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October 5, 2004
Vice-Presidential Debate Tonight

I will be live-blogging tonight's VP debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards. I'd caution my friends on the starboard side of the blogosphere from getting too cocky about the event tonight; John Edwards' success as a plaintiff's attorney shows that he can think on his feet, and his popularity on the stump demonstrates his ability to project a warm and engaging persona. The latter talent will come in especially handy against Cheney, who is undoubtably better at grasping details and strategies but can come across as cold and rather cynical.

I'll be using this post for the live blog, so link back here if you want. Keep checking back during the debate for updates, and I may also update the post with breaking news items regarding the debate during the day.

UPDATE: Starting the debate at 8:01 ...

8:03 - First question to Cheney refers to statements by Rumsfeld and Paul Bremer earlier this week (today?). Cheney gave a measured and detailed response, and Edwards calls him a liar in response directly to him ... Cheney has details, Edwards continues to talk to Cheney while Cheney talks to Gwen Ifill ...

8:08 - Edwards says that he and Kerry would have "confronted" Saddam Hussein but never answered Ifill's question as to whether Saddam would still be in power today. He changed the subject to Afghanistan in one hell of a hurry ... Cheney's response is that Edwards and Kerry have a limited view and have no plan to confront states that sponsor terror. He called out Kerry's 30-year track record on defense ...

8:14 - Cheney noted Edwards' Chicken Little statements from early 2002 -- that's pretty effective...

8:14 - Edwards answers the "global test" with the same slogans that they've been using on the stump. He's stumbling, talking about opium production. Well, I'd rather that they grow poppies than al-Qaeda terrorists!

8:15 - Cheney talks about the power of freedom and the vote, and Edwards tried to interrupt him. Edwards invokes Iran -- which he wants to give nuclear fuel!!!!

8:17 - Gwen Ifill wants to shore up the "global test" but challenges Edwards, who's stumbling again. Uh, he's not doing too well ...

8:18 - She's letting Edwards talk for quite a while here. So far, though, he's giving the high points from their stump speeches, while Cheney gives thoughtful and measured replies that show he's actually thinking. He just shredding Edwards on the numbers as well as Kerry and Edwards' reversals on the funding bill ...

8:21 - Edwards is getting creamed here. He is out of his league ...

8:22 - Cheney emphasizes that he's not challenging Kerry's patriotism, just his record. He has for the second time reminded voters that Kerry voted against Desert Storm, which had the vast coalition that Kerry said he wanted. He involed Howard Dean for their reversal...

8:25 - Edwardss and Kerry voted against the $87 billion for the troops because of Halliburton? You have to be kidding me!

8:26 - The weapons inspectors had 12 years to find out what Saddam had or didn't have, but Edwards thinks a couple of more months would have made a difference?

8:27 - Ifill is doing a better job than Jim Lehrer on asking tough questions. She just asked Edwards if their rhetoric is "naive" ...

8:28 - They have a plan -- Kedwards will take Iraqi security forces out of Iraq to train them.

8:29 - Cheney again shreds Edwards on inconsistencies. Now he's talking about Allawi and how Kerry demeaned him by challenging his credibility. Edwards twice now has completely and explicitly discounted Iraqi casualties, and now they're both getting testy ...

8:33 - Now Edwards returns to the Saddam-9/11 connection that he says Cheney says, even though Cheney said nothing about it. "Shock and awe"? Edwards is changing the subject again, claiming that Bush wasn't aggressive on forming study commissions ...

8:35 - Cheney is giving a lesson on Zarqawi, which many Americans may be hearing for the first time.

8:37 - Halliburton makes its second appearance, in a tangent to a statement Cheney made in 1999. He's tying in the new approach to Iraq to the success in Libya -- the new credibility of dealing with Saddam by deposing him ...

8:39 - Edwards wants to know how many of the 60 countries that have AQ members ... now he's making Halliburton into a mini-Enron. Cheney's response was necessarily weak, and Edwards scores a little bit with this one. See for more details on Halliburton ...

8:40 - Ifill says the Administration has been absent from the peacemaking process in the Middle East -- what a softball! Edwards strongly endorses Israel's right to self-defense and talks about the Sbarro pizzeria bombing. Edwards just admitted that Arafat is no partner for peace ...

8:44 - Cheney comes back on the attack, calling Edwards "Senator Gone". Cheney notes that the suicide bombers that Edwards decries were being paid by Saddam Hussein.

8:46 - Moving to domestic affairs. Cheney talks about reducing litigation cost and reducing tax burdens to create jobs. He talks about how the Administration pushed education reform and accountability ...

8:49 - Edwards starts off by claiming Cheney didn't talk about jobs -- which kind of shows a bit of either cluelessness, ADD, or churlishness ... "We have a plan" again ... Edwards says that "millions" have fallen into poverty during the past four years ...

8:52 - Ifill asks Edwards how they can cut the deficit and not raise taxes with their program, and Edwards says they'll pay for their programs by rolling back tax cuts for people who make more than $200,000 a year. He's confusing tax cuts with tax credits in his explanation ...

8:55 - Cheney points out that small businesses pay income taxes on the 1040 rather than on corporate tax plans, which makes the $200,000 income level a huge danger to small businesses ... Edwards says that the're for middle-class tax cuts, and Cheney noted that neither Democrat were around to cast a vote for the one just passed by Congress ...

8:58 - Gay marriage - well, the same rhetoric on both sides. Edwards says that they support partnership benefits for gay couples but that marriage should be between a man and a woman. The amendment is not to "ban gay marriage", it's to keep states from being forced to recognize gay marriages through the interstate compact ...

9:02 - Litigation: Is John Edwards part of the problem? Cheney doesn't take the bait. He talks about the effect of the overall system and how frivolous litigation keeps doctors from taking on high-risk patients ...

9:04 - Edwards admits that we have too many lawsuits, but says that independent boards should determine which are frivolous and enforce a three-strikes rule for attorneys ...

9:05 - Ifill asks Edwards if he feels personally attacked -- why didn't she ask that about Halliburton before she directed that question to Cheney?

9:07 - Both candidates have settled down somewhat, and it's clear that the testiest issue was the war on terror ...

9:08 - Cheney gives a Minnesota reference! Tort overhead costs a manufacturing plant 200 jobs; good reference. Now he demonstrated that Edwards avoided $600,000 in taxes by using a loophole that Kerry supported for trial attorneys. Edwards gets to mention Halliburton ...

9:12 - AIDS. Cheney talks about the $15B the Administration allocated to fighting the disease worldwide. Edwards says it needs to be doubled. Has he proposed that in the Senate? Now Edwards has changed the subject to health insurance? Man, you'd think AIDS would be a natural subject for the Democrats -- why is Edwards avoiding it?

9:14 - Now Pennywit's pitting me against TalkLeft! Welcome aboard, PW!

9:15 - Senator Edwards, you have the least amount of experience than anyone in modern politics to be nominated for VP? Edwards: "Long resume doesn't equal good judgement." Cheney: I was asked aboard for my long experience, not to carry my home state, and I have no further political aspirations. I'm someone who can take over. Edwards: The most important thing is I got to know Kerry better?? He's selling Kerry's experience -- not his!!!!

9:18 - Cheney: George Bush has already been a commander-in-chief and a good one ...

9:20 - Personal story of Cheney humanizes him somewhat more -- "I've been laid off, I've been hospitalized without medical insurance." Edwards tears off paper while Cheney's talking. Edwards says we need to be "offensive" when conducting the war on terror ... nice syntax! He can't go 20 seconds without saying Kerry's name?

9:22 - Flip-flopping - what's wrong with it? Edwards says they've been completely consistent on Iraq. He says the Administration didn't put $2T of surplus to protect Soc Sec, but Edwards fails to remember that 9/11 cost us a bit of that ...

9:26 - Education - Edwards: "We have a clear plan". Cheney: "NCLB - they voted for it, now they're against it." Patriot Act as well.

9:28 - Bitterness in politics; Cheney says he remembers when it was different. He sounds like an honest analyst, talking about the way that shifting power over a narrow gap has heightened partisan bickering. Edwards wants to talk about health care instead!

9:33 - Closing statements, Edwards first. Dad learned math on TV, trying to get a better job at the mill. The bright light of America is flickering today?? We're dying? That's the message he wants to send? Sorry, but that pessimistic image is a dead fish on the table ...

9:36 - Cheney next. He starts off with policy statements and moves to 9/11 and making decisions. He talks about the need to elect a commander-in-chief, where Edwards only talked about the war to note the empty chair at the dinner table. Bad, bad, bad mistake on Edwards' part. They're running away from the war.

Summary: I think that the first half of the debate had the most resonance, and I think Cheney tromped on Edwards all night long, but especially during the first half. Edwards spoke well but only in slogans. Cheney came across as knowledgeable and thoughtful, almost as an independent analyst. Edwards couldn't break out of his stump speeches. There was no indication of independent thought. Almost anyone familiar with the Kerry/Edwards website could have sat in for John Edwards in this debate.

I saw little of the Edwards charm, and instead saw much more of the plaintiff's attorney making opening arguments and accusations. If he connects on a personal level on the stump -- and I've seen that on TV before -- he sure didn't do it tonight. The only times I saw a hint of it was when he complimented Cheney on his love of family and the very beginning of his closing statement when he talked about his dad. Then he buried it by claiming that America is a flickering light in danger of going out.

He got buried. It may make little difference in the end, as VP debates are usually meaningless, but Edwards got buried. Cheney had a much greater command of the facts, had more gravitas, and sounded much more serious about his analysis than Edwards did. And Cheney's shredding of Edwards' atrocious Senate attendance record -- "the first time I met you was on stage tonight" -- will definitely resonate with an electorate that expects its elected officials to show up to work.

UPDATE: Mary Beth Cahill (Kerry's campaign manager) says Cheney was grumpy and mean. She also says that she never met Cheney until tonight, either -- but she wasn't elected to the Senate, and she didn't miss most of her committee meetings and a good chunk of Senate business. If that's the best spin the Democrats can put on this debate, they know they got smoked.

Besides, if they can't handle Dick Cheney's grumpiness, how can we expect them to stand up to the French, let alone the terrorists?

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 5, 2004 8:00 PM

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