It was obvious to me that Dick Cheney would and did win the V. P. debate. I missed his beguiling wit, but his solemn demeanor reinforced the gravitas gap between the Republican and Democrat tickets. Cheney understands better than anyone "not just in the globe, but elsewhere," as John Kerry might say, how serious are the times in which we live – as serious as a ... well, I won't go there.
John Edwards appeared nervous, dry-mouthed and tentative during the foreign policy half of the debate with a few flashes of confidence when asked about domestic issues. His task was to promote John Kerry, cement the impression of leadership Kerry tried to convey during the first presidential debate, and perpetuate any momentum their campaign might have gained. Edwards, I think, seemed a loyal but lightweight running mate.
For the most part, Cheney eviscerated the Kerry charges left unanswered by President Bush while hanging Kerry’s record like a millstone around Edwards’ neck, an effective offensive that Kerry will ignore at his own peril. Cheney provided a feast of talking points that I hope and expect Bush will use in his speech this morning and during Friday’s second presidential debate. Of these, the most memorable may be that Kerry could not stand up to Dean, so how can he stand up to Al Qaeda.
Cheney made news when he drew a direct correlation between the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime, which used to pay the families of suicide bombers for their individual acts of terror, and the subsequent reduction of such attacks in Israel. Cheney also explained the connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq as I hoped, although without much detail about Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and no mention of Abu Nidal, Ramzi Yousef or Abdul Rahman Yasin.
Conservatives are so conscious of media bias that we tend to be overly grateful moderator Gwen Ifill was not as one-sided as Jim Lehrer when she deserves criticism for injecting unwarranted conclusions into some of her questions.
In 2000 the media buzz on Cheney was that he brought gravitas to the GOP ticket and they repeated it throughout that campaign ad nauseam. After the debate many of the same pundits seemed surprised by Cheney’s gravitas, which they acknowledged with grudging respect. They have become so irrelevant that even they don’t pay attention to what they write and remark themselves.
The initial spin focused on Cheney’s avowal, which is accurate, that he never linked Iraq to September 11. Ironically, the journalists who appreciate Kerry’s nuanced explanation for voting for the $87 billion military appropriations bill before voting against it fail to comprehend the clear distinction between an Iraq-Al Qaeda connection and an Iraq-September 11th connection.
The Fox News post-debate panel was cautious but unanimous in its praise of Cheney, mindful that the audience was not as large for the Veep showdown and the more critical Kerry-Bush rematch will take place this Friday.
The entire MSNBC panel pronounced Cheney the winner. Joe Scarborough seemed euphoric. Tom Brokaw shocked me by listing a litany of Cheney lines for which Kerry-Edwards will have to answer.
I wanted to watch more of CNN, but Larry King was hosting a panel including David Gergen and Ann Richards. Adios!
On CSPAN2 Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan debated the debate. Traditionally, CSPAN features analysts from both sides of the political spectrum. Which was supposed to represent the right? Both Kaus and Sullivan will be voting for Kerry, but CSPAN's confusion about Andrew can be excused.