Kerry claimed that the president (1) rushed us into a war, (2) got sidetracked in Iraq, (3) relied too heavily on proxy armies, and (4) pushed alliances away and thereby increased the burden on the U.S. and reduced effectiveness of action. He then claimed that Bush has failed to address homeland security issues such as port safety, borders, and airline cargo inspections. Kerry claimed that he wouldn’t make these mistakes.
Bush, denying Kerry’s claims, argued that he was fighting a broad war and thus was making progress against Al Qaida while creating democracy.
Kerry's point #1, #2 and #4 are solidly supported by what we now know. We've been told by everyone, include U.S. government sources, that the Iraqi threat was diminishing when the U.S. attacked. The view that Iraq has diminished U.S. ability to fight the war on terror has been put forth by intelligence professionals throughout the intel community. Recent disclosures from France also suggest that France would have been willing to cooperate if Bush had been more patient and cooperative in his approach. The 3rd point is also interesting since a number of historians have pointed out that the overreliance on proxies was the downfall of many major civilizations in the past (Rome in particular).
As for Bush's contentions, there are a couple major weaknesses in the argument. The idea that Bush will support democracy in the Middle East requires us to all simultaneously enter a state of historical amnesia. The U.S. has intervened in the Middle East and supported governments up until now without any regard whatsoever of these governments' democratic record. So we would have to believe that Bush marks a sharp break with previous U.S. policy. But then we look at who the White House has chosen for its democratic leadership. In Afghanistan, we have a former oil company advisor (Why does this sound so familiar?) and in Iraq, we had Chalabi, a felon convicted of bank fraud (To be installed in power by the U.S., a country that doesn't allow its excons to vote!) and then Allawi--someone from the Saddam government who the U.S. CIA claims to have been an Iraqi hitman. If anything has changed, its the depths of cynicism regarding democracy.
Of course, we must also believe that the CIA has ceased to fund its favorite parties or intervene in critical overseas elections. We don't allow external funding to enter the U.S. political process since everyone knows it corrupts democracy, yet the CIA has intervened in elections all over the world up until the present point of history. But who knows. With Bush in charge, maybe things will be different this time...