"Non-homeland, non-defense, discretionary spending was (increasing) at 15 percent a year when I got into office. And today it's less than 1 percent," Bush responded.
Bush more than held his own at the second debate. His healthy cynicism toward treaties was refreshing, something we haven't heard in years. "In order to be popular in the halls of Europe, you sign a treaty," he quipped.
Bush made it clear that his mission doesn't include trying to be popular in Europe, where many oppose American ideals. In response to a question about European hostility toward his administration, he said, "I recognize we've made some decisions that have caused people to not understand the great values of our country."
Bush scored points by reminding Americans that he "made a decision not to join the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which is where our troops could be brought in front of a judge, an unaccountable judge. I don't think we ought to join that."
Kerry made no response.
Bush delivered the right goods again when, asked whom he would appoint to the Supreme Court, he said he "wouldn't pick a judge who said that the Pledge of Allegiance couldn't be said in a school because it had the words 'under God' in it." Kerry didn't dare say otherwise, instead rambling on about how he would like it to be impossible to detect the religion of a judge from his opinions.
The 2004 election presents a stark choice to voters on many issues. The second debate highlighted those differences on taxes, sovereignty, values, and the courts, and confirmed the assumption of Kerry's first questioner that he is "wishy-washy."
However, remembering that ABC's Charles Gibson told us that he alone, and in secret, selected the handful of questions that were permitted to be asked in the televised debate from the two questions submitted by 140 attendees (i.e., 280 questions), one can't help but wonder why no questions were included on marriage or guns. Those two issues offer the most black-and-white differences between the candidates and are particularly hot in Missouri, where the debate was held.
On national television, Kerry is running away from the liberal label and denouncing "labels." But Bush accurately retorted, Kerry's debate comments are "just not credible"; he can run but he can't hide from his record.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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