Can anyone imagine John Edwards as President of the United States after this debate? Dick Cheney was the adult, calmly reciting facts and making points. John Edwards seems like a kid. An awfully smart kid, but one not ready (if ever) to be a player in the big leagues.
Cheney won the debate on both style and substance. Edwards might have edged him out on some aspects of domestic policy but it wasn't enough. Edwards had read his briefing books well, but it came across as just that; a recital of slogans that he had just learned. Cheney displayed depth of knowledge.
Cheney played to one of his strengths in a very smart way: Rather than just say "I'm experienced so vote for me" several times, he demonstrated that experience by reciting historical events that he participated in. He then pointed out that Kerry and Edwards were absent much of the time in the Senate.
Cheney kept the foreign policy debate focused on the War on Terror, which was smart. He also attacked Kerry's record, which Bush notably did not do in the presidential debate.
Most of all, however, Dick Cheney came across as someone who knew his facts inside and out, especially with regard to foreign policy. He recited history. He told of votes in the Senate ("votes that you missed, Senator"). "I was there" was his message. This was a much better way of presenting experience rather than just saying "I am experienced", which is largely what Bush did in his first debate with Kerry.
Edwards became an attack dog in the early part of the debate but his tactics backfired. Morton Krondake described him perfectly: "a dog yapping at a grown-up's heals." Cheney slapped him down much as an adult might admonish a youngster.
This was not
a friendly debate, like the one in 2000 between Cheney and Lieberman.
I won't do a complete blow-by-blow but what follows is my take on some of the highlights.
If you say it often enough
Like Kerry, John Edwards seems to think that if you say something often enough it becomes true. Last night he repeated ad nauseum
- we have a plan
- we will be tough
- we will get the terrorists
- we are consistent
By my count he said that they have "a plan" some seventeen times.
The Haliburton Smear (corrected 10-7)
Edwards went after Cheney on Haliburton, but Cheney refused to attack Edwards on his record as a trial lawyer. And there is much to go after. The result is that Edwards came across as a mud-slinger, while Cheney as a person interested in serious discussion about policy. Cheney is the better man and it showed.
(Note; I have deleted my previous summary of Halliburton and the governement contracting program known as LOGCAP as it was not entirely accurate. As the situation is a bit complicated, I advise readers to check out Kat's post here on her blog, and also to follow the links posted at the bottom of her page for more information)
That Global Test
It is obvious by now that Kerry and Edwards know they are vulnerable on the issue of the "Global Test" from the first debate. Edwards tried to spin his way out of it tonight but failed miserably. Here is what Edwards said:
He said that — made mention of this global test. What John Kerry said — and it's just as clear as day to anybody who was listening — he said: We will find terrorists where they are and kill them before they ever do harm to the American people, first.
We will keep this country safe. He defended this country as a young man, he will defend this country as president of the United States.
He also said very clearly that he will never give any country veto power over the security of the United States of America.
Now, I know the vice president would like to pretend that wasn't said, and the president would too. But the reality is it was said.
"Really guys! Please believe me!"
Nice try, John, but hardly convincing.
I absolutely couldn't believe it when Edwards attempted to use the Gulf War Coalition to demonstate "failure" on the part of Bush/Cheney in the Iraq war. Does this man, I thought, not realize that John Kerry voted against the Gulf War? If the coalition George H W Bush assembled to drive Saddam out of Kuwait was not enough, then what would be?
The trial lawyer himself was ambushed last night. Here's Edwards
"...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."
But Cheney was waiting. He saw his chance and pounced
"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 saw his mistake and tried to jump in, but Cheney quickly cut him down
"... 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."
I came out of my chair on that one.
How often we forget the losses incurred by the very people we are helping. How often do you see a documentary about the Korean War in which the South Korean forces are completely ignored? You'd never know that the South Korean army lost over twice the number of soldiers that we did.
Edwards also tried to claim that the reason other nations (read France Germany and Russia) don't want to help us in Iraq is a "lack of credibility." This charge is seriously wrong for at least two reasons:
One, it insinuates that the Bush Administration were the only ones in the world saying that Saddam Hussain had WMD. If you only listened to the Democrats, you would get the impression that the Bush Administration (run, don't you know, by those evil neocons) were the only people in the world saying that Saddam Hussain had WMD. Not true. The entire world believed that Saddam had WMD. The only question was what do do about it.
Second, does he not know, or care, about the Oil-for-Food scandal? Or does it just not fit into his ideological worldview?
Edwards attempted to perpetuate a falsehood that the anti-gun crowd uses frequently:
"When he was one of 435 members of the United States House, he was one of 10 to vote against Head Start, one of four to vote against banning plastic weapons that can pass through metal detectors."
This is apparently a reference to a type of automatic handgun in which the handgrip and lower assembly is made of a high-strength polymer (a type of plastic, but very strong stuff). The slide and barrel are, of course
, made of steel. These handguns were introduced by a Czech company called Glock. What is important to know is that the guns are most definately not "invisible" to X-rays. Don't look for many commentators to catch this one.
Edwards said the usual stuff about how he believes that we are losing jobs and (those evil and uncaring) conservatives don't care. Thomas Sowell wrote an excellent column a few weeks ago in which he pointed out that makes little sense to talk about outsourcing if you're not also going to talk about insourcing. From what you see and read from most media outlets you'd never guess that more jobs come to the U.S. every year than leave. And the jobs that leave are low-paying and the ones that come are high-paying.
Singing that Class Warfare Song
Much of Edwards attack was the usual class warfare that we've come to expect from the Democrats. They seem to have forgotten their Tenth Commandment "Thou shalt not envy". That's what it all about folks; rich against the poor. And to think that Edwards then had to gall to accuse Cheney of creating "divisions" over gay marriage.
The attacks on drug companies by the left are reaching almost McCartyite proportions. Just like Al Gore in 2000, Edwards was at it again:
"They had a choice on allowing prescription drugs into this country from Canada, of being with the American people or with the drug companies. They were with the drug companies."
Can you imagine if the Republicans said this about any group of Americans? As it is when they go after Kerry on terrorism they are acused of "questioning his patriotism". But more to the point, who do these people think work for the drug companies, robots? How do you think that they feel about what are, after all, attacks on their
patriotism? Pretty rotten, I'd think.
Most Memorable Lines
This goes to Vice President Cheney, hands down
"Your rhetoric, Senator, would be a lot more credible if there was a record to back it up. There isn't.
And you cannot use "talk tough" during the course of a 90-minute debate in a presidential campaign to obscure a 30-year record in the United States Senate and, prior to that by John Kerry, who has consistently come down on the wrong side of all the major defense issues that he's faced as a public official."
Edwards, like Kerry, is an empty suit. And Cheney nailed them on it.
Help me, I'm so Confused!
Twice during the debate John Edwards was confused.
The first time was when he kept saying "Kerry" when the moderator specifically said they could not mention their presidential candates in their answer. He did this not just once but twice. The second time was at the end when he became confused as to whose turn it was.
This was not a devastating moment for Edwards, and most commentators will probably not even mention it, but it did make Edwards look bad. Cheney looked the crebral adult throughout, in perfect command of himself and the situation.
A Real Moderator this Time
Gwen Ifill was fantastic. She asked tough, but fair questions to each candidate. Jim Lehrer was terrible, and let Kerry get by without a single question to him about his record.
Update and Correction 10-7
For a much better description of LOGCAP and Halliburton, see Kat's post here