Wednesday, October 6 2004
THE CHENEY-EDWARDS DEBATE:
Bottom line: Cheney dominated. Actually, I thought John Edwards acquitted himself pretty well last night - and he still got killed. Cheney was in total command during the first half of the debate - which was really the only part that mattered - and he pounded on John Kerry's record from every possible angle.

Cheney got in what I thought were a number of sharp blows that left Edwards looking frustrated and helpless. The first was when Cheney derided John Kerry's "global test" remark from Thursday night and then said:

"A little tough talk in the midst of a campaign or as part of a presidential debate cannot obscure a record of 30 years of being on the wrong side of defense issues."

Two questions later Dick Cheney eviscerated John Kerry's record on defense issues and finished with a devastating critique of both John Kerry and John Edwards' decision to vote against the $87 billion to support the troops:

"I couldn't figure out why that [the vote] happened initially. And then I looked and figured out that what was happening was Howard Dean was making major progress in the Democratic primaries, running away with the primaries based on an anti-war record. So they, in effect, decided they would cast an anti-war vote and they voted against the troops.

Now if they couldn't stand up to the pressures that Howard Dean represented, how can we expect them to stand up to Al Qaida?"

Just a few minutes after that, in an extremely deft move that capitalized on Cheney's previous point that John Kerry was unfit to lead the War in Iraq because of his willingness to disparage and demean our allies, Cheney took Edwards' rebuttal and knocked him all but senseless. If this were a prize fight the ref would have had to step in and give Edwards a standing eight count. Here's the full exchange:

EDWARDS: The vice president suggests that we have the same number of countries involved now that we had in the first Gulf War. The first Gulf War cost the American people $5 billion.

And regardless of what the vice president says, we're at $200 billion and counting. Not only that, 90 percent of the coalition casualties, Mr. Vice President, the coalition casualties, are American casualties. Ninety percent of the cost of this effort are being borne by American taxpayers. It is the direct result of the failures of this administration.

IFILL: Mr. Vice President?

CHENEY: Classic example. He won't count the sacrifice and the contribution of Iraqi allies. It's their country. They're in the fight. They're increasingly the ones out there putting their necks on the line to take back their country from the terrorists and the old regime elements that are still left. They're doing a superb job. And for you to demean their sacrifices strikes me as...

EDWARDS: Oh, I'm not...

CHENEY: ... as beyond...

EDWARDS: I'm not demeaning...

CHENEY: It is indeed. You suggested...

EDWARDS: No, sir, I did not...

CHENEY: ... somehow they shouldn't count, because you want to be able to say that the Americans are taking 90 percent of the sacrifice. You cannot succeed in this effort if you're not willing to recognize the enormous contribution the Iraqis are increasingly making to their own future.

We'll win when they take on responsibility for governance, which they're doing, and when the take on responsibility for their own security, which they increasingly are doing.

Lastly, Cheney took some tough, pointed shots at Edwards' record as well:

And Senator, frankly, you have a record in the Senate that's not very distinguished. You've missed 33 out of 36 meetings in the Judiciary Committee, almost 70 percent of the meetings of the Intelligence Committee.

You've missed a lot of key votes: on tax policy, on energy, on Medicare reform.

Your hometown newspaper has taken to calling you "Senator Gone." You've got one of the worst attendance records in the United States Senate.

Now, in my capacity as vice president, I am the president of Senate, the presiding officer. I'm up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session.

The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight.

I see this morning that the Kerry campaign is holding up this picture as proof that Cheney's final sentence was a lie. I don't think so, especially if you acknowledge the universally accepted notion that "meeting" someone involves face-to-face contact and the exchange of some form of expression like a handshake and/or a "hello." This pictures shows the two men in close proximity to each other but in no way disproves Cheney's statement last night. If it turns out the two have met at some point in the past then "yes", you'd have to say Cheney wasn't telling the truth.

All in all I thought it was a good old fashioned drubbing. I'm not sure this debate is going to matter one iota in the final analysis, but given the president's performance last Thursday combined with the favorable spin for Kerry and post-debate bump in the polls, for reasons of momentum and enthusiasm Dick Cheney needed to win the debate last night decisively. That's exactly what he did. - T. Bevan 6:29 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

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