Both guys are good debaters and they were able to learn many facts and numbers and present them in a rather convincing way. I am always surprised by the people who say that both candidates - and perhaps all politicians - are stupid, evil, or perhaps they even suffer from a serious learning disorder.
If I imagine any of these critics in the role of Kerry or Bush, they wouldn't perform comparably well. What would these critics say if they were asked about virtually any question that is relevant for the Society?
Bush tried to smile throughout the debate and his facial expressions (that used to often be confused) have been moderated quite successfully - clearly, this is something that his advisers and friends convinced him to do. His laughter was less loud than in the previous debates. Kerry's style of rhetoric was very similar to the first two verbal battles even though some of his answers were too long again. Well, Kerry is almost certainly a stable debater, but he still seems to be an opportunist on actual policies and opinions. And they seem to be a bit more important after all.
No doubt, both guys are fighting hard to win the votes of undecided voters, and perhaps even some voters who are supposed to vote for the opponent. That's especially clear in the case of Kerry. Do you remember the second debate? Kerry mentioned that he would deal with an issue (I forgot what was that, perhaps the work with the Allies?) much like Ronald Reagan; Bush, on the other hand, said that he wanted to do some others things (and I really forgot what was that) like during Clinton's era.
These unexpected comments are always entertaining, but there were other entertaining moments in the third debate - especially when they had to describe that their wives - both Laura Bush as well as Teresa Ketchup - are smarter; their wives are in charge; and all of these important guys "married up".
Well, one thing is to try to attract the neutral and conservative voters by praising Ronald Reagan. It is a completely different question whether one should trust Kerry when he distributes these comments. Much like Bush, I still don't quite trust Kerry. As Bush said, Kerry has voted to raise taxes 98 times. That's a horrible record, I would say. The taxes are already too high (at least the taxes that I must pay are very high, not sure about you) and too progressive. They should be lower and more flat. (And the idea to replace the IRS by sales taxes is pretty cool, is not it?)
But it's not just about the record. If I were a voter, Kerry would repel me also by some of his own statements (although some other statements would be OK or even appealing).
For example, I find it irritating when Kerry keeps on complaining about "Bush's tax cuts for the rich". Sorry, but this is not a candidate of the whole American nation. It is a left-wing candidate whose agenda is to damage a whole group of citizens (and corporations) whose existence and well-being is incidentally pretty important for America's performance - especially because they are the creators of new jobs. He knows very well that the number of the people below the average is more than one half - and it always will (because the very rich shift the average above the median). All of them, rich and poor, have the same vote, and it just seems easier to get votes by attracting the poor.
I would say that this is only a way to attract those poor who have decided that they would always remain incapable to be better off and who always want to rely on redistribution of resources - and there is not much difference between Kerry and the left-wing populist policitians in Europe and elsewhere. (Well, Kerry is the most left-wing senator according to some counting of his votes.) But even the poor Americans are usually able to think differently - simply because America gives everyone the framework for realizing their dreams of various kinds, a freedom for their "upward mobility". Be sure that Kerry won't win the support of all the people below some income level!
Bush's fiscal responsibility does not look great if we only look at the numbers. Clinton's surplus has changed into deficits. The interest rates are still kept at a much lower level than during the end of Clinton's era. Well, but we should realize that Bush is not responsible for most of the unhappy facts that contributed to the current situation. First of all, the recession already started in the Fall of 2000. Second of all, Bush had to deal with 9/11 and with mess in companies such as Enron - neither of these things was Bush's fault, I think. The war in Iraq was probably not a great news for the budget either, and this questionable decision, if it were wrong, was Bush's fault. But the oil is now 100 percent more expensive than in 1999 and it is not necessarily just a consequence of the war in Iraq.
Let me say that I do think that the presidents should try to keep the budget balanced and Bush simply can't get an "A" for this subject; well, Bush explains that he thinks that there were more important priorities. But it sounds rather ridiculous to listen to the criticism from Kerry. It is pretty clear that Kerry's proposal to give the health insurance to everyone would itself double the deficits - and this is not the only plan of Kerry of a comparable magnitude.
It's not just a matter of huge amounts of money that would have to be paid for these plans. It may be more important to realize that these plans would undermine the free market system in various areas, and the free market system often equals the advantage of America over other countries. Bush's plans to privatize various parts of this system may be good ideas.
I also liked Bush's answer about the shortage of flu vaccine - when he encouraged others to save the flu shots for others who are more vulnerable. No one is obliged to listen, but I believe that the president should be the source of such advices that are meant to help everyone - or those who need it most. Such comments should occur even if the president is not being asked because this job is a part of the leadership.
As you can see, Bush would probably win my vote if I were voting in the USA, as the more trustworthy person who understands the motors underlying the American society better than his opponent. But let me make it clear that I don't think that Kerry would be a universal disaster. If you're an American, vote for whomever you want.