Blogging The VP Debate

Well, I have some Pilsner Urquell left and a large batch of red beans and rice, and I’m ready to start blogging away at the Vice Presidential debate. My prediction is that John Edwards is WAAAY out of his depth in this one. Dick Cheney is one of those people who can chew you up and spit you out without batting an eyelash, while Edwards is just eye-candy. The only thing Edwards will have to bring up is Halliburton, which is an issue which appeals only to the crowd and is very easy to dismiss since Cheney does not profit at all from anything Halliburton does at this point. Meanwhile, Cheney has the opportunity to do what Bush didn’t last time and start knocking down John Kerry’s foreign policy while establishing why the Bush Doctrine is the proper response to the war on terrorism.

The short version is that the metrosexual John Edwards is about to meet the bulldog Dick Cheney, and it’s going to be a slaughter. Click on the extended entry for the live-blogging of the first and only Vice Presidential debate of 2004…

UPDATE: The latest WaPo/ABC tracking poll has Bush 51 Kerry 45 on the eve of the debate.

*7:55PM CST*: The debate is nearly ready to start. I’m expecting a bloodbath… this could be quite fun.

And here they are. Cheney and Edwards are sitting at a table, an issue that caused much contention between the two camps. Edwards would rather walk around, but Cheney tends to be more comfortable at a table. In 2000, Cheney and Joe Lieberman both sat during their VP debate.

*8:00PM CST*: And here we go. Edwards smile into the camera seemed more appropriate for a sitcom than a debate. Cheney just glared…

First question for Cheney on Iraq. Of course Paul Bremer’s comments about a lack of troops on the ground as well as Rumsfeld’s comments about Iraq and al-Qaeda.

Cheney is tying Iraq to the larger war on terrorism. This is something that I had wished Bush had done in his first debate. Cheney is his usual self — low key and competent. He knows what he’s talking about. Cheney also has stated that Iraq and al-Qaeda were linked together.

Edwards has his rebuttal. Edwards starts by directly questioning the Vice President. Edwards is going through the usual litany of Democratic arguments. He’s quite polished, but it seems he’s talking past the question.

Edwards is hitting on the idea that there’s a connection between 9/11 and Iraq – when the Administration has not said this. I have a feeling that Edwards is walking into a major trap here…

*8:08PM CST:* Edwards is asked about the Kerry position that this was the wrong war at the wrong time. Again with the Tora Bora lie. Cheney should nail his ass on this one. Those who were there have said it was a lie, yet Kerry and Edwards have both repeated it. Cheney needs to put a stake in the heart of that particular line of BS.

Cheney rebuts. He just cuts to the chase. He even brings up the “global test” rhetoric from John Kerry. Cheney is hitting Kerry hard on his 30 year record of weakness on defense. This is another point that Bush dropped, although I’d like to see him hit on the connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

*8:12PM CST:* Ifill asks about the Bush strategy in pursuing Osama bin Laden. Cheney once again uses Edwards’ words against him – this time noting his arguments on Afghanistan which sound exactly what he’s saying about Iraq now. This is an effective strategy, as it makes Edwards look like a Chicken Little on these issues…

Edwards responds with the Tora Bora lie once again. Would someone please state that this is bullshit – and Tommy Franks among others have said so specifically. Edwards is responding with sophistry – Kerry may have said all of these things, but his policies and record contradict such arguments.

Cheney brings up El Salvador as a comparison from Iraq. This is a very interesting comparison – I’ll have to do some research on this to see how applicable it actually is. However, Edwards certainly wasn’t prepared for that.

*8:17PM CST:* Ifill is now asking for clarification on Kerry’s “global test” rhetoric. This almost seems to be a nice juicy target for Cheney. If I were Cheney, I’d be calling it another Kerry flip-flop. We’ll see how he reacts to this…

If I were Cheney, I’d also be bringing up the Oil for Food scandal. Getting that into the public consciousness would be a major help to the Bush campaign…

Cheney responds – he notes that the Iraqis have taken 50% of the casualties. Nice shot about Edwards not showing up to vote during the campaign – ouch! Edwards seems to be talking in generalities, while Cheney is pulling out facts and figures. Cheney is hitting Edwards hard on the issue of credibility on Iraq – how the flip-flops of the Kerry/Edwards campaign have hurt his credibility.

Edwards is pressing on Kerry’s resolution – the problem is that while the American people saw a good debater, they still don’t think Kerry is strong on terrorism.

Cheney is going for the jugular now. Damn!

*8:22PM CST:* Ifill asks if a Kerry presidency would be dangerous for the country. The goal of a VP candidate is to be the bulldog for the top of the ticket. Cheney is doing that in spades. He’s just being blunt about Kerry’s record on defense issues. Edwards looks a little disturbed… this is getting really good… the shots about Kerry following Howard Dean is a very effective one.

Edwards responds. So far we have a load of assertions and Edwards keeps mentioning Kerry’s service in Vietnam. And here we go with Halliburton…

Cheney responds. I think Cheney is trying to get to Edwards, and it’s starting to work. Cheney is just too damn unflappable.

It’s fun listening to Edwards try to claim that Kerry has been consistant… they just can’t make a clear case.

*8:27PM CST:* Ifill notes that France and Germany will not send troops. There’s a real pressing question. I’m surprised how much she’s pushing Edwards. These are some sharp questions from Ifill for Edwards.

Edwards says he’d speed up training and reconstruction – how can they do that when it takes time to train Iraqis, especially if we’re training them elsewhere. We can’t speed up reconstruction unless the insurgency is defeated. This plan is just ridiculous – if Cheney can nail him with this it’s going to be devastating. Plus, Edwards is once again dodging the question.

Cheney rebuts. He’s tearing into Kerry and Edwards here. He hits on Kerry’s irresponsible statement about our allies and the contradiction of trying to get international support. He also hits on the fact that Kerry didn’t even greet Allawi and not only that came out and insulted him immediately afterwards. Man, if Bush had done this last week this election would be over.

Edwards is now implying that Iraq isn’t part of the coalition. And Cheney nails him on it. Absolutely brilliant. Cheney just tore Edwards a new one – he’s trying to get under his collar and it appears to working brilliantly.

*8:32PM CST:* Ifill asks about American intelligence – and Edwards tries to rebut Cheney before answering the question. I have a feeling that Cheney is continuing to push Edwards and it’s working. Part of debate is taking the initiative, and Cheney is playing Edwards right now. Edwards is eating all of his time trying to take the last question without answering the ones being asked. It’s the same old rhetoric over and over again.

Cheney gets a chance to rebut. He talks about the connection between Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi and Iraq. It’s clear that Saddam had to have known about him, and Cheney states clearly that we will take out al-Zarqawi.

*8:36PM CST:* Ifill comes up with a tough question about sanctions on Iran. Again, Cheney is unflappable. He draws a distinction between Iraq and Iran and how the Bush Administration has dealt with the situation. He also talks about the leverage we got from Iraq – especially on Libya – another issue that Bush should have brought up last week.

Edwards doesn’t even mention Zarqawi by name. This makes him look completely unprepared. If you don’t know who Zarqawi is, you don’t deserve to be the Vice President. And now he goes back to Halliburton.

Cheney responds by calling Halliburton a smokescreen – he even mentions (the actual article is here) on Halliburton. Again, Cheney is devastating and clearly says that the charges are completely false. And Edwards continues to repeat his same talking points.

*8:41PM CST:* Ifill asks Edwards about Israel and the Palestinians. Edwards says that Israel has the right – nay the _obligation_ to protect themselves. There goes the Chomskyite crowd. Now, I agree with what Edwards is saying here, but the question is how will that position mesh with Kerry’s willingness to knowtow to the United Nations? Cheney should hit him on that.

Cheney hits back on Edwards own record. He’s playing hardball about the fact that Edwards has one of the worst attendance records in the US Senate. He notes that the first time he ever met John Edwards was tonight… *OUCH!* There’s our big line of the night.

Cheney also notes that Saddam Hussein paid off suicide bombers against Israel. Nice.

Edwards responds by attacking Cheney’s record. By the way, Senator, plastic guns do not exist and never did…

Cheney keeps up the heat and doesn’t move. Even Ifill gets a shot in…

*8:47PM CST:* Ifill asks about what the Bush Administration will do for a city like Cleveland. Cheney stresses the issue of jobs. Expect a lot of talk about how trial lawyers are increasing problems for our economy. Cheney also hits on the issue of education – I wonder how well this issue is polling for Bush – it might explain the disappearance of the gender gap in some polls this electoral cycle.

Edwards rebuts. Edwards hits on the loss of manufacturing jobs. I do have to agree that Cheney’s bit about education was a digression. Edwards states that this is the first administration not to create jobs in 70 years. This is probably more effective ground for the Kerry team.

Cheney touts the Bush Administration’s record in the past four years. He also notes that we’ve added 1.7 million jobs in the past year. He also claims incomes are down, which I have not seen in any figures – this might come back to haunt him later if that citation is wrong.

*8:52PM CST:* Ifill asks how Kerry can only raise taxes on those who make $200,000+ but still fulfill their campaign promises. Edwards thinks that keeping tax cuts and indeed increasing middle-class tax cuts will give them enough to pay for their programs. Fat chance of that. Edwards does hit on reducing the bureaucracy – funny seeing a Democrat talk about fiscal responsibility.

Cheney rebuts by noting that Kerry has voted for increased taxes 98 times in the Senate. Cheney also notes that many small business would be hit by Kerry’s tax plan – and that small businesses create 7 out of 10 new jobs. Cheney notes that Edwards himself criticized Kerry’s tax plans during the primary – this is why picking a primary opponent for a VP is not always a smart idea.

Edwards now says that the Democrats are the party of tax cuts. We’ve now entered Bizarro World.

And Cheney notes that Kerry and Edwards didn’t even get to the Senate to vote for tax relief. Ouch again.

*8:56PM CST:* Ifill asks Cheney a tough question about same-sex unions. I think Cheney’s position, conflicted as it may be is probably the majority position. People don’t like same-sex unions being shoved down their throats by activist judges, even if they personally don’t have a big problem with it.

Edwards once again is stuck on the last question. Edwards brings up Mary Cheney, the Vice President’s gay daughter. Edwards has to draw the fine line between marriage and civil unions.

*8:59PM CST:* Ifill continues on this theme asking Edwards if Kerry is flip-flopping on this issue. I’m getting quite a bit of respect for Ifill, she’s asking some probing questions, which is what a journalist should do. Edwards hits on some of the issues surrounding the difficulty that gays have in things like hospital visitation rights. Personally, I don’t think there’s enough difference between them on this issue to make it a particularly exciting clash. He does harp on the FMA, and I’m actually somewhat sympathetic to that argument.

Cheney just thanks Edwards for his comments on his family. Interesting.

*9:02PM CST:* Ifill asks another pointed question about Edwards and trial lawyers and general. Cheney has to be holding back a smirk here. The Bush campaign is running an ad on medical malpractice, especially OB-GYNs. This is clearly an attempt to reach out to the woman vote, and with many polls showing the gender gap closing it might be an attempt that has resonance.

Edwards paints trial lawyers in glowing terms as the champions of the little guy, before then holding his colleagues feet to the flames on some issues. Again, there doesn’t seem to be much clash between the two on the issue. If they both agree on frivolous lawsuits, where’s the clash?

Ifill then turns the question over to Edwards: I think this issue all depends on one’s opinion on trial lawyers. Essentially, Edwards is trying to argue the same points as Cheney just a different approach. I’m also sure that the .5% figure Edwards is citing is contradicted by another study – I wonder if Cheney will challenge him on that figure. I’m expecting that he will.

Cheney notes a Minnesotan aircraft manufacturer who says that the costs of liability insurance is equal to 200 new employees. He also challenges Edwards on the Medicare premium increase – which Kerry voted for in 1997. Again, Cheney is going on the attack, and Edwards responds by bringing up Halliburton again.

*9:10PM CST:* Ifill asks Cheney about AIDS. The Bush Administration has been quite proactive on this issue, although they never get much credit for it. Cheney needs to trumpet Bush’s achievements here.

Edwards basically says that he’d do the same thing, but more of it.

*9:14PM CST:* Ifill hits Edwards on his qualifications to be President. A very, very pointed question. After this debate, Edwards has consistantly looked like a rookie. I don’t think the American people think that Edwards is ready for the Presidency, which is why he didn’t beat out the much less dynamic John Kerry in the primaries. Hell, even Edwards admits he doesn’t have the resume. Edwards is letting his allegator mouth get ahead of his tadpole behind. He claims they’d go after terrorism – but the American people consistantly have shown that they don’t buy it.

Cheney gets a nice chance to turn the screws on Edwards now. People want a Vice President with experience in a time of war. Edwards has the looks, but he doesn’t have the experience. People want gravitas now more than ever – and Cheney has it spades. He also mentions his lack of political ambition – which is in direct opposition to Edwards who is clearly grooming himself for 2008…

*9:19PM CST:* Ifill asks Cheney to define the differences between the two tickets. Another major opportunity to hit on that key issue of gravitas. It’s interesting to hear about Cheney’s life story, which we almost never hear . Cheney keeps covering his mike, which is annoying, but he seems more direct and natural than Edwards. Meanwhile, Edwards appears to be writing his memoires…

Edwards keeps saying that we need to go on the offense against terrorism. So what does that entail? When bin Laden slips into Pakistan (as he may well have done) would Kerry invade Pakistan? When bin Laden escapes to Iran, would Kerry really have the balls to do something about it? The American people still percieve the Kerry campaign as being weak on terrorism, and all the rhetoric in the world can’t erase the record that supports that argument.

*9:23PM CST:* Again, Edwards says that Kerry has been consistant on Iraq. Yeah, and I’m a supermodel in my day job. That assertion is just laughable. And now Edwards hits the old DNC talking points about Bush’s so-called “flip-flops.” It’s a shotgun approach, and those never work. People need something they can grasp, not a laundry list.

Cheney goes back to nail Kerry on Iraq. Kerry’s own record keeps coming back to haunt him. Why Edwards keeps harping on troop pay and equipment when they voted against the $87 billion to increase both is simply the height of hypocrisy. Again, Cheney has the facts at his fingers to counter most of the arguments brought up by Edwards.

*9:28 PM CST:* Ifill asks about how Cheney would try to unite this deeply divided country. It’s another good question, and the first years of Bush’s term was spent trying to work in a bipartisan basis – it wasn’t until the Democrats started realizing that their weak positions on national security post-9/11 were crucifying them that they started reacting as all doomed ideologies do – by lashing back at their enemies.

Edwards gives a quick answer, then goes off to health care. Both Edwards and Cheney seem to have a problem with keeping on topic. Edwards is getting a bit too wonkish here. Of course, I’m sure most of the audience has tuned out by now – especially with the playoffs on the other channel.

Cheney hits on the presciption drug bill – that could be a big electoral boost for the President if enough seniors feel it has helped them. Of course the prescription drug bill was just a bad piece of legislation, so I doubt it will do much to swing the vote on this issue.

*9:33PM CST:* Edwards has his closing statement. Edwards keeps hitting on his biography. He is speaking directly to the camera. I will give Edwards this, he knows how to work the audience far better than Cheney does. His closing statement is actually quite good, but he’s blinking rather often which is distraction. Are the lights in his eyes?

*9:35PM CST:* Cheney has his closing statement and also addresses the public directly. It must be the lights, because he’s blinking too. He’s less fluid than Edwards, but that gravitas factor has to be considered as well. I like Cheney’s words, but he doesn’t have the slickness of John Edwards. Still, given the question of who I’d want taking over in the Oval Office in a crisis, there just is no contest.

10 thoughts on “Blogging The VP Debate

  1. Whatever points Cheney was scoring on foreign policy gravitas has just been neutralized by Edwards’ brilliant flogging of Cheney’s tenure with Halliburton, reinforcing the public perception that Cheney and Ken Lay are cut of the same cloth. Cheney’s “check out for the real story” retort was worse than any of the lame talking points Bush employed in his abysmal debate performance last THursday. Edwards just took the reins in this debate.

  2. Ugh. Cheney’s inability to even discuss the gay marriage issue verifies that his view conflicts with that of the President. Cheney really made himself look bad there….and it’s unlikely to be forgotten any time soon.

  3. Cheney seems incredibly bored…even worse than Bush did in the last half hour of Thursday’s debate. Perhaps this comatose tone is in accordance with the advice of Cheney’s cardiologist, but I don’t believe it will resonate with the American people.

  4. Edwards just got stomped! I must say, I’m incredibly impressed with Cheney’s performance… masterful comes to mind. Edwards got a few licks in, but Cheney slammed him over and over and over… excellent win for Bush/Cheney!

  5. We’ll see what the public opinion polls show. My feelings were the exact reverse of yours. Cheney got some licks in, but Edwards walked all over him.

  6. Mark, Cheney couldn’t argue the case for the FMA, because he doesn’t believe in it himself. It’s one of the few places where (as Andrew Sullivan has reminded us time and again) Bush and Cheney don’t see eye to eye. I thought it was a good move on Cheney’s part not to try to argue a case there, when he was clearly on common ground with Edwards.

  7. Cheney may have been bored. But IMO he is still delivered a superior arsenal of logic and facts into a foxhole of trolls and fables. My impression is that both Cheney & Bush are tired of being subjected to a long irritating campaign of smearmongering while still trying to do their jobs — one likely reason the best & brightest don’t run for office — it’s just not worth the assault on one’s dignity.

    Everything I’ve heard from Kerry/Edwards tells me that they intend to fulfill the scenario they have painted of failure and “quagmire” in Iraq by abandoning the Iraqis before they have learned how to defend themselves and function in a civilized way by involving the corrupt UN and so-called “allies”.

    The strategy of exposing the Iraqi people to an existence that allows them the freedom to make choices for themselves rather than under the dictates of a tyrant is a good one. In the center of a region of brainwashed young men and oppressed women, it will plant the seeds of self-determination and subsequently weaken the hold other dictators in the region have over their populations.

  8. Ch37: Good to see you back. From what I’ve gathered, Bush’s plan for Iraq is as follows:

    1. Stamp out No-Go zones
    2. Train more Iraqi security forces.
    3. Usher Iraq to elections
    4. After elections, reduce American forces as Iraq forces increase.

    The strategy is qualitative not quantitative, as is my impression of Kerry/Edwards.

    Kerry/Edwards’ plan is, I have gathered is as follows:

    1. Hold a summit of the worlds largest nations to broker more support.
    2. Train Iraqi security forces
    3. Ensure Iraqi elections
    4. Get out.

    Please let me know if I am wrong.

  9. Ch37: I’m going to rephrase your question: What’s he going to do to accomplish that? to What can be done to accomplish that; Since both candidates state simular plans for getting Iraq to elections.

    I have read reports in the past that last month the administration recieved greater NATO support in the training of Iraqi security forces. So in that reguard we have an agreement of the parties. Shift the burden of upholding the government of Iraq to the Iraqies. The only difference is the Bush is already in a position to act on that.

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