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10/05/2004 11:31:00 PM | Timothy

Debate Analysis
If I remember right from my days of high school policy debate, someone who put out a lot of points so their opponent does not have time to answer all the charges, is known at being good at "spreading". Cheney was good at spreading. He fired off a lot of rapid fire charges against both Kerry and Edwards' records. I respect that. What I don't respect (though it could still be an effective tactic) is how Cheney complained twice that he didn't have time to respond, or, where to start with all that Edwards had thrown at him. And sometimes Cheney would not even use his time. If you can dish it out, take it. This was particularly true on how Cheney never really bothered giving any substantive answer to charges about Haliburton. I thought Edwards was effective in using this to explain why he didn't vote the $87 billion (or rather, as Edwards did not say, for a particular version of the $87 billion bill). Cheney just refered to people to factcheck.com. But Cheney should get his facts right: this url takes you to a personal message by George Soros saying why we should not re-elect President Bush. Oops. (I presume Cheney meant factcheck.org, which has been cited frequently in the media.)

Overall, Cheney was better at marshalling a lot of factual claims in the debate. They may or may not always be accurate facts, but his use of numerous talking points was often superior to Edwards. A lot of what Cheney says will turn out, I suspect, to be distortions. Conservatives have been complaining about all the things Bush did not say against Kerry. I saw most of those things mentioned by Cheney. Cheney showed how to effectively use right-wing attacks during a debate.

What Cheney did not do was marshal facts to DEFEND the Bush administration's record, as oppossed to attack Kerry and Edward's record. Bob Schieffer on CBS said that Cheney did not provide a coherant defense to questions about the war on Iraq. Cheney's debate showed that even with a skilled, prepared debator, the administration is unable and unwilling argue confront the facts and argue about their justification for the war.

Gwen Ifell began the debate by asking about three damaging pieces of news. Cheney did not give any substantive answer. It was rather pathetic. They just don't know what to say. I mean, they can attack John Edwards for not including the costs of Iraqi lives in his calculations, and that can be effective, but Cheney still hasn't answered why so many American troops had to die. He didn't even really answer the question about troop levels being too low. Cheney's answer seemed to be: commanders on the ground will tell us what they need. Bullshit. The Admin. has eased out generals and other figures who have said the war will take more troops or cost more, and this sent a clear signal.

What Edwards did a good job at was really going after the administration on Iraq. Cheney did not have any substantive answer to any of that. Cheney showed how the Bushies might still win here: talk about how horrible it is to insult the Prime Minister of Iraq as a puppet of the Bush administration (except, oops, the Bush campaign wrote Allawi's speech. I wish that truth could have been spoken). The Kerry people need to be answer the causalty point: that was just good debate rhetoric on Cheney's part, and an ineffective response on Edward's part.

Edwards was really strong in the beginning, when he talked about Iraq and Bin Laden. He really emphasized, in a crisp clear way, the campaign's message: we were attacked by Bin Laden; Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11 and Iraq has little or nothing to do with Al Qaeda. Just as Bush should learn from Cheney, Kerry can learn from Edwards (though it was weird how Edwards seem to be repeating Kerry's word when he talked about Torra Bora). Edwards seemed tired, especially as the night wore on. He messed up a line, saying Saddam Hussein, and then correcting himself to say Bin Laden. (He muffed a riff about flip flopping that should have been a great sound bite).

On Bin Laden, Cheney lied. Cheney claimed that he had never suggested that Saddam Hussein was involved in the attack on 9-11. Cheney also looked nasty and testy, and the spinsters seem to be trying to say this is because he is comfy in his own skin.

Edwards was generally upbeat, and really on when he talked about health care and poverty. He also did not let Cheney control the flow of the debate (when Cheney answered a question about jobs by turning to education, Edwards said to the moderator, the question was about jobs and poverty right? Well he talked about education, and I hope to talk about that later, but... and then went into his spiel; that was another way to show how clueless the administration was about the subject of jobs.

Cheney, by the way, seemed nasty and had a sort of smirk. Why aren't I saying that he was like Bush in this aura of arrogance, and I cannot believe this guy is up here on the stage with me? Cheney had some of the raw material to be painted for that off camera reaction, but we already knew what (we think) Cheney is like. Bush acted petulant without warrant. Cheney at least respected his enemy enough to do bring a bunch of ammunition to the debate. Bush didn't seem to bother, and got annoyed when he was questioned.

Anyway, both candidates did a good job attacking. Neither did a particularly great job defending their guy at the top of the ticket. Cheney did not even bother at some points to answer a charge. Edwards tried to give a plausible answer and then, I suppose, turn it back to the offense. Both sides had moments in the debate, both in terms of style and substance, that need to be emulated by the guy at the top. Cheney was not 'likeable' but this was no surprise. Edwards was effective, when he delivered his lines well, but he stumbled over them too much.

OH: Edwards' closing was bad. It was upstaged by Cheney's rather deft pre-emption earlier, when Cheney said, like Edwards I came from modest roots.



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