Peggy Noonan: George W. Bush Never 'Attacked' John Kerry During The Debates

Nooners, who predictably scores the debates 1-0-2 for the GOP so far (win for Romney, draw for Ryan, draw for Romney), wags her finger at the President for being too mean to Mitt. What the president said at the debate was nothing he hadn't said

Nooners, who predictably scores the debates 1-0-2 for the GOP so far (win for Romney, draw for Ryan, draw for Romney), wags her finger at the President for being too mean to Mitt.

What the president said at the debate was nothing he hadn't said on the trail. His campaign has been personal, accusatory and manipulative. But there in the room on a tiny stage, for a sitting president to come out with that kind of put-down—I couldn't imagine a JFK doing it, with his cool, or a Jerry Ford with his Midwestern decency, or a Reagan, or the Bushes. When you are president, you don't stand next to an opponent and accuse and attack. You keep a certain almost aesthetic distance. You know the height of the office you hold. You let the debate come to you, and if at some point you get an opening to uncork a joke or a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger criticism, you move.

Uh-huh. Let's roll the tape on a portion of the first two Bush-Kerry debates in 2004.

BUSH: That's totally absurd. Of course, the U.N. was invited in. And we support the U.N. efforts there. They pulled out after Sergio de Mello got killed. But they're now back in helping with elections.
My opponent says we didn't have any allies in this war. What's he say to Tony Blair? What's he say to Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland? You can't expect to build an alliance when you denigrate the contributions of those who are serving side by side with American troops in Iraq.

BUSH: I think what is misleading is to say you can lead and succeed in Iraq if you keep changing your positions on this war. And he has. As the politics change, his positions change. And that's not how a commander in chief acts.

Let me finish.

The intelligence I looked at was the same intelligence my opponent looked at, the very same intelligence. And when I stood up there and spoke to the Congress, I was speaking off the same intelligence he looked at to make his decisions to support the authorization of force.

BUSH: The only consistent about my opponent's position is that he's been inconsistent. He changes positions. And you cannot change positions in this war on terror if you expect to win.

BUSH: I can see why people at your workplace think he changes positions a lot, because he does. He said he voted for the $87 billion, and voted against it right before he voted for it. And that sends a confusing signal to people. He said he thought Saddam Hussein was a grave threat, and now he said it was a mistake to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

BUSH: No, I can see why people think that he changes position quite often, because he does.

You know, for a while he was a strong supporter of getting rid of Saddam Hussein. He saw the wisdom -- until the Democrat primary came along and Howard Dean, the anti-war candidate, began to gain on him, and he changed positions.

I don't see how you can lead this country in a time of war, in a time of uncertainty, if you change your mind because of politics.

BUSH: You remember the last debate?

BUSH: My opponent said that America must pass a global test before we used force to protect ourselves. That's the kind of mindset that says sanctions were working. That's the kind of mindset that said, "Let's keep it at the United Nations and hope things go well."

Saddam Hussein was a threat because he could have given weapons of mass destruction to terrorist enemies. Sanctions were not working. The United Nations was not effective at removing Saddam Hussein.

BUSH: That answer almost made me want to scowl.

He keeps talking about, "Let the inspectors do their job." It's naive and dangerous to say that. That's what the Duelfer report showed. He was deceiving the inspectors.

BUSH: You tell Tony Blair we're going alone. Tell Tony Blair we're going alone. Tell Silvio Berlusconi we're going alone. Tell Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland we're going alone.

There are 30 countries there. It denigrates an alliance to say we're going alone, to discount their sacrifices. You cannot lead an alliance if you say, you know, you're going alone. And people listen. They're sacrificing with us.

BUSH: I don't think my opponent has got the right view about the world to make us safe; I really don't.

First of all, I don't think he can succeed in Iraq. And if Iraq were to fail, it'd be a haven for terrorists, and there would be money and the world would be much more dangerous.

I don't see how you can win in Iraq if you don't believe we should be there in the first place. I don't see how you can lead troops if you say it's the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time.

BUSH: You're right, what does matter is a plan. He said he's for -- you're now for capping punitive damages? That's odd. You should have shown up on the floor in the Senate and voted for it then.

BUSH: He's just not credible when he talks about being fiscally conservative. He's just not credible. If you look at his record in the Senate, he voted to break the caps -- the spending caps -- over 200 times.

And here he says he's going to be a fiscal conservative, all of a sudden. It's just not credible. You cannot believe it.

And on and on.

Not at all accusatory or attacky!

Give us all a break, Nooners, and go back to your Manhattans.

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