Thursday, October 07, 2004


I will fight for Youuuuuu! (But, it's a lot harder to fight for John Kerry)

Poor John Edwards. He can't help it. This is one client he can't defend. Edwards was on his own when it came to defending John Kerry's record. He needed to make a forceful argument to convince Americans that Kerry is the right man to be president. However, Kerry's forgettable record in the Senate and flip-flopping on the campaign trail did not give Edwards much putty to work with. Vice President Cheney did a terrific job of reminding us of his accomplishments and vast experience just by revealing a breadth of knowledge on the issues.

The moderator, Gwen Ifill: Gwen Ifill did a good job of trying to ask fair questions of both sides. Her PBS colleague, Jim Lehrer, made the mistake of not asking any questions about Kerry's political record in last week's debate. Ifill asked Edwards if Saddam Hussein would still be in power if Kerry were president and she asked a pointed question about the fact that Kerry's home state of Massachusetts is for gay marriage while the presidential candidate says he opposed it.

The challenger, John Edwards: Edwards badly fumbled 2 questions near the end of the debate. The first one was about his qualification to be vice president while the second one wasn't a question, it was his closing statement.

Gwen Ifill asked Edwards, "Ten men and women have been nominees of their parties since 1976 to be vice president. Out of those 10, you have the least governmental experience of any of them. What qualifies you to be a heartbeat away?" His rambling answer first mentioned that terrorists were dangerous, then reverted to canned talking points and finally, conceded that his résumé is not as impressive as Dick Cheney's. Edwards then panicked and went back to talking points discussing how a Kerry Administration would raise troop levels and provide better health care to military families. He said nothing, to the American people, about his qualifications. Only after Cheney mentioned President Bush in his rebuttal did Edwards feel he had to mention, in his follow-up, that Kerry would make a good president. Again, Edwards said nothing in defense of his qualifications.

Edwards' closing statements was even more puzzling. He talked of America being a "flickering light." That's a line that surely pleased terrorists and America's European detractors. But, I don't think any voter would agree that our "light is flickering today." This is the first election after 9/11 and Edwards didn't even congratulate or praise the country for responding to the worst terrorist attack on its soil.

The incumbent, Dick Cheney: The Vice President was on cruise-control, the whole evening. He didn't get rattled by the Edwards distortions but stuck with his game plan of trying to get his message across. Cheney answered every one of Ifill's questions head-on. Cheney has built up an impressive career by working for four presidents and serving as a Congressman for 8 years. He knows his way around Washington and around the world. Cheney's statesmanship over-shadowed the slick tactics of John Edwards.

Vice President Cheney was able to repeatedly hammer the Democratic ticket's flip-flop on Iraq. The following was Cheney's best punch of the night:
And with respect to this particular operation, we’ve seen a situation in which first they voted to commit the troops to send them to war, John Edwards and John Kerry. Then they came back and when the question was whether or not to provide them with the resources they needed, body armor, spare parts, ammunition, they voted against it. I couldn’t figure out why that 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 antiwar record. So they in effect decided they would cast an antiwar 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 Qaeda?

While Edwards gave a poor closing statement, Cheney's was excellent. Cheney got to the heart of the matter - President Bush's record and the way this administration has done everything it can to keep us safe. It was the finest moment of the debate. Here is what Vice President Cheney had to say:

I want to thank you. Its been a privilege to serve as your vice president these last four years and to work alongside President Bush to put our economy on an upward path. We've cut taxes, added 1.7 million new jobs in the last year and we'll continue to provide opportunities for business and for workers. We won't be happy until every American who wants to work can find a job.

We believe that all Americans ought to have access to available to medical care and that they ought to have access to the finest schools in the world.

We'll do everything we can to preserve Social Security and to make certain that it's there for future generations.

I worked for four presidents and watched two others up close, and I know that there's no such thing as a routine day in the Oval Office. We saw on 9/11 that the next decision a president has to make can affect the lives of all of us.

Now we find ourselves in the midst of a conflict unlike any we've ever known, faced with a possibility that terrorists could smuggle a deadly biological agent or nuclear weapon into the middle of one of our own cities. That threat and the presidential leadership needed to deal with it is placing a special responsibility on all of you who will decide in Nov. 2 who will be our commander in chief. The only viable option for winning the war on terror is the one the president's chosen, using the power of the United States to aggressively go after the terrorists wherever we find them and also to hold to account states that sponsor terror. Now that we've captured or killed thousands of Al Qaeda and taken down the regimes of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, its important that we stand up democratically elected governments as the only guarantee that they'll never again revert to terrorism and the production of deadly weapons.

This is the task of our generation and I know firsthand the strength the president brings to it. The overall outcome will depend upon the ability of the American people and the strong leadership of the president to meet all the challenges that we'll face in the days and years ahead. I'm confident we can do it.


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