Perhaps it should come as no suprise that Vice President Dick Cheney, a seasoned politician with decades of experience, would handily defeat the younger less experienced but oh-so-pretty John Edwards; but after the first debate (Bush V Kerry), Republicans can breath easier with a clear win in their column.
This debate wasn't a close one... the only people clinging to the idea that this debate was a draw are Libs (because their guy lost this one). I honestly believe that the first debate was won on content by Bush and won on style by Kerry; effectively a draw, which I believe is more of a help to Kerry than Bush. After tonight, there is a very clear win the in Bush/Cheney column thanks to the brilliant performance by Dick Cheney. After tonight's debate, I not only have a lot more respect for Dick Cheney, but I actually like the guy... a lot. I almost wished HE were running as the lead guy... and to think, I actually thought dropping Cheney for someone like Powell or Rice would have been a better choice. I would like to see Rice or Powell on the '08 ticket, though. Maybe Giuliani/Rice in 08? Maybe not.
Anyway, I am not going to post the entire debate transcript. You can find that here. Instead I am going to post my favorite moments from the debate. Enjoy!
VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: It's important to look at all of our developments in Iraq within the broader context of the global war on terror. And, after 9/11, it became clear that we had to do several things to have a successful strategy to win the global war on terror, specifically that we had to go after the terrorists where ever we might find them, that we also had to go after state sponsors of terror, those who might provide sanctuary or safe harbor for terror.
And we also then finally had to stand up democracies in their stead afterwards, because that was the only way to guarantee that these states would not again become safe harbors for terror or for the development of deadly weapons.
Concern about Iraq specifically focused on the fact that Saddam Hussein had been, for years, listed on the state sponsor of terror, that they he had established relationships with Abu Nidal, who operated out of Baghdad; he paid $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers; and he had an established relationship with Al Qaida.
Specifically, look at George Tenet, the CIA director's testimony before the Committee on Foreign Relations two years ago when he talked about a 10-year relationship.
The effort that we've mounted with respect to Iraq focused specifically on the possibility that this was the most likely nexus between the terrorists and weapons of mass destruction.
The biggest threat we faced today is the possibility of terrorists smuggling a nuclear weapon or a biological agent into one of our own cities and threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans.
What we did in Iraq was exactly the right thing to do. If I had it to recommend all over again, I would recommend exactly the same course of action. The world is far safer today because Saddam Hussein is in jail, his government is no longer in power. And we did exactly the right thing.
This was Cheney's first response... it is so eloquent and intelligent.
IFILL: You and Senator Kerry have said that the war in Iraq is the wrong war at the wrong time. Does that mean that if you had been president and vice president that Saddam Hussein would still be in power?
EDWARDS: (edited by Ken to the good part) ... Our point in this is not complicated: We were attacked by Al Qaida and Osama bin Laden.
We went into Afghanistan and very quickly the administration made a decision to divert attention from that and instead began to plan for the invasion of Iraq.
And these connections — I want the American people to hear this very clearly. Listen carefully to what the vice president is saying. Because there is no connection between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of September 11th — period.
The 9/11 Commission has said that's true. Colin Powell has said it's true. But the vice president keeps suggesting that there is. There is not. And, in fact, any connection with Al Qaida is tenuous at best.
CHENEY: The senator has got his facts wrong. I have not suggested there's a connection between Iraq and 9/11, but there's clearly an established Iraqi track record with terror.
And the point is that that's the place where you're most likely to see the terrorists come together with weapons of mass destruction, the deadly technologies that Saddam Hussein had developed and used over the years.
Now, the fact of the matter is, the big difference here, Gwen, is they are not prepared to deal with states that sponsor terror. They've got a very limited view about how to use U.S. military forces to defend America.
We heard Senator Kerry say the other night that there ought to be some kind of global test before U.S. troops are deployed preemptively to protect the United States. That's part of a track record that goes back to the 1970s when he ran for Congress the first time and said troops should not be deployed without U.N. approval.
Then, in the mid-'80s, he ran on the basis of cutting most of our major defense programs. In 1991, he voted against Desert Storm.
It's a consistent pattern over time of always being on the wrong side of defense issues.
A little tough talk in the midst of a campaign or as part of a presidential debate cannot obscure a record of 30 years of being on the wrong side of defense issues.
And they give absolutely no indication, based on that record, of being wiling to go forward and aggressively pursue the war on terror with a kind of strategy that will work, that will defeat our enemies and will guarantee that the United States doesn't again get attacked by the likes of Al Qaida.
Cheney setting the record state... Bush and Cheney have alleged links between Saddam and Al Qaeda, not Saddam and 9/11. The left keeps trying to say that 9/11 and Al Qaeda are the same thing. Clearly there were people with ties to Al Qaeda that were not in any way responsible for 9/11. Saddam is one of them.
Bush and Cheney have never implied that Saddam was behind 9/11 or tied to it in any significant way. The 9/11 Commission said there was no Saddam (Iraq) connection to 911. The Commission did NOT say that there were no ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda. The Commission reports do not, therefore, refute anything alleged by the President.
The only reason anyone in this country believes otherwise is due to sloppy reporting by the media. The NYT's and the like have used their front pages to attack the Bush administration at every oppertunity, often sacrificing the truth in order to get a good headline. The headlines which read the 9/11 Commission had refuted the President and Vice President were factually wrong and have effectively disinformed millions of voters. But I digress...
EDWARDS: (edited by Ken) ... You know, we've taken 90 percent of the coalition causalities. American taxpayers have borne 90 percent of the costs of the effort in Iraq.
And we see the result of there not being a coalition: The first Gulf war cost America $5 billion. We're at $200 billion and counting.
CHENEY: Well, Gwen, the 90 percent figure is just dead wrong. When you include the Iraqi security forces that have suffered casualties, as well as the allies, they've taken almost 50 percent of the casualties in operations in Iraq, which leaves the U.S. with 50 percent, not 90 percent.
With respect to the cost, it wasn't $200 billion. You probably weren't there to vote for that. But $120 billion is, in fact, what has been allocated to Iraq. The rest of it's for Afghanistan and the global war on terror.
You're not credible on Iraq because of the enormous inconsistencies that John Kerry and you have cited time after time after time during the course of the campaign. Whatever the political pressures of the moment requires, that's where you're at. But you've not been consistent, and there's no indication at all that John Kerry has the conviction to successfully carry through on the war on terror.
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.
IFILL: Mr. Vice President, a new question for you. You have two minutes to respond.
When the president says that Senator Kerry is emboldening enemies and you say that we could get hit again if voters make the wrong choice in November, are you saying that it would be a dangerous thing to have John Kerry as president?
CHENEY: I'm saying specifically that I don't believe he has the qualities we need in a commander in chief because I don't think, based on his record, that he would pursue the kind of aggressive policies that need to be pursued if we're going to defeat these terrorists. We need to battle them overseas so we don't have to battle them here at home.
I'm not challenging John Kerry's patriotism. I said in my acceptance speech in New York City at the Republican convention that we respected his service in Vietnam, and I got applause for that.
We've never criticized his patriotism. What we've questioned is his judgment.
And his judgment's flawed, and the record's there for anybody who wants to look at it.
In 1984, when he ran for the Senate he opposed, or called for the elimination of a great many major weapons systems that were crucial to winning the Cold War and are important today to our overall forces.
When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and occupied it in 1990 and '91, he stood up on the floor of the Senate and voted against going in to liberate Kuwait and push Saddam Hussein back to Iraq.
The problem we have is that, if you look at his record, he doesn't display the qualities of somebody who has conviction.
And with respect to this particular operation, we've seen a situation in which, first, they voted to commit the troops, to send them to war, John Edwards and John Kerry, then they came back and when the question was whether or not you provide them with the resources they needed — body armor, spare parts, ammunition — they voted against it.
I couldn't figure out why that happened initially. And then I looked and figured out that what was happening was Howard Dean was making major progress in the Democratic primaries, running away with the primaries based on an anti-war record. So they, in effect, decided they would cast an anti-war vote and they voted against the troops.
Now if they couldn't stand up to the pressures that Howard Dean represented, how can we expect them to stand up to Al Qaida?
That may be the best line of the entire election. Bush/Cheney ought to just run TV ads of that line again and again.
... IFILL: Part of what you have said and Senator Kerry has said that you are going to do in order to get us out of the problems in Iraq is to internationalize the effort.
Yet French and German officials have both said they have no intention even if John Kerry is elected of sending any troops into Iraq for any peacekeeping effort. Does that make your effort or your plan to internationalize this effort seem kind of naive? ...
CHENEY: ... Our most important ally in the war on terror, in Iraq specifically, is Prime Minister Allawi. He came recently and addressed a joint session of Congress that I presided over with the speaker of the House.
And John Kerry rushed out immediately after his speech was over with, where he came and he thanked America for our contributions and our sacrifice and pledged to hold those elections in January, went out and demeaned him, criticized him, challenged his credibility.
That is not the way to win friends and allies. You're never going to add to the coalition with that kind of attitude.
EDWARDS: ... Not only that, 90 percent of the coalition casualties, Mr. Vice President, the coalition casualties, are American casualties. Ninety percent of the cost of this effort are being borne by American taxpayers. It is the direct result of the failures of this administration.
CHENEY: Classic example. He won't count the sacrifice and the contribution of Iraqi allies. It's their country. They're in the fight. They're increasingly the ones out there putting their necks on the line to take back their country from the terrorists and the old regime elements that are still left. They're doing a superb job. And for you to demean their sacrifices strikes me as...
EDWARDS: Oh, I'm not...
CHENEY: ... as beyond...
EDWARDS: I'm not demeaning...
CHENEY: It is indeed. You suggested...
EDWARDS: No, sir, I did not...
CHENEY: ... somehow they shouldn't count, because you want to be able to say that the Americans are taking 90 percent of the sacrifice. You cannot succeed in this effort if you're not willing to recognize the enormous contribution the Iraqis are increasingly making to their own future.
We'll win when they take on responsibility for governance, which they're doing, and when the take on responsibility for their own security, which they increasingly are doing.
This was perhaps the best exchange in the debate. Notice how Edwards interrupts Cheney and talks over Cheney during Cheney's turn to talk
CHENEY: ... at one point some of Zarqawi's people were arrested. Saddam personally intervened to have them released, supposedly at the request of Zarqawi
But let's look at what we know about Mr. Zarqawi.
We know he was running a terrorist camp, training terrorists in Afghanistan prior to 9/11. We know that when we went into Afghanistan that he then migrated to Baghdad. He set up shop in Baghdad, where he oversaw the poisons facility up at Kermal (ph), where the terrorists were developing ricin and other deadly substances to use.
We know he's still in Baghdad today. He is responsible for most of the major car bombings that have killed or maimed thousands of people. He's the one you will see on the evening news beheading hostages.
He is, without question, a bad guy. He is, without question, a terrorist. He was, in fact, in Baghdad before the war, and he's in Baghdad now after the war.
The fact of the matter is that this is exactly the kind of track record we've seen over the years. We have to deal with Zarqawi by taking him out, and that's exactly what we'll do.
CHENEY: ...The reason they keep trying to attack Halliburton is because they want to obscure their own record. And Senator, frankly, you have a record in the Senate that's not very distinguished. You've missed 33 out of 36 meetings in the Judiciary Committee, almost 70 percent of the meetings of the Intelligence Committee.
You've missed a lot of key votes: on tax policy, on energy, on Medicare reform.
Your hometown newspaper has taken to calling you "Senator Gone." You've got one of the worst attendance records in the United States Senate.
Now, in my capacity as vice president, I am the president of Senate, the presiding officer. I'm up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session.
The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight.
Here we see Cheney treating Edwards like an unwanted step-child. I hope they had an EMT on standby cause Edwards just had the smack laid down on himself.
EDWARDS: That was a complete distortion of my record.
CHENEY: Oh, I think his record speaks for itself. And frankly, it's not very distinguished.
CHENEY: Gwen, the Kerry record on taxes is one basically of voting for a large number of tax increases — 98 times in the United States Senate.
There's a fundamental philosophical difference here between the president and myself, who believe that we ought to let the American people keep more of what they earn and we ought to empower them to have more control over their own lives — I think the Kerry-Edwards approach basically is to raise taxes and to give government more control over the lives of individual citizens.
We think that's the wrong way to go. There's a fundamental difference of opinion here.
CHENEY: ... He mentioned Medicare up 17 percent, somehow that that was something we caused. No. The 17 percent increase in Medicare premiums was the direct result of a statute adopted in 1997. John Kerry voted for it.
It establishes the formula for Part B of Medicare that says, in effect, it has to cover 25 percent of the cost of the program. And the reason the money had to go into the trust fund was to make certain that we could cover those eligible for benefits.
While you were in private practice in law and as a senator, you had the advantage of a special tax loophole, Subchapter S corporation, which you set up so you could avoid paying $600,000 in Medicare taxes that would have gone into the fund.
And it's those kinds of loopholes that necessitate a premium increase under the law that was enacted in 1997, supported by John Kerry.
IFILL: You have 30 seconds to respond.
EDWARDS: Well, first of all, I have paid all the taxes that I owe.
When the vice president was CEO of Halliburton, they took advantage of every offshore loophole available. They had multiple offshore companies that were avoiding taxes.
Those are the kind of things that ought to be closed. They ought to be closed. They ought to be closed for anybody. They ought to be closed whether they're personal, and they ought to be closed whether they apply to a corporation.
CHENEY: Well, I think the important thing in picking a vice president probably varies from president to president. Different presidents approach it in different ways.
When George Bush asked me to sign on, it obviously wasn't because he was worried about carrying Wyoming. We got 70 percent of the vote in Wyoming, although those three electoral votes turned out to be pretty important last time around.
What he said he wanted me to do was to sign on because of my experience to be a member of the team, to help him govern, and that's exactly the way he's used me.
And I think from the perspective of the nation, it's worked in our relationship, in this administration. I think it's worked in part because I made it clear that I don't have any further political aspirations myself. And I think that's been an advantage.
I think it allows the president to know that my only agenda is his agenda. I'm not worried about what some precinct committeemen in Iowa were thinking of me with respect to the next round of caucuses of 2008.
It's a very significant responsibility when you consider that at a moment's notice you may have to take over as president of the United States and make all of those decisions. It's happened several times in our history.
And I think that probably is the most important consideration in picking a vice president, somebody who could take over.
EDWARDS: Oh, I'm sorry. I broke the rule.
John Kerry made clear on Thursday night that — I'm sorry, I broke the rules. ...
CHENEY: Well, Gwen, I can think of a lot of words to describe Senator Kerry's position on Iraq; "consistent" is not one of them.
Well that is it. The higlights, as I see them. Click here for the full transcript.