Thursday, October 07, 2004

Vice Presidential Debate - 5 October

There's no way to soften the blow - Edwards kicked the Democratic party on the shin. And again. And again.

The debate started off with a question on Iraq. If I had had my eyes closed, I would have thought it was a re-cast of the first Presidential debate. Unfortunately, I had my eyes open. As well as my ears. And I heard this, loud and clear:

" (T)he reality you and George Bush continue to tell people, first, that things are going well in Iraq -- the American people don't need us to explain this to them, they see it on their television every single day."

One expects better from a lawyer, a high profile lawyer at that. The implication that the American people can see that things are going well totally undermined, in my opinion, any credibility Edwards might have had as making an able VP. Edwards is already shadowed by a strong public sentiment that he might be overwhelmed and incapable of handling that important a job. For him to then start off his part of the debate with a mistake as glaring as that, just cannot augur well. Not like the rest of it was all that great.

Every question he fielded was answered in the same manner - John Kerry's manner. In John Kerry's words.

We lost more troops in September than we lost in August; lost more in August than we lost in July; lost more in July than we lost in June.

There are Republican leaders, like John McCain, like Richard Lugar, like Chuck Hagel, who have said Iraq is a mess and it's getting worse.

They also didn't have a plan to win the peace. They also didn't put the alliances together to make this successful.

Anyone who has seen the first Presidential debate would recognise those words, those themes. They made the debate substantive, meaty. They made John Kerry look good and credible, for the first time, for all to see. Not as a flip-flopper, but as someone who, in Kerry's own words, "has a plan". All that was great. But hearing the same words 4 days later, by a VP-hopeful, wasn't all that great.

Not just did he utter those words, his body language also smacked of John Kerry Preparatory School. I suppose one can't say much about that in words, so I'm going to let that be.

Cheney, on the other hand, came across as a polished and self-assured guy. He seemed to have the facts at his finger-tips and used them well against Edwards' rather personal and aggressive attacks. His political experience spoke volumes, even though he didn't. What I remember most about Cheney's side of the debate was his response (or the lack thereof) to the question of gay marriage. Edwards had just said that he respects and admires the fact that Cheney and his wife have come out in the open about their daughter being homosexual. In reply, Cheney said:

CHENEY: Well, Gwen, let me simply thank the senator for the kind words he said about my family and our daughter.
I appreciate that very much.

IFILL: That's it?

CHENEY: That's it.

And that was it. That, to me, indicates Cheney's strength as a person. Instead of weasling his way around the issue, he chose to not drag his family further into the fray. He picked the right moment to do this, and chose the right manner to boot. His body language spoke louder than his reply. He came across as a down-to-earth guy, one who does not bother much with ideals, leaving them, instead, to the President, and yet, someone who has convictions and stands by them. He was a tough opponent to beat in yesterday's debate. And Edwards didn't beat him.

And yet, Edwards had his strengths. His forte, clearly, was domestic issues. I must admit, I missed a good chunk of the debate because I was so put off by the miserable quality of it. Fortunately, I caught the last 45 minutes of the debate - the domestic policy segment of it. And Edwards was stupendous. He showed his firm knowledge of the law in matters such as healthcare, gay rights, and taxes. I liked his response to the question involving flip-flopping - it was concise, hard-hitting, and yet, flowed very smoothly. I'm pasting the entire segment on flip-flopping below, so it might be a tad long. The question: What's wrong with a little flip-flop every now and then?

EDWARDS: Well, first of all, let me say that John Kerry has -- I can use his name now?

IFILL: Yes.

EDWARDS: OK. John Kerry has been, as have I, been completely consistent about Iraq. We've made very clear from the beginning -- and not an afterthought; we said it at the time -- that we had to confront Saddam Hussein and that we had to have a coalition and a plan to be successful.
And the vice president didn't say much about it in your earlier question, but Paul Bremer has now made clear that they didn't have enough troops and they didn't have a plan.
And the American people are seeing the results of that every single day, in spite of the proud and courageous service of our men and women in uniform.

Now, flip-flops: They should know something about flip-flops. They've seen a lot of it during their administration. They were first against the 9/11 Commission; then they were for it. They were for a department of homeland security -- I mean, they were against the Department of Homeland Security; then they were for it.

They said they were going to put $2 trillion of the surplus when they came into office aside to protect Social Security; then they changed their minds. They said that they supported the troops; and then while our troops were on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, they went to the Congress and lobbied to have their combat pay cut.

They said that they were going to do something about health care in this country. And they've done something: They've made it worse.

They said that they were going to fund their No Child Left Behind; $27 billion short today.

Over and over, this administration has said one thing and done another. This president said -- I listened to him the other night at his 2000 debate saying: I'm for a national patients bill of rights. I know something about this. John McCain and Senator Kennedy and I wrote it, got it passed in the Senate. We don't have a patients bill of rights because of one man today, the president of the United States. They've gone back and forth.

No bluster, no hesitance, very good flow. That's what we want to see more of, Mr. Edwards. Not an eager-beaver attitude, no rude interruptions, no repetition of Kerry's linguistic and physical styles at the podium.

One thing that bothered me throughout the debate was Edwards' seeming adoration of John Kerry. The number of times he mentioned Kerry's name and Kerry's ideology was mind-boggling. To me, it says he's looking at Kerry starry-eyed. I'm not sure I want a VP like that. I want someone who has his own opinions about issues, someone who respects the President but also recognises his flaws, someone who gives the confidence to the American populace that he will stand up for his convictions in the Oval Office. Just for the sheer diversity of ideas, I'm not sure I want a VP who seems to have boundless adulation for his President. I realise that there is an argument to be made for a co-operative VP, but I don't buy it. Edwards reminded me too much of a puppy that puts its master on a pedestal. And I don't want no dawg for a VP.

But then, am no American.

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