Notes from Cheney v. Edwards

Dr. Evil meets the guy who sues doctors.

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John Edwards sat down for last night’s vice presidential debate knowing that no matter how well they did in front of an Ohio crowd, the outcome would not matter much to a presidential election that is looking to go down to the wire.

PBS anchor Gwen Ifill opened the debate with a question that referenced the report of Paul Bremer, including his formal announcement that there were never enough troops in Iraq. Though a bit more effective than speaking to the “hard work” with which the coalition forces are faced, Cheney evaded the question, talking only about the improvements that have been seen in Iraq: the capture of Saddam Hussein, the coming January elections and the registration of 50 percent of women in those elections.

Edwards quickly retorted with a quote that ought to sound familiar from last week’s presidential debates. “Ninety percent of the costs and casualties of the coalition are borne by the United States in Iraq.” He also attacked Cheney’s past claims that Saddam Hussein had a connection to 9/11. In an odd moment, Cheney blamed Saddam Hussein for terrorist attacks in Israel.

Edwards also defended Kerry’s “global test” remark. Having watched the presidential debates last week, I thought that Kerry came on extremely strong, curt and to the point concerning the fate of the terrorists – “find them where they are and kill them.” Kerry’s vow to regain American credibility among the international community may have softened the tone of that message, though Edwards did a fine job of highlighting the Kerry campaign’s adamant approach to the quashing of terrorist activity.

As far as awkward moments go, the most interesting was Cheney’s lack of a response to the Edwards comment on gay marriage – nothing more than “I thank the senator for his kind words …”

Edwards made the point that the president and his running mate seek to divide the country by pushing forth the Federal Marriage Amendment, saying that Cheney and his pals were “trying to use the Constitution as a political tool.”

Cheney tried to make Edwards look like a policy virgin by calling him Senator “Gone.” Cheney said that he had never met Edwards until last night, even though Cheney presides over most Tuesday sessions in the Senate chamber.

While a member of the House, Edwards said that Cheney voted against the Department of Education, against the Meals on Wheels program and against creating the holiday to commemorate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., On that vote, he joined former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who stepped down from that position after being accused of making racist remarks.

There was some discussion over the rules of the debate; at one point, the candidates were apparently banned from saying the names of their running mates. Did I miss a weekly meeting, or are we now debating under Gestapo rules?

Later, two multimillionaires quibbled over who got what tax breaks, which was one of the evening’s most repugnant moments. We witnessed the former CEO of Halliburton pointing fingers at a very successful trial attorney for manipulating loopholes in the tax system. The rise of Cheney and Edwards from poverty are wonderful personal stories, but considering the amount of money associated with their professions, appeals to Horatio Alger stories will do little to get the sympathy of the voters.

In the end, the unimpressive victory definitely went to Edwards. Remaining articulate and keeping his composure, he was able to ward off attacks speaking to his inexperience and naiveté. Probably best of all, he intertwined recent personal experiences with the facts that were at hand. Visually much more appealing than the current vice president, he comes across as fresh face to muddy waters. Advantage, Kerry-Edwards.

Wilfred Codrington ’05 just schooled you on the LSAT.

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