I'm still gathering my thoughts on the debate, so I checked one of our fav's: As I did last week, I flipped off the volume on the television after th
October 4, 2004

I'm still gathering my thoughts on the debate, so I checked one of our fav's:

As I did last week, I flipped off the volume on the television after the debate ended so that I could put down some unmediated impressions before hearing the spin and CW in the process of formation.

I hesitate to say this. But my basic impression was that Edwards didn't strike a false note for the entire 90 minutes. And I say this having been critical of him in the past.

After I saw him at a Town Hall meeting in late January in New Hampshire, I
described how I was wowed by him during the event itself but then found myself not long after feeling the whole thing was somehow light and insubstantial.
Going into this debate I worried that I might see the same things. Specifically, I was concerned that everything else notwithstanding, Cheney might just outclass him on at least the perception of heft and seriousness.

But I didn't see that. Not at all. And the sharp on his feet quality I
ascribed to Cheney late this afternoon didn't seem particularly evident.
Let me review some running impressions of the debate itself.

I thought Cheney started very weak and that Edwards started just as strong. Cheney recovered after not too long; but Edwards remained clean and on-message.

One thing I also noticed is that Cheney didn't look very good or even very healthy. Something like that can simply be a matter of bad make-up or unflattering lighting. So I'm not making any assumptions about Cheney's health based on what I saw. But the physical contrast between the two men was unmistakable from the outset.

Another point that I believe will ripple over the next few days is that Vice President Cheney told a number of just straight-up falsehoods during the foreign policy portion of the debate. And that creates lots of grist for Democrats in the on-going debate spin war.

I didn't take close notes and I don't have a transcript available. But there was the time when the VP said he'd never suggested Saddam was connected to 9/11 -- which will come back to haunt him. And there were there a number of other Iraq, WMD and 9/11-whoppers.

Then there was the time when he said that a major reason for the decline of suicide bombings in Israel is that Saddam is no longer paying those $25,000 bounties to the families of the bombers.

That's got to be one of the stupidest I've ever heard. No one believes that. And I'm sure he'll be ridiculed endlessly for saying it.

There were other moments when he tried out really silly number and word games. In response to Edwards' claim that the US has sustained 90% of the coalition fatalities in Iraq, for instance, Cheney insisted that Edwards wasn't telling the truth because he wasn't including all the Iraqi soldiers and police officers who are of course now dying in their hundreds. So Cheney said the number is only 50%.

If you want to change the definition of 'the coalition' that everyone has used for the last two years I guess this may be technically true. But it struck me as silly and drove home the President's and the Vice President's unwillingness to look reality in the face and level with the public.

The essential truth is that for whatever reasons we don't have many allies with us in Iraq and the overwhelming number of casualties are Americans. Word games don't change that. Read on

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