WWW Opinion Times

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The Debate

If Presidents were chosen for their debating skills, Dick Cheney is due for a promotion. As it is they are chosen for their leadership skills and vision for the future. So as he has proven since he took on an advisory role in Bush's 2000 campaign, Cheney will be content to have no higher ambition.

John Edwards looked like a school boy trying to match wits with his teacher. To be sure, he scored points when talking about certain social issues. He actually put Cheney on his heels a bit at the end of the debate when he blamed the administration for the problems with health care. It probably hit a chord with many when he attempted to tie Bush and Cheney to pharmaceutical companies and rising prescription drug prices. But the bulk of the debate belonged to Edwards' protagonist.

Let the press whine all they want about when Cheney first met Sen. Edwards. It will only be useless banter. Cheney nailed Edwards to the wall when he pointed out his dismal attendance record in the Senate. Point made. Edwards was caught, and he couldn't respond until he was with a friendly crowd later that night.

Here is an exchange where Edwards attempts to bolster Kerry's leadership:

What the vice president has just said is just a complete distortion. The American people saw John Kerry on Thursday night. They don't need the vice president or the president to tell them what they saw.

They saw a man who was strong, who had conviction, who is resolute, who made it very clear that he will do everything that has to be done to find terrorists, to keep the American people safe.

He laid out his plan for success in Iraq, made it clear that we were committed to success in Iraq. We have to be, because we have troops on the ground there and because they have created a haven for terrorists.

The shallowness of the statement was brilliantly handled by Cheney:

Your rhetoric, Senator, would be a lot more credible if there was a record to back it up. There isn't. And you cannot use "talk tough" during the course of a 90-minute debate in a presidential campaign to obscure a 30-year record in the United States Senate and, prior to that by John Kerry, who has consistently come down on the wrong side of all the major defense issues that he's faced as a public official.

This exchange underscores the main reason George Bush will win this election: John Kerry has not found a way to communicate a vision for the country. And Dick Cheney has a keen grasp of how to communicate that problem in a debate forum. Clearly President Bush is less capable of doing so. But if he is consistently better in each of the next two successive debates, Kerry will no be able to recover.

States will swing no more.

(Debate transcript can be found at the debate committee website)