Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Et tu, Faustus?

Oh, to have the supreme, serene self-confidence of Richard B. Cheney. What's his secret? Does he meditate in morning? Has he gone to the Crossroads? Tonight's exercise in debate history proved how demeanor can trump reality. When challenged on issues on which he was clearly weak, he simply ignored them or denied what he had actually done. And it worked.

Edwards often made his points quite ably, only to be flicked off by the vice president, as if a fly on his sleeve.

For the record, the MSNBC crowd is all self-congratulatory for having dug up footage of Cheney asserting the link between Saddam Hussein and 9-11, which they showed about 20 minutes after the debate. Meanwhile, your blogstress, just minutes after he denied having made it, posted a link to a newspaper story in which the vice president made that assertion. (See item titled "Saddam and Osama: What'd you say?"- posted at 9:20 p.m.) So there!

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I'm in charge here

Best line of the evening came not from either of the candidates, but from the son of a late president, Ron Reagan. After it was brought to his attention that Cheney never once invoked the name of George W. Bush, Reagan quipped, "I guess Cheney can be forgiven for forgetting that George Bush is really president."

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The big gimmick line of the evening was Cheney's very effective accusation of Senate absenteeism on the part of Edwards, asserting that even though the vice president serves as the body's president and comes to the Senate chamber every week, he had never met John Edwards.

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, the Democrat who got famously F.U.'d by the veep on the Senate floor, made the point on MSNBC that, on his Tuesday visits to the Senate, "unlike all of the vice presidents before him, he meets only with Republicans."

Somebody needs to tell the Edwards camp to stop trying to use Cheney's having met Edwards at a prayer breakfast to refute the charge. Through his dismissive demeanor and judo tactics, Cheney is able to ignore charges made. But Edwards has a ways to go before he can use a prayer breakfast to defend himself against the charge of truancy.

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Gay marriage

The gay marriage exchange was perhaps one of the most expectation-defying of the whole lot. Edwards, who, though loved in the gay community, does not have a stellar record on the issue (not only opposes gay marriage, but unclear on civil unions, supporting undefined "domestic partnership" benefits), riffed for a few minutes on a topic that is not his strongest, and then, in a way that made your blogstress squirm, applauded the vice president and his wife for "embracing" their "gay daughter".

Having already acknowledged his belief, in opposition to the president's advocacy of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, that the definition of marriage should be left up the states, Cheney used his rebuttal time to thank Edwards, in very few seconds, for his kind words about his daughter. Great tactic.

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MSNBC's Chris Matthews just characterized the debate as "a water pistol versus a machine gun." Your blogstress fears he's stated the dynamic aptly, if hyperbolically.

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"The bright light of America"

Edwards just gave a great closing statement after an uneven final half-hour of the debate. The image of his dad sitting in front of the television in the morning to learn math, and knowing that he lived in a country where he could get a college education, which made him hopeful, knowing that he grew up in "the bright light of America...But now that light is flickering." Great stuff.

Now Cheney is giving his, scaring the cr*p out of people about the "global war on terror." I have a feeling that, having the last word, and playing to a traumatized population, Cheney's forceful closing statement had the higher impact.

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Bridging the divide

Cheney calls the polarization of the nation "a disappointment," noting what a shame it is that the administration was not able to create the bipartisan amity that a Governor Bush apparently enjoyed in Texas.

While Cheney did mention the effect of the closely divided chambers of Congress of creating "minority/majority shifts" that are "difficult for both sides to adjust to," he seemed to imply that the Dems refused to play nicely with Tom DeLay.

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The personal story

Now this is interesting: Cheney is appropriating Edwards' personal story, which is a strong aspect of the latter's appeal. (Son of a mill worker makes good.)

Your cybertrix was indeed a bit taken aback to learn that Dick Cheney once "carried the ticket of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers". If you're proud of that, sir, why is your administration doing everything possible to squeeze the nation's labor unions?

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Gwen throws a curveball: AIDS at home

Making the point that young African-American women are more than 13 times more likely to die of AIDS than other Americans with the illness, the moderator asked Cheney what should be done to address that problem. Cheney spoke largely about the administration's international effort, but to his credit admitted that he wasn't aware of the numbers Ms. Ifill cited. But that he had no idea of the degree of the problem among African-Americans speaks volumes.

Alas, Edwards never really took on the question, either.

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Cheney: "A fundamental philosophical difference"

On taxes, all Cheney seems to have about canceling tax cuts for those earning more than $200,000 a year is that small businesses often pay their taxes through personal income tax (sole proprietorships), and that would stifle job creation. Hey, why not figure out a tax credit for sole proprietorships with employees?

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As Cheney went after Edwards on his Senate record, noting a pretty significant absentee record of Edwards' in the Judiciary Committee (thanks to life on the campaign trail), Edwards looked down at his notes, and with a long stroke, appeared to cross out a line before writing something else. Would love to know what it said.

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The Halliburton problem

Cheney is denying Edwards' well-catalogued accusations regarding Halliburton's behavior on Cheney's watch as the conglomerate did business with Iran and Libya and provided false financial information to federal regulators. Then there's the post-Cheney-as-CEO deal for a no-bid contract for work in the Iraq theatre. All Cheney has to say is that Edwards is trying to "throw up a smokescreen" and "confuse the voters" (as if the voters were children).

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Not taking the bait

Edwards is one cool cucumber. When Cheney accused him of demeaning the contribution of Iraqi troops because he doesn't count them in the casualty figures, Edwards remained unrattled as he refuted the charge. It would be useful, thinks your cyberscribe, for Edward to remind views not just how many Americans have died in Iraq, but also the numbers of wounded, which is more than 7,000. Many of the wounds result in the loss of limbs.

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Edwards: "The height of hypocrisy"

Edwards just turned Cheney's accusation about lack of support for troops back on him by reminding him that "It was you guys who send 40,000 troops into [battle] without the proper body armor." He went on to note the administration's attempt to revoke combat pay for troops in Iraq because after the mission had been claimed to be accomplished.

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Cheney: "I'm not challenging John Kerry's patriotism."

Cheney has just lectured a feisty Edwards, saying, "You can't talk tough in a 90-minute debate" when a "30-year record".

Cheney just scored a major point by asserting that both Edwards and Kerry voted against the $87 billion supplemental for the Iraq conflict after Howard Dean started to pull ahead in the Dem primary on an anti-war message. "If he can't stand up against the pressure represented by Howard Dean," said Cheney, "then how will he stand up" to that imposed by America's enemies.

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Saddam and Osama

What'd you say?

Cheney just denied that he ever asserted that al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein had worked together. Your cybertrix invites her astute readers to examine this report from January in the San Francisco Chronicle, excerpted below:

Washington -- Vice President Dick Cheney revived two controversial assertions about the war in Iraq Thursday, declaring there is "overwhelming evidence" that Saddam Hussein had a relationship with al Qaeda and that two trailers discovered after the war are proof of Iraq's biological weapons programs.

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Right out of the box

Gwen charges with Bremer and Rumsfeld claims

Having won the first question, Cheney is forced to start the debate on the defensive as moderator Gwen Ifill raises today's reported comments by Paul Bremer, the former U.S. viceroy of Iraq. Bremer asserted that there never have been enough troops on the ground in Iraq to deal with the aftermath of the war.

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The veep debate

The pre-game shows

Watchword of the night: avuncular. Everybody's saying that Cheney will present as avuncular, which conveys the kindness of an uncle according to your blogstress's Webster's New Collegiate (old school version, circa 1978). So far the word flowed from the lips of Russert, Brokaw and one of the commentators on MSNBC. Your Webwench seems to recall having heard the word used earlier this evening on "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer".

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