Edwards calls Cheney liar all night, Cheney deigns to respond
You lying bastard
Cheney, Edwards Go Toe to Toe in Debate
By TOM RAUM, Associated Press Writer
CLEVELAND - Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites) accused the Democratic presidential ticket Tuesday night of turning against the Iraq (news - web sites) war for political gain. "We need a fresh start" countered Sen. John Edwards (news - web sites) in campaign debate, accusing the administration of mismanaging the conflict.
In a clash at close quarters, the Democratic vice presidential candidate accused Cheney of "not being straight" with the public about a war that has claimed more than 1,000 American lives. He said casualties are rising monthly and the United States is bearing 90 percent of the cost of the conflict as well as suffering 90 percent of the dead and wounded.
Cheney challenged that, saying the Iraqi security forces had taken nearly half of the casualties. "For you to demean their sacrifice is beyond the pale," he said to Edwards, seated practically at his elbow.
The vice president also criticized Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (news - web sites) for taking "the wrong side" on defense issues over the past three decades.
"I'm saying specifically that I don't believe he has the qualities we need in a commander in chief," he said.
The two men debated exactly four weeks before Election Day in a race for the White House that has drawn closer in recent days. The debate format encouraged give-and-take — and neither the Bush administration's powerful second-in-command nor Kerry's running mate shrunk from the task in their only encounter.
"Frankly, senator, you have a record that's not very distinguished," Cheney said to Edwards, citing him for a pattern of absences during his single term in the Senate.
Edwards summed up his points like the former trial lawyer he is.
In a jab at the Bush-Cheney campaign's claim on experience, he said, "Mr. Vice President, I don't think the country can take four more years of this type of experience."
Cheney listened politely to Edwards — a contrast to Bush, who repeatedly grimaced and scowled last week while Kerry attacked the administration's record.
Let's make this simple: Cheney is not Bush. Which is to say that he's not going to freeze when asked to think.
But short of that abysmally low standard, Cheney couldn't have done much worse, and here's why:
He repeatedly let Edwards call him a liar and a thief without response. He didn't even defend Halliburton, which was insane.
What do I mean?
Here's how a competent staff would have briefed him to answer this:
"Look, Senator, there may or may not be issues with Halliburton management, but let me say this, the people working in Iraq risk death, dismemberment and kidnapping to keep US forces supplied and fed. They are risking their lives to support our mission and the people of Iraq. While it is perfectly fine to try and tie me to my former company, you seem to forget that Halliburton is a vital part of our war on terrorism and their employees risk their lives every day with no notice, no glory and little praise, especially from you and some of your colleagues on your side of the aisle."
Now that would have rocked Edwards back a little. But Cheney was no where close to that kind of answer.
It's like a soccer match where one side has 70 minutes possession. Edwards kept Cheney on a never-ending defensive and he couldn't even defend his own policies which made sense, as few and far between as they were.
One of the rules of dealing with charges is that you never let someone call you a liar unanswered. Cheney just blew past Edwards repeated charges and that set the stage for four key moments:
(Accusations of lying are in red, greed in green)
1) Edwards attacking Kerry on Iraq.
CHENEY: We've made significant progress in Iraq. We've stood up a new government that's been in power now only 90 days. The notion of additional troops is talked about frequently, but the point of success in Iraq will be reached when we have turned governance over to the Iraqi people; they have been able to establish a democratic government. They're well on their way to doing that. They will have free elections next January for the first time in history.
We also are actively, rapidly training Iraqis to take on the security responsibility.
Those two steps are crucial to success in Iraq. They're well in hand, well under way. And I'm confident that, in fact, we'll get the job done.
IFILL: You have 30 seconds, Senator.
Mr. Vice President, there is no connection between the attacks of September 11th and Saddam Hussein. The 9/11 Commission has said it. Your own secretary of state has said it. And you've gone around the country suggesting that there is some connection. There is not.
And in fact the CIA is now about to report that the connection between Al Qaida and Saddam Hussein is tenuous at best. And, in fact, the secretary of defense said yesterday that he knows of no hard evidence of the connection.
We need to be straight with the American people.
2)Edwards telling Cheney he was wrong on Afghanistan
CHENEY: Gwen, we've never let up on Osama bin Laden from day one. We've actively and aggressively pursued him. We've captured or killed thousands of Al Qaida in various places around the world and especially in Afghanistan. We'll continue to very aggressively pursue him, and I'm confident eventually we'll get him.
The key to success in Afghanistan has been, again, to go in and go after the terrorists, which we've done, and also take down the Taliban regime which allowed them to function there, in effect sponsors, if you will, of the Al Qaida organization.
John Edwards, two and a half years ago, six months after we went into Afghanistan announced that it was chaotic, the situation was deteriorating, the warlords were about to take over. Here we are, two and a half years later, we're four days away from a democratic election, the first one in history in Afghanistan. We've got 10 million voters who have registered to vote, nearly half of them women.
That election will put in place a democratically elected government that will take over next December.
We've made enormous progress in Afghanistan, in exactly the right direction, in spite of what John Edwards said two and a half years ago. He just got it wrong.
The fact is, as we go forward in Afghanistan, we will pursue Osama bin Laden and the terrorists as long as necessary. We're standing up Afghan security forces so they can take on responsibility for their own security. We'll keep U.S. forces there -- we have about 16,000 there today -- as long as necessary, to assist the Afghans in terms of dealing with their security situation. But they're making significant progress. We have President Karzai, who is in power. They have done wonders writing their own constitution for the first time ever. Schools are open. Young girls are going to school. Women are going to vote. Women are even eligible to run for office. This is major, major progress. There will be democracy in Afghanistan, make no doubt about it. Freedom is the best antidote to terror.
IFILL: Senator Edwards, you have 90 seconds.
EDWARDS: Someone did get it wrong. But it wasn't John Kerry and John Edwards. They got it wrong. When we had Osama bin Laden cornered, they left the job to the Afghan warlords. They then diverted their attention from the very people who attacked us, who were at the center of the war on terror, and so Osama bin Laden is still at large. Now, I want to go back to something the vice president said just a minute ago, because these distortions are continuing.
He said that -- made mention of this global test. What John Kerry said -- and it's just as clear as day to anybody who was listening -- he said: We will find terrorists where they are and kill them before they ever do harm to the American people, first.
We will keep this country safe. He defended this country as a young man, he will defend this country as president of the United States.
He also said very clearly that he will never give any country veto power over the security of the United States of America.
Now, I know the vice president would like to pretend that wasn't said, and the president would too. But the reality is it was said.
Here's what's actually happened in Afghanistan, regardless of this rosy scenario that they paint on Afghanistan, just like they do with Iraq. What's actually happened is they're now providing 75 percent of the world's opium.
Not only are they providing 75 percent of the world's opium, large-cut parts of the country are under the control of drug lords and warlords. Big parts of the country are still insecure.
And the reality is the part of Afghanistan, eastern Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden is, is one of the hardest places to control and the most insecure, Gwen.
3) Tying Halliburton and the war in Iraq
EDWARDS: Well, the vice president talks about there being a member, or someone associated with Al Qaida, in Iraq. There are 60 countries who have members of Al Qaida in them.
How many of those countries are we going to invade?
Not only that, he talks about Iran. The reality about Iran is that Iran has moved forward with their nuclear weapons program on their watch. They ceded responsibility to dealing with it to the Europeans.
Now, the vice president, as you pointed out, spoke out loudly for lifting the sanctions on Iraq. John Kerry and I believe we need to strengthen the sanctions on Iraq, including closing the loophole that allows companies to use a subsidiary, offshore subsidiaries to do business with Iran.
I mentioned Halliburton a few minute ago in connection with the $87 billion, and you raised it in this question. This is relevant, because he was pushing for lifting sanctions when he was CEO of Halliburton. Here's why we didn't think Halliburton should have a no-bid contract.
While he was CEO of Halliburton, they paid millions of dollars in fines for providing false information on their company, just like Enron and Ken Lay.
They did business with Libya and Iran, two sworn enemies of the United States.
They're now under investigation for having bribed foreign officials during that period of time.
Not only that, they've gotten a $7.5 billion no-bid contract in Iraq, and instead of part of their money being withheld, which is the way it's normally done, because they're under investigation, they've continued to get their money.
IFILL: Mr. Vice President?
CHENEY: I can respond, Gwen, but it's going to take more than 30 seconds.
IFILL: Well, that's all you've got.
CHENEY: Well, the reason they keep mentioning Halliburton is because they're trying to throw up a smokescreen. They know the charges are false.
They know that if you go, for example, to factcheck.com (sic), an independent Web site sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania, you can get the specific details with respect to Halliburton.
It's an effort that they've made repeatedly to try to confuse the voters and to raise questions, but there's no substance to the charges.
IFILL: Thirty seconds.
EDWARDS: These are the facts.
The facts are the vice president's company that he was CEO of, that did business with sworn enemies of the United States, paid millions of dollars in fines for providing false financial information, it's under investigation for bribing foreign officials.
The same company that got a $7.5 billion no-bid contract, the rule is that part of their money is supposed to be withheld when they're under investigation, as they are now, for having overcharged the American taxpayer, but they're getting every dime of their money.
I'm happy to let voters make their own decision about this.
4) Gay Marriage
CHENEY: Gwen, you're right, four years ago in this debate, the subject came up. And I said then and I believe today that freedom does mean freedom for everybody. People ought to be free to choose any arrangement they want. It's really no one else's business.
That's a separate question from the issue of whether or not government should sanction or approve or give some sort of authorization, if you will, to these relationships.
Traditionally, that's been an issue for the states. States have regulated marriage, if you will. That would be my preference.
In effect, what's happened is that in recent months, especially in Massachusetts, but also in California, but in Massachusetts we had the Massachusetts Supreme Court direct the state of -- the legislature of Massachusetts to modify their constitution to allow gay marriage.
And the fact is that the president felt that it was important to make it clear that that's the wrong way to go, as far as he's concerned.
Now, he sets the policy for this administration, and I support the president.
IFILL: Senator Edwards, 90 seconds.
EDWARDS: Yes. Let me say first, on an issue that the vice president said in his last answer before we got to this question, talking about tax policy, the country needs to know that under what they have put in place and want to put in place, a millionaire sitting by their swimming pool, collecting their statements to see how much money they're making, make their money from dividends, pays a lower tax rate than the men and women who are receiving paychecks for serving on the ground in Iraq.
Now, they may think that's right. John Kerry and I do not.
We don't just value wealth, which they do. We value work in this country. And it is a fundamental value difference between them and us.
Now, as to this question, let me say first that I think the vice president and his wife love their daughter. I think they love her very much. And you can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It's a wonderful thing. And there are millions of parents like that who love their children, who want their children to be happy.
And I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and so does John Kerry.
I also believe that there should be partnership benefits for gay and lesbian couples in long-term, committed relationships.
But we should not use the Constitution to divide this country.
No state for the last 200 years has ever had to recognize another state's marriage.
This is using the Constitution as a political tool, and it's wrong.
Cheney ignored all of these charges and plowed ahead. Edwards was trying to goad Cheney and wisely he avoided it, however the charges began to pile up. Edwards called him a thief over and over.
And all of that was bad, but nothing was dumber than the tort reform answer. Why the GOP thinks this works is beyond me, but this was a perfect moment for Edwards
CHENEY: First of all, I'm not familiar with his cases. My concern is specifically with what's happened to our medical care system because of rising malpractice insurance rates, because we failed to adequately reform our medical liability structure.
I was in New Mexico the other day and met with a group of OB/GYN docs.
And they were deeply concerned because they were fearful that there'd be another increase in malpractice insurance rates as a result of what they believe are frivolous lawsuits and that that would put them out of business.
And one doctor indicated that her rates have gone up so much that she's now to the point where she is screening patients. She won't take high-risk patients anymore because of the danger that that will generate a lawsuit, and a lawsuit will put her out of business.
This has had a devastating impact in a lot of communities. My home state of Wyoming, we've lost the top insurer of malpractice insurance in the state. The rates for a general practitioner have gone from $40,000 a year to $100,000 a year for an insurance policy.
We think this has a devastating impact on the quality of health care.
As I say, high risk patients don't get covered anymore. We've lost one out of eleven OB/GYN practitioners in the country. We think it can be fixed, needs to be fixed.
Now, specifically, what we need to do is cap non-economic damages, and we also think you need to limit the awards that the trial attorneys take out of all of this. Over 50 percent of the settlements go to the attorneys and for administrating overhead.
We passed medical liability reform through the House of Representatives. It's been blocked in the Senate. Senator Kerry's voted 10 times against medical liability reform, and I don't believe Senator Edwards supports it, either, not the kind that would be meaningful.
IFILL: Senator Edwards?
EDWARDS: Yes. Well let me say, first of all, I'm proud of the work I did on behalf of kids and families against big insurance companies, big drug companies and big HMOs.
We do have too many lawsuits. And the reality is there's something that we can do about it.
John Kerry and I have a plan to do something about it. We want to put more responsibility on the lawyers to require, before a case, malpractice, which the vice president just spoke about, have the case reviewed by independent experts to determine if the case is serious and meritorious before it can be filed; hold the lawyers responsible for that, certify that and hold the lawyer financially responsible if they don't do it; have a three-strikes-and-you're-out rule so that a lawyer who files three of these cases without meeting this requirement loses their right to file these cases.
That way we keep the cases out of the system that don't belong in the system. They talk about frivolous cases. We believe cases that don't belong in the system should never be in the system.
But we don't believe that we should take away the right of people like Valerie Lakey, who was the young girl who I represented, five years old, severely injured for life, on a defective swimming pool drain cover.
It turns out the company knew of 12 other children who had either been killed or severely injured by the same problem. They hid it. They didn't tell anybody. They could have fixed it with a 2-cent screw. That's wrong.
John Kerry and I are always going to stand with the Valerie Lakeys of the world, and not with the insurance companies.
The last exchange, more than any other, exemplified the difference between the two men. Cheney cared more about the doctors and small businessmen, while Edwards cared more about their victims. While Cheney tried to seem human, for a moment, Edwards was connecting with the audience over and over, trashing Cheney in subtle, effective ways which harped on the simple concept: Believe what you see, not what he says. Not on Iraq, on Afghanistan or lawyers. Edwards showed time and again that Cheney was the out of touch boss who had zero sympathy for you and your problems.
It's not that Cheney lost badly as much as Cheney was blown away by a flawed debate strategy and his unyielding arrogance. Only an arrogant man could be called a liar over and over and not respond.
Edwards last response was a breath of candor compared to Cheney. He wasn't stupid enough to defend greedy lawyers, but he defined the problem in a way most people would understand.
What I find amazing is that Cheney wasn't more willing to defend his character. He could have done so. Instead, he let charges about his fundamental honesty go basically unanswered. It was as close to the Dukakis rape question as possible, but not in one stark moment, but piling on, segment after segment, minute after minute.
There was no knock out blow and no sudden "oh shit" moment. Instead, there was the steady drip of accusations going unanswered, which is either arrogance or stupidity, but it doesn't help matters much, either way. Cheney's attacks often bordered on dismissive snideness and rarely connected, but Edwards was working the jury like the pro that he was. He was not only more credible than Cheney, he went after Cheney's credibility.
It was as bad as last week, but it was still a loss for Bush/Cheney. If that's the best they can do in debate preparation, they might want to not show up on Friday.
posted by Steve @ 2:18:00 AM