My take on the VP debate? Edwards won...much to my surprise. And I think he will be increasingly seen as the winner as the media pours over every syllable spoken. Why? 1) I think Edwards won during the debate for two reasons. First, he went toe-to-toe with the Bush administration's intellectual heavy weight and not only held his own but also IMO gave a superior performance. Nevertheless, even if he just held his own, Edwards won. One of Cheney's goals was to project the image of an older, more experienced statesman who could take over the helm if necessary, an image in contradistinction to the raw, inexperienced Edwards. But the two men came across as peers, as equals. Edwards exceeded everyone's in-going expectations. Cheney fell below those expectations which were -- admittedly -- quite high. Second, I believe Edwards won on content. I say this not merely because I agree with many of his statements, particularly the criticisms on how the war in Iraq has been conducted, but mostly because his presentation was more powerful and on point. (Indeed, I thought he gave better answers even when I disliked their content.) Cheney ducked several potent criticisms and I think this will come back to haunt him -- e.g. he did not address the challenge implicit in Edwards' citing of Bremer's recent blast at the Bush administration for not putting enough troops into Iraq. Cheney also ignored the effective Halliburton charges levelled at him, preferring to dismiss them as"a smoke screen."
2) Why I think Edwards will be increasingly viewed as the winner...Both men made errors but some of Cheney's statements make him look very bad. For example, the most damaging blow to Edwards came when Cheney stated that in all his years in the Senate he had never met Edwards before stepping on the stage for the debate. Cheney was referring to Edwards' record of non-attendance. it took CNN about ten minutes to find a 2001 photograph of Cheney and Edwards together. As the AP Wire states:"In perhaps the most awkward blooper of the evening, Cheney told Edwards to his face that they had never met before the debate, despite evidence they had. Edwards' campaign later provided a transcript of a February 2001 prayer breakfast at which Cheney began his remarks by acknowledging the North Carolina senator. The campaign said the two also met when Edwards accompanied the other North Carolina senator, Elizabeth Dole, to her swearing-in ceremony."
As for the images projected by the two men, I agree with the assessment of the anti-war site TruthOut:"Cheney was also every inch the snarling, hunch-shouldered golem that has made him one of the least popular politicians in recent memory. He seldom looked up at moderator Gwen Ifill, or at the cameras facing him, choosing instead to speak into his own chest for the entire night. Cheney appeared, overall, to cut quite the frightening figure, the dark night to Edwards' optimistic day." But I do not trust my own evaluation on this issue as I thoroughly detest Cheney.
Blogger Marc Perkel offers a good analysis of how the VP debate is being generally perceived. He writes,"BTW, It's interesting to see that Fox News has it more accurate than Microsoft NBC. Fox seems to know that Cheney got his ass kicked and trying to explain that. Microsoft NBC thinks Cheney won it in spite of the reality that Republicans are very unhappy tonight about the job Cheney did. The numbers I'm looking for is the audience size. How many people actually watched it because if the audience was high - then that's good for Kerry. That means that people were interested and that they got to see it first hand for themselves. What's interesting is that Microsoft NBC seems to disagree with its viewers. 70% give it to Edwards and 30% for Cheney. So I would say that Microsoft NBC is losing the debate with it's viewers. So - are all these online polls wrong? Do Democrats have more computers than Republicans? I agree that online polls are less scientific that GOP manipulated polls - but when it's so slanted in favor of Edwards - there has to be some reality there. CNN changed the question on their web site. Instead of asking who won - now they are asking if the debate will help you decide. CNN doesn't want to call it for Edwards who was winning 85 to 15 percent when CNM pulled the poll. I'm seeing far less polls tonight than I did last thursday. I see less that 1/3 of the polls last week. Seems to me that the news media doesn't want us to vote online any more because the voice of the people must be suppressed. CBS News running 87 Edwards - 20% Cheney. Fox News - with 119,000 votes Edwards winning 53% to 46%. And Fox is heavily biased towards Republicans. What this says is that Republicans know Edwards won it. Thanks to Fox for being a little more honest than NBC."
How important is the Edwards' victory? Not very, tho' any advantage shoud not be discounted in such a tight election. In the final analysis, I think the VP debate will be the most interesting by far of the four scheduled debates but also the least important by far.
For more commentary, please see McBlog.
Jonathan Dresner - 10/6/2004
As a confirmed Democrat, I was actually very disappointed with Edwards' performance, and was very suprised to see the 'conventional wisdom' leaning in his direction this morning. I thought he missed some easy shots, avoided answering some questions that would have strengthened his case, and repeated himself where new information was clearly called for.
That said, I thought Cheney's performance was barely competent. His habit of slouching and clasping his hands had the effect of making him look a bit supplicative, plus it muffled his microphone. Some of his assertions were classic attack-mode excesses, easily fact-checked and rebutted, and included assertions that had been rebutted before.
On content, I'm always going to prefer the Democrats, but on substance I thought it was closer to a draw. Not, as you point out, that that's bad for Edwards, who was percieved as a bit of a lightweight going in. But I expected better debating from a trial lawyer.
M.D. Fulwiler - 10/6/2004
This administration has been lying for so long and telling such whoppers that I think they believe they can get away with anything. We'll see on Nov. 2.
Ralph E. Luker - 10/6/2004
There are at least three documented instances of their meeting prior to the debate. The other point is that Cheney said that he was usually over on Capitol Hill every Tuesday -- leaving the implication that he presides over the Senate usually at least one day a week. He goes over to Capitol Hill for a Tuesday lunch of Republican Senators. How's that for the misleading statement on top of the flat out lie? What is shocking, as David says, is Cheney's making the claim in the face of the obvious ease of showing it to be a lie. There ought to be some regard for credibility.
David T. Beito - 10/6/2004
The lying is not shocking. The fact that he lied (or perhaps even worse forgot) about something that could be easily checked by opponents is the shocking part. Why didn't he have his handlers look into this?
Aeon J. Skoble - 10/6/2004
I'm shocked, shocked!, to hear of a politician lying!
David T. Beito - 10/6/2004
Last night, I thought that Cheney's best moment was when he said he had never met Edwards. The revelation that he has (and not just casually) puts a new whole light on the situation.
Since Cheney's line was probaby rehearsed many times, it also calls into question in a more general sense his reputation as someone who has a superior command of the facts.