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Inside Politics

Key points of Thursday's debate

Kerry and Bush faced off Thursday in the first of three presidential debates.
Paul Begala and Robert Novak of CNN's "Crossfire"  blogged their reactions to the debate in real time on
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Debate between Bush and Kerry (Part 1)
(Part 2)
(Part 3)
Full transcript of the September 30, 2004 presidential debates. 
• Question 6 -- When should troops come home? 
• Question 11 -- When will the war in Iraq end? 
• Question 15 -- Why not send troops to Sudan? 
• Question 18 -- Did Bush misjudge Putin? 
• Audio Slide Show: Debate history
• Formats
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CORAL GABLES, Florida (CNN) -- President Bush and Sen. John Kerry debated the war in Iraq, how a president should deal with a nuclear North Korea and what needs to be done for homeland security Thursday night. Here are the highlights with the person asked the question being listed first.

President on the Iraq war

Kerry: Bush has not been candid with Americans. He misled us on planning. Misled us on going to war as a last resort. Turned down help from United Nations. Chose the wrong way to disarm Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. "I've had one position, one consistent position, that Saddam Hussein was a threat."

Bush: "The only consistent [thing] about my opponent's position is that he's been inconsistent." Kerry agreed with him that Saddam was a threat. He saw the same intelligence.

Was war worth the cost in American lives?

Bush: "Every life is precious." Sacrifice is noble and worthy. Worth it because free Iraq and Afghanistan will change the world.

Kerry: "It is vital for us not to confuse the war, ever, with the warriors. ... I am determined for those soldiers." Military service is "the most noble thing anybody can do. And I want to make sure the outcome honors that nobility."

Pre-emptive war

Bush: Hopes to never have to do it again, but "the enemy attacked us." Will try to exhaust diplomatic options.

Kerry: Osama Bin Laden, not Saddam Hussein, attacked the United States. Saddam would have been weakened with more inspections and sanctions. President has the right to be pre-emptive, but the decision must pass a "global test."

Greatest threat to the world

Kerry: "Nuclear proliferation." Bush has secured less nuclear material in past two years than in the two years before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. More money is needed for finding nuclear material in the former Soviet Union and for prevention.

Bush: Administration has increased funding 35 percent for dealing with nuclear proliferation.

Preventing another 9/11 attack

Kerry: Would not take his eye off the goal -- Osama bin Laden -- and would hunt down other terrorists wherever they are.

Bush: United States pursues al Qaeda wherever al Qaeda tries to hide. Best way to defeat terrorism is to use every asset and stay on the offensive.

Saddam and bin Laden as targets

Bush: United States has the capability of doing both. "The front on this war is more than just one place."

Kerry: "Iraq was not even close to the center of the war on terror before the president invaded it."

Misjudgments about Iraq

Kerry: U.S. allies were pushed aside. America has sustained 90 percent of the casualties and the cost.

Bush: Saddam had no intention of disarming. The world is safer without him.

Miscalculations in Iraq

Bush: Many people loyal to Saddam laid down their arms, but the coalition is now fighting them.

Kerry: There were no weapons of mass destruction, there was no imminent threat, there was no connection with al Qaeda.

When to bring troops home

Bush: More Iraqis need to be trained. Generals in Iraq will say when Iraq is ready to defend itself.

Kerry: Troops deserve better. "If we do the things that I've set out and we are successful, we could begin to draw the troops down in six months."

North Korea

Bush: North Korea can be dealt with diplomatically. Six-nation talks have more leverage.

Kerry: North Korea has developed four to seven nuclear weapons on Bush's watch. United States should engage in bilateral talks.


Bush: President Vladimir Putin is a strong ally in war on terror but is not showing respect for checks and balances in democracy.

Kerry: We want a partnership, but the United States has to stand up for democracy. Putin's political opponents are being jailed.

Homeland security

Kerry: Bush has cut the number of police officers, fire fighters. "This president thought it was more important to give the wealthiest people in America a tax cut rather than invest in homeland security."

Bush: Tripled the amount of money spent to $30 billion a year. Spent $3.1 billion on fire and police.

Darfur, Sudan

Kerry: It is genocide. The African Union should take the lead.

Bush: It is genocide. United States is the leading donor with $200 million in aid and will commit more. African Union should move rapidly.

Character issues

Bush: Kerry served his country admirably, but a leader cannot send mixed messages. "What I won't do is change my core values."

Kerry: "I'm not going to talk about a difference of character. I don't think that's my job or my business."

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