Did anyone else notice President Bush walking in with his arms held a bit out to his sides, and a bit of a swagger in his walk? This isn't a showdown at high noon, Mr. President, it's a debate. Oh well, I guess everyone has his own style, right? But please, Mr. President, be nice to the moderator. Don't talk over the poor guy; he's just trying to do his job.
Kerry played this well by including Charlie Gibson in one of his jokes; nice job. He also made an excellent point on abortion by linking it to the separation of church and state. Kerry pointed out that although he, personally, was Catholic, he couldn't base national decisions on his own religion. Bush seemed to say this, but then he contradicted himself (on the embryonic stem cell research question).
For both candidates, you could see the influence of their debate coaches and political advisors seeping through. On Kerry's part, he made a very strong effort to be more conversational and speak less in "Senate-ese". But it just sounds kind of weird when says "It's gut-check time!" He sounded like some sort of superhero version of Jimeny Cricket.
And then Bush was desperate to keep a straight face during Kerry's speeches. You could tell he was trying not to smirk, but he ended up just looking like he had eaten some bad Mexican food for lunch.
Some other interesting points:
1. Bush claimed, if I'm not mistaken, that he proposed the hydrogen-generated automobile. First of all, it's hydrogen-POWERED. The way he said it, it means that you actually built the car from hydrogen. And does anyone else get this feeling of deja vu back to where Al Gore said he invented the Internet?
2. Speaking of the Internet, I thought there was only one. Did I hear Bush mention rumors on the "internets"? Plural? As in, a few of them? What other internet is there? Maybe this other internet is where Bush got the statistic that 75% of al-Quaeda members are captured? According to CNN.com, that's 75% of only TWO-DOZEN leaders that were identified at the time of 9/11. This says nothing of the countless terrorists that are just as willing as the leaders to kill and hurt us, AND it doesn't count anyone who has been recruited by them in the last three years.
3. Bush said something about forests being "harvested". Um, what?
4. In what I think was Bush's last speech, he claimed that if John Kerry was president, Saddam Hussein would still be in power, and the world would be a much better place. Wow. Just...wow.
5. The point of that question about Bush's mistakes was for him to identify three, and then talk about how he fixed them. He did neither. In fact, he seemed exceptionally arrogant when he essentially stated that he doesn't know of any mistakes he's made so for, and that we'll see in the "history books". Sure thing, Mr. President.
Basically, this second debate was much more lively, animated, and sharper than the first. The questions on domestic policy got a bit more specific, even though the foreign questions didn't really go anywhere that wasn't covered in the first debate. Kerry's statement of a "global test" came back to haunt him tonight, just as it kicked John Edwards in the head in the vice-presidential debate the other day. All in all, however, I don't really think that any one candidate won, but I'm sure that many of the statements made here will affect the final debate, which is on domestic policy.
P.S. I'd like to see how it turns out with a CBS person moderating that one.