Kerry needed a big win in the debate tonight, and didn't get it.
[UPDATE: Subsequent commentary and polling suggests that I am detached from reality.]
Here is a transcript; my Evil Excerpter delivers this:
...KERRY: Yes, we have to be steadfast and resolved, and I am. And I will succeed for those troops, now that we're there. We have to succeed. We can't leave a failed Iraq. But that doesn't mean it wasn't a mistake of judgment to go there and take the focus off of Osama bin Laden. It was. Now, we can succeed. But I don't believe this president can. I think we need a president who has the credibility to bring the allies back to the table and to do what's necessary to make it so America isn't doing this alone.
...BUSH: My opponent says help is on the way, but what kind of message does it say to our troops in harm's way, "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time"? Not a message a commander in chief gives, or this is a "great diversion."
As well, help is on the way, but it's certainly hard to tell it when he voted against the $87-billion supplemental to provide equipment for our troops, and then said he actually did vote for it before he voted against it.
BUSH: Not what a commander in chief does when you're trying to lead troops.
LEHRER: Senator Kerry, 30 seconds.
KERRY: Well, you know, when I talked about the $87 billion, I made a mistake in how I talk about the war. But the president made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse?
I believe that when you know something's going wrong, you make it right. That's what I learned in Vietnam. When I came back from that war I saw that it was wrong. Some people don't like the fact that I stood up to say no, but I did. And that's what I did with that vote. And I'm going to lead those troops to victory.
LEHRER: All right, new question. Two minutes, Senator Kerry.
Speaking of Vietnam, you spoke to Congress in 1971, after you came back from Vietnam, and you said, quote, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"
LEHRER: Are Americans now dying in Iraq for a mistake?
KERRY: No, and they don't have to, providing we have the leadership that we put -- that I'm offering.
Does Kerry think the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, or not?
MORE: Back in August Bush was tormenting Kerry with the "if you knew then what you know now, would you have attacked Iraq?" question. I had guessed then that Kerry's tortured answers were an attempt to avoid this "last man to die for a mistake" problem. Kerry's curent approach is much more ingenious - it was a mistake, but no, it wasn't.
UPDATE: Did I punt with men on base? The Prof questions my pin placement, but I say Kerry left it short.
UPDATE 2: Someone out there is bound to agree with me. I'll take Fred Barnes.