Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Senator Edwards, meet Vice President Cheney

I wasn't able to blog last night after the VP debate because my ISP, Comcast, was having problems. (Frankly, I'm surprised any of you slept without hearing from me.) It was just as well--the debate was a bit of a yawner, even though I felt it was a relatively substantive exchange. Cheney was, well, Cheney: sharp, smug and smarmy, the kind of guy you hate if he's an opponent but who you desperately wish played for your team. I think Edwards' attempts to out-smug Cheney may have have come off once or twice as impudent, but he seemed to hold his own well enough. My friends at Fox gave the foreign policy portion to Cheney, but frankly I heard nothing new from either side on that issue. Edwards' swipe at Cheney about falsely linking Saddam to 9/11 would have been more effective if he had actually done it in the debate, as Bush seemed to do. Cheney failed to defend his own congressional voting record, and I can't decide whether I liked his pot shot about not having met Edwards the entire time he's been VP, and thus president of the Senate. (At one point I expected Cheney to lean over and say to Edwards, "Obi-Wan never told you about your father, did he?")

Bottom line: I don't think either man hurt the top of the ticket last night, or helped it all that much. Now go eat your Cheerios.


Blogger fester said...

You would be interested in knowing that VP Cheney has met John Edwards in both 2001 (Prayer Breakfast) and 2003 when Edwards escorted Sen. Dole to the swearing in ceremony. It would have been a good line if the refutation was not so easily and quickly shown as the Democrats have photos of both instances out right now. My take on the night was the same as yours; good job for staying on message and why did I watch this as I am learning nothing new here.

2:35 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

I posted that before I watched the morning news, and of course by that time, the videos of their prior meetings were everywhere. Even the guys on Fox had a good laugh as they interview Edwards' daughter, who recounted how her mother, during the obligatory meet-and-greet after the debate, remind Cheney of a previous meeting.

William Saletan in Slate is one of the few people I've seen so far who thought Edwards won decisively. I disagree, but he does make a good point--Edwards was trying to sell people on Kerry (hence his inability not to use Kerry's name when asked not to) while Cheney spent a lot of time selling himself. In other words, Edwards did what a VP candidate is supposed to do.

2:45 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vice Presidential candidates are picked for a number of reasons -- healing rifts from a tough primary season (Johnson); shoring up support in an electorally important state (Bentsen); appealing to a more youthful (Quayle/Kemp) or a different gender (Ferraro) demographic; adding wonkish, insider points for work with the Congress (Gore, Cheney), or simply finding someone who would make a decent president in the event of an untimely death (Lieberman).

Edwards, however, is a unique choice. He didn't fare well in the primaries. He has little experience in the Congress or DC. He won't win his home state of NC, and it would be hard to argue that he would make a better president if Kerry died.

But this isn't a normal election, and that was proven in the primary season. Kerry was nominated because his base opted to take an Anybody but Bush approach to the process. Kerry is a turd of a candidate, but he served in Vietnam and came out of Iowa with a lot of money in the bank. OK, he's not a great "brand," but at least he was the best "product" the Dems could find.

This isn't an original point, but wasn't Edwards (easily) the best salesman in the Iowa primary? Voters liked him, really really liked him. They didn't really know what he stood for, or what he believed, but they genuinely liked the way he sold himself to them.

If you're the DNC leadership, you're thinking around March, "You know, Kerry has the sex appeal of a wet boot. He's a turd of a candidate. He's more boring than Gore and Lieberman combined! He waffles. He's inconsistent. He's from a liberal, New England state, who's been against the death penalty, the first Gulf War, school reform, you name it. But what about this Edwards guy? If he can sell a fluffernutter brand like 'Edwards,' he can sell the ABB Kerry!'"

And so he was picked. I think if you were to ask most Americans if they felt comfortable with Cheney as president, they would say, "Yes. He's a good substitute for Bush. And he's probably running everything now anyway."

You might get a different answer for Edwards. But this doesn't detract from the fact that Edwards, in many ways, adds more to a winning ticket than Kerry. He's the sizzle in the steak, as they say in Louisiana.

Clinton had that quality. JFK had it. Edwards has it. Give him four more years of policy study and he'll make one hell of a president, or a VP to Hillary.

I still think Kerry will lose this election, but no blame will fall on Edwards. He's a gem.

3:37 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

I don't presume to think I'm like most Americans, but the thought of "President Cheney" sends a shiver up my spine. But then again, you could argue that we already have a President Cheney, so what's the difference?

Otherwise, I largely agree with your assessment. I would say that Gore was a fairly unconventional pick at the time--he brought no geographic balance and while he did have federal government experience, I don't recall that being touted at the time. He hadn't yet earned his stiff-as-a-board reputation yet, and he enhanced the perception of a young, vigorous ticket that Clinton conveyed.

4:23 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gore was a serious mind in the senate of foreign policy and defense issues. In fact, he is probably the leading senator (ever) on nuclear arms research and deployment, from throw-weights to proliferation. He was widely and highly respected in the Congress as a bright, young, politically important Democratic senator from a Southern state. In sum, exactly what Clinton needed in 1992 to soften his own shortcomings (defense, foreign policy, DC politics).

Brilliant choice by Clinton, maybe the best and most active VP since McKinley's T. Roosevelt.

I really believe now that had Gore/Lieberman won in 2004, this would be a stronger, more united country. But we don't have that choice now. Instead of Gore/Lieberman, we have Kerry/Edwards.


Four more years until Hillary!

4:37 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Why do you think Hillary Clinton would make such a great president--or are you being sarcastic?

6:20 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, I honestly believe Hillary Clinton would make a great president. She's a very fine senator, with a firm grasp of all policy issues. And she would have her husband around to advise her on the political side of things.

I could see a Hillary/Edwards ticket in 2008 as the perfect storm of centrist Democratic campaigns. Bring on McCain!

6:47 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Upon further reflection, I would hope that centrists with firm grasps of policy still have a place in my party.

Kerry, in many ways, wasn't just "Anybody But Bush," but also "Anybody But Dean." Not that Dean is the fervid radical he was painted (and as he painted himself), but the base of the party is moving away from the center strength of Clinton/Gore/Lieberman and more toward the Michael Moore/ Howard Dean edge of unfounded, Limbaughesque distortion.

I'm a lifelong liberal, and how I see the war in Iraq is as lifelong lefties do, an anti-facist appeal for more and better democracy. This is why Christopher Hitchens is a lodestone for me.

But I also realize that my personal politics can't compromise the reality of governing this nation. The Democrats that govern best are centrist, free-traders with nimble, undoctrinaire approaches to policy.

In that sense, Gore/Lieberman was a very important campaign, and the failure for them to win gave us the rise of Dean and Kerry in 2004.

While I don't like the way the White House has guided the Iraqi occupation, I won't say its a failed experiment yet. Nor do I like, however, the advent of a Kerry cabinet.

Trust me, these won't be the brain trust of Clinton's first-term winners. It will be more to the left, with less policy experience, and less given to compromise.

I fear four years later, if elected, Kerry will go down in a monumental defeat, and set back the prospects for Democratic leadership a decade, much as Carter's loss in 1980 became a repudiation of the party for 12 years.

And, in reality, had Perot not run against Bush pere in 1992 and Dole in 1996, the dearth of executive leadership would have lasted until, likely, 2000 (and you saw what happened in 2000).

7:04 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

The Atlantic has an essay this month that argues that whichever party loses in November could be in for a bloodletting not unlike what happened to the GOP in 1964. As you say, the liberal wing of the Democratic Party could try to purge the centrists, particularly the Democratic Leadership Council set, which, like you, is where my heart really lies. (The liberals were clearly emboldened by the 2002 midterm Democratic bloodbath; they mistook the public's disdain for political cowardice for a repudiation of centrism.) The Republicans could have a three-way battle between the social conservatives, the neoconservatives and the moderates.

I don't disagree regarding Hillary Clinton. It will be interesting to see who the GOP throws against her in 2006, which would be a way to stop her White House ambitions early. I doubt Guilani would run; a loss would curtail his presidential bid, too.

7:36 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

By the way, I'm not sure I agree regarding Perot. I don't what the exit polls said, but third-party or independent candidacies usually get votes from people who want change, so it's conceivable Perot cost Clinton votes in 1992 and Dole votes in 1996.

7:39 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perot voters skewed heavily toward the GOP in the crucial southern battleground states, although it's fair to say that he brought others into the election cycle that might not have voted.

I believe there's much to say about that in regards to Ralph Nader, too. Nader inspires a group of voters (like me), most of whom (unlike me) don't usually care about politics. Plus he brings a deeper reading of process and policy then even Cheney!

I would love to see a Hillary/Edwards vs. McCain/Guiliani election in 2008 because I could honestly say that whichever centrist ticket wins, I can live with it.

I'm not sure I can live with either of these 2004 tickets. Thanks, Iowa!

7:50 PM


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