Last Thursday night, Sept. 30, Payson Democrats gathered at their headquarters at 418 S. Beeline Highway to watch the first of three televised presidential debates.
What they saw was John Kerry, their party's standard bearer, stand before this nation's television viewers as a strong, clear and convincing leader for America.
Kerry showed a mastery of the issues, an ability to think quickly on his feet, and a strong alternative to Bush's reckless policy of war. Kerry was more presidential than the president.
Kerry explained how the war in Iraq was an enormous diversion from the hunt for Osama bin Laden. He said being smart means not diverting your attention from the real war on terror in Afghanistan against Osama bin Laden and taking off to Iraq where the 9/11 commission confirms there was no connection to 9/11 itself and Saddam Hussein.
And the reason for going to war was weapons of mass destruction, not the removal of Saddam Hussein. Bush has made a colossal error of judgment. And judgment is what we look for in the president of the United States of America.
Bush couldn't take the heat. When Kerry laid out the reality on the ground in Iraq and explained how the war diverted troops and resources from the hunt for Osama bin Laden, Bush responded with anger.
It's a telling character flaw -- Americans don't want our president to get angry at someone just because he disagrees.
The debate showed how Bush is out of touch with reality. In his "fantasy world of spin," things in Iraq are going fine. But casualties are climbing and the insurgency is growing.
Even Colin Powell admits things are getting worse.
Bush looked like he was praying for the debate to end. Bush's responses were left to repeating empty phrases like, "Wrong war, wrong place, wrong time," and being president is "hard work."
Does George W. think that he should have more time to play golf?
If President Bush believes that being president should be easy, perhaps he should go back to the Texas Rangers office of president and leave the presidency of the United States of America to a leader like Senator John Kerry.
Mark Ernest Reza, Democratic party chairman
Clearly, style won the first Presidential debate. If you don't believe it, listen to the unified left, including the national media, marching hand-in-hand with their anti-war activist candidate.
My president looked like he didn't want to be there. He appeared tired and frustrated and, frankly, I don't blame him. I don't believe that it was necessary for my president to participate in a debate when his convictions have never changed.
Our president is a known quantity, known for his actions and his commitment to the defense of our country. The president reacted to the attack on the World Trade Center in a decisive manner, and his message since then has been consistent. I believe that President Bush is Al Qaeda's worst nightmare.
Political pundits said that Kerry would have to be specific about his plan for Iraq to win the debate on foreign policy. The only specific I heard was, "I'll hold a summit." Kerry apparently thinks we should talk about it, publish a report, conduct a global sniff test, and in the end, do nothing.
The German and French governments are already on record saying that they will not send troops to Iraq, no matter who is president.
In the debate discussion about North Korea, Kerry proposed bi-lateral discussions. Bush displayed amazement and explained that the correct policy is to keep China and Japan engaged in these negotiations. Perhaps Kerry would send Jane Fonda and Michael Moore as envoys to North Korea for bi-lateral discussions?
I had difficulty watching Kerry in this debate. As a veteran, with a daughter and son-in-law currently in the military, all I kept seeing was an image of Kerry "morphing" into an anti-war activist, testifying to Congress that all Vietnam veterans -- himself included -- committed war atrocities against innocent civilians.
Given his comments, I honestly believe that Kerry would never have gone after Osama bin Laden. I believe that Kerry has been, is now, and will always be, anti-war. Following 9/11, Kerry knows it would be political suicide for him to take an anti-war stance. So he dances, sometimes to his left and sometimes to his right, thus confusing our president and causing him to want to be anywhere but at the same debate.
For Kerry's part, the debate disclosed little, if any, credible foreign policy specifics. But yes, style -- and gorgeous hair -- won the debate. Substance came in last.
Ken O'Dell, Proud U.S. Army veteran