Gravitas! Cheney, elder statesman, brilliant political mind, noted historian versus Edwards, young, energetic, rich trial lawyer, junior senator. It's like comparing an encyclopedia to a comic book. It was no contest. Edwards didn't even belong (or deserve to be) on the same stage as the Vice President. Cheney was the winner by TKO.
I thought Edwards was too eager, too aggressive, too confrontational in his approach last night, which tells me one thing. That the Democrats aren't as confident in their position as they claimed after the first presidential debate. And what about the lack of gravitas? We were told four years ago how important is was to have gravitas. Oh yeah, I forgot. Qualifications don't matter if you're a Democrat.
For all the bluster from the Left and the relentless reporting that Kerry crushed Bush, the polling tells a different story. The truth is that Bush has bounced back this week after a soft bump for Kerry last weekend. ABC/Washington Post has Bush up six. Gallup has it tied. Zogby shows Bush up three. The electoral map is completely red except for CA, NY, MI and NE.
I think the substance of what Bush said last Thursday night is beginning to take hold over the independents and the undecideds. It's beginning to trump Kerry's perceived victory on style. BC04 seemed to acknowledge that dynamic Monday and Tuesday and Cheney's game plan last night further underscores this point.
From the start, Edwards attacked Cheney's veracity, not only about Iraq, but about Halliburton, about the allies, about the costs of the war, both human and financial. Oh yes, Edwards displayed why he's on the Democratic ticket: He's glib. He speaks well and sounds good. But, just like Kerry, very rarely does anything truthful come out of his mouth.
Cheney's responses repeatedly knocked Edwards off his game, so much so that Edwards was reduced to repeating himself over what seemed to me to be at least half of the debate. The substance of Cheney's responses, both to moderator Gwen Ifill and to Edwards, assured it was the VP's debate from start to finish. Cheney owned the debate. And made only one mistake: Responding to another lie about Halliburton, Cheney directed people to go to a website for factual analysis about Halliburton. But he gave the wrong address, FactCheck.com, instead of FactCheck.org. Unfortunately the first address is a George Soros-sponsored site that dispenses anger, hate and anti-Bush misinformation.
Some highlights. Cheney talked about the importance of consistent positions specifically about foreign policy. He ticked off a number of Kerry's senate votes about national defense, the first Persian Gulf War, intelligence funding, and Iraq. Then he wisely swerved into the fact that Edwards' own senate record was 'not very distinguished,' and listed a litany of missed votes by Edwards--33 out of 36 votes on the Judiciary Committee; 70 percent of the meetings on the Intelligence Committee.
And then this: "You've missed a lot of key votes: on tax policy, on energy, on Medicare reform.
Your hometown newspaper has taken to calling you "Senator Gone." You've got one of the worst attendance records in the United States Senate.
Now, in my capacity as vice president, I am the president of Senate, the presiding officer. I'm up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session.
The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight."
Ouch. That's quite a record. And wasn't it great to hear Cheney illustrate it?
Not to belabor the subject, but I can't emphasize enough just how out of place Edwards appeared to me. The sight of Edwards sitting next to Cheney, a man of superior intellect, knowledge, experience and wisdom, reminded me again how unqualified John Kerry is to be President, picking this empty suit Edwards to be his running mate.
I loved it when Ifill asked Edwards what qualfied him to be 'a heartbeat away' from the Presidency. He responded by saying the American people want a President and Vice President that have good judgement, will keep them safe and will tell them the truth.
How original. Now for a real answer. Here's what Dick said:
"Well, I think the important thing in picking a vice president probably varies from president to president. Different presidents approach it in different ways.
When George Bush asked me to sign on, it obviously wasn't because he was worried about carrying Wyoming. We got 70 percent of the vote in Wyoming, although those three electoral votes turned out to be pretty important last time around.
What he said he wanted me to do was to sign on because of my experience to be a member of the team, to help him govern, and that's exactly the way he's used me.
And I think from the perspective of the nation, it's worked in our relationship, in this administration. I think it's worked in part because I made it clear that I don't have any further political aspirations myself. And I think that's been an advantage.
I think it allows the president to know that my only agenda is his agenda. I'm not worried about what some precinct committeemen in Iowa were thinking of me with respect to the next round of caucuses of 2008.
It's a very significant responsibility when you consider that at a moment's notice you may have to take over as president of the United States and make all of those decisions. It's happened several times in our history.
And I think that probably is the most important consideration in picking a vice president, somebody who could take over."
Ifill then asked the Vice President if he believed, as he's stated before, that it would very dangerous if John Kerry were elected President. He answered it this way:
"I'm saying specifically that I don't believe he has the qualities we need in a commander in chief because I don't think, based on his record, that he would pursue the kind of aggressive policies that need to be pursued if we're going to defeat these terrorists. We need to battle them overseas so we don't have to battle them here at home.
I'm not challenging John Kerry's patriotism. I said in my acceptance speech in New York City at the Republican convention that we respected his service in Vietnam, and I got applause for that.
We've never criticized his patriotism. What we've questioned is his judgment.
And his judgment's flawed, and the record's there for anybody who wants to look at it.
In 1984, when he ran for the Senate he opposed, or called for the elimination of a great many major weapons systems that were crucial to winning the Cold War and are important today to our overall forces.
When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and occupied it in 1990 and '91, he stood up on the floor of the Senate and voted against going in to liberate Kuwait and push Saddam Hussein back to Iraq.
The problem we have is that, if you look at his record, he doesn't display the qualities of somebody who has conviction.
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 you 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 anti-war record. So they, in effect, decided they would cast an anti-war 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 Qaida?"
On to St. Louis.