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The Debates: Best and Worst

By Mark Stencel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 14, 2004; 1:10 PM

Best Name Dropping

President Bush: "That's precisely what Vladimir Putin understands, as well. I've got a good relation with Vladimir. . . . Vladimir is going to have to make some hard choices." (Sept. 30)

Worst Name Dropping

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Bush: "I know how these people think. I meet with them all the time. I talk to Tony Blair all the time. I talk to Silvio Berlusconi. They're not going to follow an American president who says follow me into a mistake." (Oct. 8)

Worst Pop Culture Reference

Sen. John F. Kerry: "Being lectured by the president on fiscal responsibility is a little bit like Tony Soprano talking to me about law and order in this country." (Oct. 13)

Worst Sports Reference

Kerry: "The president, I don't think, is living in a world of reality with respect to the environment. Now, if you're a Red Sox fan, that's okay. But if you're a president, it's not." (Oct. 8)

Best Display of International Expertise

Vice President Cheney, on Afghan elections: "Twenty years ago we had a similar situation in El Salvador. . . . And we held free elections. I was there as an observer on behalf of the Congress." (Oct. 5)

Worst Display of International Expertise

Bush, on Iraq's WMDs: "I wasn't happy when we found out there wasn't weapons." (Oct. 8)

Worst Rebuttals

Sen. John Edwards: "No, I did talk about it, Israel. He's the one who didn't talk about it." (Oct. 5)

Bush: "First of all, of course I know Osama bin Laden attacked us. I know that." (Sept. 30)

Bush, on Kerry's account of the initial allies in the war in Iraq: "Well, actually, he forgot Poland." (Sept. 30)

Best Rebuttal

Bush: "I own a timber company? That's news to me. Need some wood?" (Oct. 8)

Worst Rambles

Bush: "Another example would be the Dred Scott case, which is where judges, years ago, said that the Constitution allowed slavery because of personal property rights. That's a personal opinion. That's not what the Constitution says. The Constitution of the United States says we're all -- you know, it doesn't say that. It doesn't speak to the equality of America." (Oct. 8)

Kerry: "Secretary of State Colin Powell told this president the Pottery Barn rule: If you break it, you fix it. Now, if you break it, you made a mistake. It's the wrong thing to do. But you own it. And then you've got to fix it and do something with it." (Sept. 30)

Best Family Advice

Bush, on what he's learned from the women in his life: "To listen to them. To stand up straight and not scowl." (Oct. 13)

Worst Family Advice

Bush, on his daughters: "I'm trying to put a leash on them." (Sept. 30)

Best Moderator Moments

Cheney: "I can respond, Gwen, but it's going to take more than 30 seconds." / PBS's Gwen Ifill: "Well, that's all you've got." (Oct. 5)

Ifill: "I just asked him about Israel, even though we didn't actually talk about it much." (Oct. 5)

ABC's Charlie Gibson: "I have heard you both say . . . that you're going to cut the deficit by a half in four years. But I didn't hear one thing in the last three and a half minutes that would indicate how either one of you do that." (Oct. 8)

Worst Use of Repetition

Kerry and Edwards, on the U.S. share of the Iraq war: "90 percent of the casualties and 90 percent of the cost" (six times)

Bush: "working hard" and "hard work" (19 times, once in jest)

Bush and Cheney, quoting Kerry: "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time" (11 times)

Bush: "mixed messages" and "mixed signals" (10 times)

Kerry: "rush to war," usually followed by "without a plan to win the peace" (eight times)

Worst Pronunciation

Kerry: "Idears" (Oct. 13)

Bush: "Internets" (Oct. 8)

Best Campaign Ad for the Other Party in 2008

Bush: "We're not going to have a draft, period." (Oct. 8)

Kerry: "I am not going to raise taxes." (Oct. 8)

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