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IN THE NEWS - First Presidential Debate - 2004-10-02

Broadcast: October 2, 2004

This is Steve Ember with In the News in VOA Special English.

President Bush and Democratic party presidential candidate John Kerry held their first presidential debate Thursday night at the University of Miami in Florida. It is the first of three debates they will hold before the American presidential election on November second. More than fifty-million Americans watched the debate on television. Both men answered questions from a reporter.

The main issues of the debate were national security, the war in Iraq and terrorism. These issues are among the top concerns of voters in this election. The candidates explained their positions on these issues and told why they can do a better job.

Senator Kerry said the president has failed to tell the truth to the American public about Iraq. He said although Mister Bush says the situation is improving there, attacks against Iraqis and American forces continue to increase. The senator also noted that American intelligence says the violence there will likely continue or it could even become a civil war.

Senator Kerry said “America is safest and strongest when we are leading the world and when we are leading strong alliances.” He also said he has a better plan for homeland security. And he said he has a better plan for fighting the war on terror by strengthening the American military and American intelligence.

President Bush said Iraq is the central front in the fight against terrorism. He said the war on terror and the war in Iraq are linked. He said it was right to oust Saddam Hussein from Iraq because it has made America safer. He criticized Mister Kerry for calling the war in Iraq “the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He said Mister Kerry keeps changing his positions on important national security issues such as the Iraq war and terrorism.

President Bush said “the enemy understands a free Iraq will be a major defeat in their ideology of hatred.” He said “if we remain strong we will defeat this enemy.”

Historically, televised debates have often had an effect on presidential elections, especially close elections.

Three major opinion studies said most of the people questioned said Senator Kerry did better than President Bush in the debate. Opinion studies suggest there are fewer undecided voters in this year’s election than in recent times. But political experts say undecided voters will be the main target for both candidates during the three presidential debates.

President Bush and Senator Kerry will hold a second debate in Saint Louis, Missouri on October eighth. The last presidential debate will be in Tempe, Arizona on October thirteenth. The vice presidential candidates, Vice President Dick Cheney and Senator John Edwards, will debate on October fifth in Cleveland, Ohio.

In the News, in VOA Special English, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.