By Brad Friedman on 10/30/2004, 1:41pm PT  

As usual, Josh Marshall hits upon the essence of the question:

Which of these two statements sounds like it comes from the stronger leader?

John Kerry: In response to this tape from Osama bin Laden, let me make it clear, crystal clear. As Americans, we are absolutely united in our determination to hunt down and destroy Osama bin Laden and the terrorists. They are barbarians. And I will stop at absolutely nothing to hunt down, capture or kill the terrorists wherever they are, whatever it takes. Period.

George W. Bush: Earlier today I was informed of the tape that is now being analyzed by America's intelligence community. Let me make this very clear: Americans will not be intimidated or influenced by an enemy of our country. I'm sure Senator Kerry agrees with this. I also want to say to the American people that we're at war with these terrorists and I am confident that we will prevail.

You decide ...

Marshall also notes, in another item, that apparently the Bush team learned of the impending bin Laden statement yesterday morning, but didn't notify the Kerry camp about it until later in the afternoon.

And then, as Bush finished criticizing Kerry for criticizing Bush for not doing more to catch bin Laden, there was this report from AFP:

Speaking to reporters outside the campaign rally here, White House communications director Dan Bartlett said that the tape should not affect the way Bush campaigns but that Kerry should have marked a 12-hour truce.

"You would think that there would be a, maybe, 12 hours to let the American absorb what has just happened today," he said.

Prodded on why, if the tape ought not to affect the campaign, Kerry should have stopped criticizing the president, Bartlett revised his statement, saying that the problem was that Kerry's attack had been "discredited."

Prompting Marshall to aptly note: "There's nothing, it seems, they won't game."