Key point starting out: this isn’t about Cheney and Edwards. It’s about Bush and Kerry. If Edwards remembers that, and is willing to get himself a little bit dirty, he might do his side some good. Otherwise, he’s just Joe Lieberman.
The moderator hits Cheney right off with Bremer and Rumsfeld’s imprudent truth-telling.
Cheney avoids the question and makes his standard “9-11 changed everything” speech. “I wouldn’t do anything differently.” “We did exactly the right thing.”
Edwards says Cheney isn’t telling the truth. Points out that casualties have been steadily rising. Cites Lugar on “the incompetence of the administration.” Cites Bremer. Makes a to-do list. Back-and-forth: Cheney talks about progress, Edwards calls him a liar with a smile.
Hard one to Edwards: if you’d been in office, would SH still be in power? Edwards doesn’t answer, says we should have kept on al-Qaeda’s case, and insists that there was no connection between Iraq and 9-11. Cheney admits it, goes back to saying that Iraq was more likely than any other country to give terrorists WMD’s. Tells the “global test” fairy-tale, links it back to Kerry’s speech about the UN in 1974. Argues that Kerry and Edwards are systematically weak on defense. Points to Edwards’s gloomy prognostication about Afghanistan two years ago, paints a rosy picture of today.
Edwards repeats his point on al-Qaeda, then hits Cheney hard and effectively on “global test.” Then points out how bad things really are in Afghanistan. Cheney makes a nice speech about democracy as an antidote to terror. Edwards criticizes Cheney on Iran as a state sponsor of terror and a possible source of WMD.
Moderator hits Edwards with “isn’t the global test a global veto”? Edwards stumbles early, then makes a good speech about the value of international credibility.
Cheney quibbles about 90% of the cost and casualties being American; that isn’t true if you count the Iraqi security forces. And if you count the forgiveness of debt, other countries have stumped up more than 10% of the money. Then he attacks Kerry and Edwards on consistency. Edwards hits back well, Cheney says the speech would be more impressive “if there were a record to back it up.” Points to Cheney.
Q to Cheney: Are you saying it would be dangerous for Kerry to be President? “We’ve never questioned his patriotism.” Hits hard on voting for the war and against the $87 billion (“against the troops”). Has the nerve to mention body armor. Mentions cutting weapons during the Cold War.
Edwards is primed: points out that the weapons Kerry voted against were the same ones that Secretary of Defense Cheney wanted to cut. On the $87 billion: no plan to win the peace, $7 billion for Halliburton.
Q to Edwards: the Frogs and the Krauts say they won’t play, even if Kerry is President. Doesn’t that make it clear that Kerry’s plan is full of it? Edwards ducks, makes his “we have a plan” speech. Points out that there’s no way the election is going to happen as scheduled. Finally hits back on body armor.
In terms of demeanor, Edwards seems earnest, serious, and pleasant, but he does look very young. Cheney looks older and more knowleddeble, but mean.
Cheney asserts that the current coalition is as strong as the Gulf War coalition. His nose grows two inches. Makes the point that it’s hard to ask for contributions to “the wrong war.” Criticizes Kerry for dissing Allawi. Cheney asserts that Edwards is dissing the Iraqis when he says that 90% of the casualties are American. It makes no sense to me, but it might play in Peoria.
Moderator asks about some report Cheney asked for; not knowing about it, I can’t follow the question or either candidate’s answer. (Update: Here’s the story. Very, very bad for Cheney’s case, which explains why he backed off the Saddam=9/11 claim. Edwards didn’t do a good job of explaining what was in the report or why it mattered, and the moderator didn’t help.)
Q to Cheney: when you were running Halliburton, you argued for relaxing sanctions against Iran. How about today? Cheney denounces unilateral sanctions, and maybe we ought to think about asking for international sanctions. Doesn’t say why we should maintain the unilateral sanctions he says don’t work. Brags about Libya giving up its nukes.
Edwards gives a somewhat confused answer, then hits Halliburton hard for its behavior while Cheney was CEO: ties to Libya and Iran. Cheney resonds ineffectually, giving Edwards time for a beautiful thirty-second summation for the prosecution.
Q to Edwards on Israel. He likes Israel, thinks it should be able to defend itself. Crack down on the Saudis and Iran. Sounds more Likudnik than Cheney does; Cheney refers to “Israel-Palestine.” Cheney makes an irrelevant but fairly effective attack on Edwards as a no-show Senator. Edwards clobbers Cheney for his extremist voting record in the House. Cheney doesn’t even bother to try to defend himself, just sneers back at Edwards.
Q to Cheney: Cleveland is poor. What are you going to do about it? Cheney: times are tough due to 9-11. The answer to poverty is jobs. Cut taxes and end litigation. First-class public school system. No Child Left Behind. Shrinking the test score gap.
Edwards: we’ve lost jobs. Cleveland is poor. Poverty is up. First Presidency in 70 years to have lost jobs. They’re for outsourcing jobs. (So am I — ed.)
Cheney: tax cuts, NCLB, prescription drugs. Anyway, that’s “old data” from 2003.
Edwards: “I don’t think the country can take four more years of this kind of experience.”
Q to Edwards: how can you shrink the deficit without raising taxes on people earning less than $200,000 a year? A: we had a big surplus and now we have a big deficit. More tax breaks for the middle class. Close corporate loopholes. Eliminate bureaucratic waste. (Honest, that’s what he said.)
Cheney: we want people to keep more of their own money. Hitting the top bracket hits small business. Kerry voted for 98 tax increases (that’s down from 325 last week).
Edwards: We’ll cut back what needs to be cut back to cut the deficit. We favor more tax cuts for the middle class than you do. Kerry has co-sponsored 600 tax cuts.
Q to Cheney on same-sex marriage: Were you right to say that “Freedom means freedom for everybody”?
Cheney: well, by freedom I didn’t mean freedom to get married. Anyway the President is boss, and it’s his call. (At least that’s honest.)
Edwards: back to taxes. Should coupon-clippers pay tax at a lower rate than soldiers in Iraq? Value work, not wealth. Now to the question. Glad Cheney loves his daughter. Against gay marriage, for civil unions. Don’t use the Constitution to divide the country.
Dimwitted question to Edwards: Kerry is from Massachusetts; in opposing gay marriage, aren’t you and he trying to have it both ways? A: We believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No state, under current law, has to recognize a marriage from another state. The amendment is unnecessary.
Cheney just thanks Edwards for the kind words about his family. Won’t defend the GMA. Good for him.
Q to Cheney: is Edwards part of the litigation problem? Cheney makes a good speech about the rising cost of malpractice insurance and its impact on medical care: docs screening patients or going out of business.
Edwards: Too many lawsuits. Pre-suit independent review. Lawyer financially responsible and at risk for being barred from representing personal-injury clients. Tells the story of his client who got hurt in the swimming pool. “We stand with her against the insurance companies.”
Back to Edwards: do you feel personally attacked when Cheney mentions the trial lawyers? Edwards: Yes, there’s a real problem, and doctors are being squeezed. We should keep frivolous lawsuits out of court. CBO says malpractice reform would reduce health care costs by half a percent. That’s a small part of the health care problem. Medicare premiums are up 17% this year.
Cheney: that premium increase was in a law Kerry voted for. Edwards took advantage of a loophole that saved him $600,000 in Medicare premiums.
Q. to Cheney: Talk about AIDS, not in Africa or China, but here at home black American women 25-44 are thirteen times more likely to die of AIDS than whites. What should we do about it? Cheney makes his canned speech about international AIDS, admits he didn’t know the racial statistics. Develop drugs to help people live longer lives.
Edwards points out that the administration came up short on the first year of its AIDS funding for Africa. Then talks about people without health care coverage. If the moderator isn’t frustrated with the answers, she should be.
Q to Edwards: you’re the least experienced VP candidate since 1976. What qualifies you to be a heartbeat away? Edwards: The people want to be told the truth. I’ll tell them the truth. Kill the terrorists. Control the spread of nukes. “A long resume does not equal good judgment.” Strengthen the military. (Edwards doesn’t say “I admit I have as little qualification going in to the Vice Presidency as George W. Bush had going in to the Presidency.)
Cheney ducks the invitation to diss Edwards some more, speaks well and with apparent sincerity about his role in the Administration. (Yes, as evil as he is, I’d rather have Cheney than Bush.) Edwards makes a good speech about how wonderful Kerry is. Cheney does the same for Bush.
So far, not nearly as one-sided as last Thursday. Cheney isn’t decompensating. Edwards is doing well, but showing some nervousness and inexperience.
Q to Cheney: How are you different from your opponent? Cheney gives a nice bio of himself, stressing modest origins. “The significance of 9-11 cannot be exaggerated.” “Some people say we should wait until we’re attacked before we use force. I say we’ve already been attacked.”
Edwards: “Yes, we were attacked, but not by Saddam Hussein.” “There are things that need to be done but haven’t been done.” (Unified terrorist watch list, screening air cargo.
Q to Edwards: What’s wrong with flip-flopping (question assumes that Kerry flip-flopped on Iraq). Edwards gives a list of Bush Administration flip-flops. Brings up cutting combat pay, cheaping out on NCLB, patient’s bill of rights.
Cheney comes back on Kerry’s war record: “Consistency isn’t the world that comes to mind.”
Edwards points out that the mandates in NCLB haven’t been funded. Cheney tries to make that a flip-flop: they were for it, now they’re against it.
Q to Cheney: How can you united the country? Cheney looks sad, points out there was bipartisan support for the President’s early initiatives, and that there’s less of that today. Cheney has the nerve to cite Foley, whom the Gingrichites destroyed, as an example of a lost bipartisan tradition. “We’ll keep working at it.” Mentions Zell Miller.(!)
This is a set-up for Edwards: will he nail it?
Edwards: Bush promised to be a uniter, not a divider. He hasn’t delivered. Then goes back to the health care speech he didn’t get to make earlier, due to the astoundingly idiosyncratic questions of the moderator. Allow Canadian drug imports.
Cheney brags about the prescription drug bill. This must be a mistake. Edwards hits back hard: “With the American people or with the companies? John Kerry and I will always be with the American people.”
Edwards closer. Keeping the American Dream alive.
Cheney closer: Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Both of them spare us the mandatory “God Bless America.”
No idea how this will play. Substantively, Cheney put in a more creditable performance than Bush did, Edwards did about as well on substance as Kerry did. In terms of demeanor, “Breck v. Shreck” was about right, and I have no feel for who came across better. I think Edwards did the knifing-with-a-smile job pretty well, while Cheney came across nastier but scored fewer hits.
If last Thursday night’s debate was an assisted suicide for president Bush, this debate – just concluded – was a car wreck. And Cheney was road-kill. There were times when it was so overwhelming a debate victory for Edwards that I had to look away.
CBS had a panel of undecideds: They scored it for Edwards 41-29
ABC had a sample of all voters, strongly skewed toward Republicans (38% Republican, 31% Democratic. That sample gave Cheney the edge 43-35, but the debate moved the Presidential preference numbers slightly toward the Democrats, going from 51-48 to 50-49.
Based on the ABC and CBS results, the immediate effect of the debate seems to be something of a boost for Kerry-Edwards; the spin wars, of course, are just starting, and they will determine who actually “won.”
Somehow, I doubt Cheney is going to do very well in the fact-checking.
I guess it wasn’t just me: there are several comments out there about the moderator, all negative.
One final thought: the problem for Kerry-Edwards is to turn the talk away from who won this debate — which doesn’t matter all that much — and back to the Bremer bombshell and the Rumsfeld gaffe.
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