Spirited Exchanges Mark Second Presidential Debate
Washington University in St. Louis - St. Louis, MO -
October 8, 2004
Democracy in Action 
Transcript: Questions and Answers
Rapid Response: Bush  |  Kerry
Spin: Bush  |  Kerry

With little more than three weeks to go until Election Day, President Bush and Sen. Kerry met at the  Washington University in St. Louis for the second of  three presidential debates.  Charles Gibson moderated the 90-minute "town hall" format debate, in which the candidates fielded questions from an audience of 140 "soft Bush" and "soft Kerry" supporters. 

The St. Louis area residents asked a total of eighteen questions covering subjects ranging from Iraq and homeland security to health care, the environment, the Patriot Act, Supreme Court appointments and abortion. 

Cheryl Otis opened by asking Kerry to explain the impression that he is "too wishy washy."  Kerry responded that Bush had "turned his campaign into a weapon of mass deception."  James Varner challenged Kerry to "look directly into the camera" and pledge that he would not raise taxes on families earning less that $200,000.  Kerry did.  Sarah Degenhart asked Kerry to speak to those who believe abortion is murder.  Kerry remarked on his Catholic faith and
stated, "I can't take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who doesn't share that article of faith, whether they be agnostic, atheist, Jew, Protestant, whatever."

Bush's toughest question may have come from Linda Grabel, who asked, "Please give three instances in which you came to realize you had made a wrong decision, and what you did to correct it."  Bush said he stood by his decisions on big questions such as Iraq and tax cuts; he conceded only that he had "made some mistakes in appointing people."  Responding to a question from Daniel Farley, Bush stated, "We're not going to have a draft, period."  James Hubb asked Bush how he would rate himself as an environmentalist.  "We've got a good, common-sense policy," Bush said.  "I guess you'd say I'm a good steward of the land."

Neither candidate made a significant gaffe; both candidates sounded familiar themes.  Bush characterized Kerry as someone who "changes positions a lot" and is "the most liberal in the United States Senate."  He said Kerry's claims of being a fiscal conservative were "not credible."  "Of course he's going to raise your taxes," the President declared.  Kerry described the Iraq war as "a catastrophic mistake" and declared, "The president rushed our nation to war without a plan to win the peace."  Referring to a Bush tax cut, Kerry said it "went to the wealthiest people in the country" and is an example of "wrong priorities."

FactCheck.org article. "Distortions Galore at Second Presidential Debate."
Another View: Badnarik for President press release

Copyright © 2004  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action