Paul Begala's Debate Blog: Round 2
Editor's Note: Paul Begala, co-host of CNN's political debate program "Crossfire," is providing a view from the left on the first vice presidential debate through this CNN.com blog. Follow along as he shares his observations and send us your own by typing them in the "Share Your Comments" box to the right.
Darth Cheney warns the world
Posted: 10:49 p.m.
Cheney's closing statement, after Edwards' personal story, was perfunctory.
You half expect him to open the window and yell, "Hey you kids, get off my lawn!"
Where Cheney's in his element is when he's dark. He positively glows when he talks about the potential for a nuclear attack on America. Grrrrr...we're all gonna die....grrrr....the terrorists are coming....grrrr....only my light saber can save you.
Does not compute
Posted: 10:46 p.m.
A slight glitch on the master circuit for Vice President Data. He seemed befuddled when Edwards hammered the GOP for being too close to corporations. Said he hardly knew where to begin.
This is Edwards' long suit -- just as experience is Cheney's. His summation was evocative and clear: four more years of the same versus a plan for the future. Nice job.
You ought to know about flip-flops
Posted: 10:43 p.m.
Edwards is listing Bush's flip-flops -- something one of the smartest guys I know has been begging Kerry and Edwards to do for some time. What will Cheney do?
a) Defend Bush on the flip-flop charge;
b) Attack Kerry for flip-flopping;
c) Turn up the juice on the electrodes he secretly implanted in Edwards' chair.
Posted: 10:40 p.m.
Cheney's hunching over so far that his microphone is scratching on his coat and muffling his voice, which already sounds like his mouth is full of crackers.
Straighten up, Dick. What is it with Republicans slouching? Didn't they learn anything in combat? Oh, sorry.
My boss is so great!
Posted: 10:35 p.m.
There's 11 minutes left and it looks like the boys are a bit punched out.
They just both went on at great length about how their bosses are great -- good dancers, both coach third base in Little League, both sneak out at night to bring blankets to the homeless.
Give me a break. This kind of public butt-kissing is beneath the two of them.
Posted: 10:32 p.m.
Edwards is trying to turn Cheney's long political resume against him. He's drawing a distinction between experience and judgment -- but he's not giving a specific indictment of Cheney's judgment.
What about Cheney's comment that we'd be treated as liberators?
How about his dissing Gen. Shinseki when Shinseki said we needed 100,000 troops to occupy Iraq?
How about his judgment in saying Iraq had WMD and links to al Qaeda?
How many African-American women with AIDS?
Posted: 10:27 p.m.
Gwen Ifill just asked Cheney to talk about AIDS in America.
She specifically asked Cheney not to talk about AIDS overseas. But all Cheney's talking about is AIDS overseas. He hasn't been programmed on it, and candidly told Gwen he didn't know about how African-American women have been hurt by the disease.
One of the downsides of the Bush-Cheney record is the sense that they care more about the rest of the world than America.
But Edwards is responding in terms of Africa -- first AIDS, and now genocide. Come on, guys, bring it home.
No, you dodged more taxes
Posted: 10:23 p.m.
Now it's a tax fight. Cheney says Edwards used Subchapter S to avoid paying $600,000 in Medicare taxes. Edwards says Halliburton used overseas subsidiaries to hide taxes. So's your mother.
Posted: 10:20 p.m.
Edwards is going into the details of his own med mal reform. He's now telling the story of the little girl who was disemboweled because a dirtbag corporation could've prevented it with a two-cent screw.
But why didn't Edwards point out that it takes a lot of nerve for Bush and Cheney to want to limit anyone's right to sue, when the only reason they're in office is because they won a lawsuit.
They lost the vote but won the lawsuit. Now they want to keep consumers from defending their rights. You can bet they don't want to limit the rights of politicians to sue to block recounts in Florida.
Medical malpractice minefield
Posted: 10:15 p.m.
Medical malpractice: will Cheney be as tough on Edwards on this issue as Edwards was on Halliburton?
Be careful, Dick. This is how Edwards got rich -- and every case is a story, often a heartbreaking story.
It's one thing to talk about some nameless OB-GYN in New Mexico whose insurance rates are too high. Quite another to hear the story of a woman and her baby who were killed through the incompetence of one of the tiny minority of incompetent physicians out there.
Kudos for Cheney
Posted: 10:11 p.m.
Gay unions. Gwen Ifill asked Cheney about his comment from the 2000 debate, in which he endorsed civil unions, but not gay marriage. To his great credit, Cheney stuck by his position that it's his preference that states decide this.
That's not Bush's position -- he wants the US Constitution to prohibit the states from handling this.
It takes guts for Cheney to publicly disagree with his boss, no matter how carefully he phrases it. Cheney just did that. Good for him.
RoboVeep talks tax cuts
Posted: 10:08 p.m.
Now it's onto jobs. Cheney smoothly shifted it to education. Edwards is bringing it back to outsourcing, charging that this is the first Administration in 72 years to lose jobs.
Cheney's response, again, is not about jobs.
He spoke of tax cuts, and said Edwards "is using old data."
Wasn't Data the robot from Star Trek II? I'm telling you, if you lift up Cheney's jacket you're going to see a circuit board.
Yeah, but Cheney voted against...
Posted: 10:04 p.m.
Gwen Ifill has turned to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Edwards showed remarkable mastery of the topic.
Cheney, who clearly knows a lot about it, used his time on the Israeli-Palestinian to hammer Edwards for daring to raise Halliburton.
Cheney bragged that every Tuesday he presides over the Senate, but had never met John Edwards because Edwards had such a lousy attendance record.
"You know not the power of the dark side of Halliburton, young Luke."
You can bet Cheney never missed a meeting of the Halliburton Board of Directors.
Edwards' response to the attendance issue was to remind people of Cheney's record as a soft-spoken right-wing wack-job in the House: voting against Head Start, voting against Meals on Wheels, voting to legalize plastic guns that terrorists can use to defeat metal detectors, voting against the Martin Luther King Holiday and against a resolution calling on the racists in South Africa to free Nelson Mandela.
Cheney was a real black helicopter guy in the House -- but he declines to defend those insane votes.
Posted: 10:00 p.m.
Gwen Ifill asked Cheney why, in a deeply unpatriotic move, he lobbied against sanctions on Iran. Cheney sidestepped it, saying he didn't like unilateral sanctions. Now Edwards is pressing the case. He's putting Halliburton center-stage. You know Cheney prepped endlessly for this. How will he respond?
He chose not to at first. Then called it a smokescreen. He is annoyed, grasping for "factcheck.com", whatever that is. That's about as lame as it gets. Then he stared at the table in deep annoyance. Hope you enjoy the $30 million Halliburton paid you, Dick, 'cause it sure hurts now, don't it?
Zarqawi a talking point?
Posted: 9:55 p.m.
Cheney is going on at some length about Zarqawi, the animal who's been leading much of the terrorism in Iraq.
But there was a report on NBC some time ago that the Bush administration turned down a chance to kill Zarqawi before the Iraq war, but didn't do so because they wanted to use Zarqawi's presence in Iraq as a talking point in building support for the war.
In other words, we could have killed this SOB without invading and losing 1,000 lives, but didn't do so because Bush and Cheney were so hellbent on war. But will John Edwards say that?
Posted: 9:52 p.m.
Cheney is being very aggressive. But Edwards is standing in there pretty tough. Now he's back on offense, putting Bush and Cheney's record on trial.
More fun with numbers
Posted: 9:49 p.m.
Cheney is excoriating Edwards for not counting Iraqi dead. But the reason there are so many Iraqis dead is because Bush and Cheney didn't put enough troops on the ground to secure the country! It's Orwellian.
Voting in Iraq
Posted: 9:47 p.m.
Edwards is giving a sense that he and Kerry have a plan for Iraq. After Edwards said, "You need more than 35 people to hold an election in Cleveland," noting that there aren't enough election officials in Iraq to hold elections. The two-shot there made Cheney look like Mr. Wilson scowling at Dennis the Menace.
Cheney is saying that the coalition in the Iraq war is as large as the coalition in the first Gulf War. What a crock. There were something like 130,000 Arab troops in the field in that war.
How many in this? Zilch-point-nada.
Using the 11-letter word
Posted: 9:41 p.m.
Twenty-five minutes into the debate and the first use of the H word.
Edwards made a passing reference to Halliburton getting $7.5 billion in no-bid contracts. After perhaps the slightest hesitation, Cheney went back to hammering Kerry.
Will Edwards return to Halliburton? If so, will Cheney tell him to go F*** himself? No, but a guy can dream, can't he?
Howard Hughes enters the debate
Posted: 9:37 p.m.
Cheney just called Howard Dean "Howard Hughes." Not a big deal, but if Bush had done it, it would've really hurt.
Edwards' response is to defend Kerry -- he's voted for big defense and intel budgets. I'd rather he go back to hammering Bush.
Candidates do math
Posted: 9:34 p.m.
Cheney is challenging Edwards on the 90 percent of the casualties statistic. He notes that more Iraqis have died, and that brings our percentage down to about 50 percent. This is madness.
The 90 percent statistic has always been about the COALITION, not total deaths in Iraq. Of course lots of Iraqis have died.
Do the ones we've killed count too?
It's almost as if Cheney seeks solace in the Iraqi deaths, and is diminishing the deaths of the Americans he and the president have sent over to Iraq.
But Cheney is definitely taking Edwards to task on this. Will Edwards hit Bush as hard?
Ifill looks past El Salvador
Posted: 9:29 p.m.
Gwen Ifill, being a smart and tough journalist, is following up on the global test issue that Cheney bypassed to give us his tutorial on El Salvador.
Edwards seems to have his answer down pat, which is: we're not going to give anyone a veto, but we're also not going to lie to the American people and the world. (And, parenthetically, Bush and Cheney are lying sacks of doo-doo.)
¿Donde esta El Salvador?
Posted: 9:26 p.m.
Okay, Cheney's making me look bad. Instead of doing what I thought he'd do -- and what he should have done, which is to push the Bush attack on Kerry's "global test" statement, he rambled on about the elections in El Salvador 20 years ago.
All over this country, people are asking out loud, "Where the hell is El Salvador?"
On the defensive
Posted: 9:22 p.m.
For the first time, Edwards has gotten off offense and onto defense. He's defending Kerry's comment about a "global test" of American preemptive action. This, I'm sure, is strategic. Team Bush seems to think it's the one opening they have from the last debate, so Edwards wants to answer it, put it away once and for all.
But watch how fast Cheney jumps on it.
Posted: 9:20 p.m.
Cheney is bragging on how great things are in Afghanistan. Can someone please tell me what he's been drinking and where I can get a case of it?
No, your boss is worse
Posted: 9:17 p.m.
The first split-screen on CNN with Edwards on the attack. Cheney is at once unflappable and a tad annoyed. He's much better when he's speaking than when he's listening.
Cheney's response to Edwards' attack on Bush is to turn and attack Kerry. That's his job. Both of these guys are likely to talk past each other, with Edwards attacking Bush and Cheney attacking Kerry.
When and why they're diverted from attacking to defending their bosses is an interesting and tough question. I think it's best for both of these guys to stay on the offense -- but it's harder to do when you're the incumbent.
Edwards grows up
Posted: 9:16 p.m.
Edwards is not nearly as nervous as I thought he'd be. Aunt Bee, our Opie's all growed up.
Tackling Cheney head-on
Posted: 9:10 p.m. ET
Oooo, good. In his first answer, Edwards took it right to Cheney -- perhaps even bending the rules by addressing Cheney directly. And he turned the issue away from Cheney's preferred topic -- whether we're safer with Saddam in prison -- to Edwards' preferred topic: whether Bush and Cheney have leveled with the American people.
Posted: 9:01 p.m. ET
40 minutes until debate time and I'm as nervous as a hooker in church. And if I'm nervous, how do you suppose John Edwards feels? This is the first one-on-one national debate Edwards has ever done. Kind of like being a rookie pitching your first major league game -- in the World Series. Cheney, on the other hand, is unflappable (except when he's telling Senators to go F*** themselves.)
Here's the thing I'm looking for: will Edwards, the sunny optimist, prove willing and able to stick the knife in the Bush-Cheney record? Cheney knows what he's going to do: hammer Kerry relentlessly. Edwards is, of course, an accomplished lawyer. Let's see if he can put the Administration on trial.
Paul Begala, co-host of CNN's political debate program "Crossfire," worked in the Clinton administration as counselor to the president and served as his principal public spokesman.