I joined the presidential debate late (Sarah particularly wanted to see it), so I had to go back and read the transcript of the parts I missed. (Fox News has it complete now: CNN‘s is only partial. Fox also did a fact check on both candidates’ claims: Maybe CNN is working on that.)

In general, I agree with Glenn Reynolds: Neither candidate is a good enough orator to really take control and run away with it. The debate was more substantive for it. Chances are, the liberals will think Kerry won, and the conservatives will think Bush won. It didn’t look good for Bush that he repeated his accusations of inconsistency, especially when he provided so few examples. It didn’t look good for Kerry when he hinted that America can’t be trusted with “bunker-buster” nuclear weapons.

Still, there was one moment:

LEHRER: New question. Two minutes, Senator Kerry. What is your position on the whole concept of preemptive war?

KERRY: The president always has the right, and always has had the right, for preemptive strike. That was a great doctrine throughout the Cold War. And it was always one of the things we argued about with respect to arms control.

No president, though all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America.

But if and when you do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you’re doing what you’re doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons. …

BUSH: Let me — I’m not exactly sure what you mean, “passes the global test,” you take preemptive action if you pass a global test.

My attitude is you take preemptive action in order to protect the American people, that you act in order to make this country secure.

…I just think trying to be popular, kind of, in the global sense, if it’s not in our best interest makes no sense. I’m interested in working with our nations and do a lot of it. But I’m not going to make decisions that I think are wrong for America.

As Hugh Hewitt said: Game, set, match.

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