdul-Qawi may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.