Debate II: More CommentsOctober 6, 2004
The first half of the debate was spirited and tense. I was amazed at how much the energy of the debate plummeted when the topic turned to domestic issues. I thought Gwen Iffle was a poor moderator. Not only did she make actual mistakes, but she did not attempt to enforce the rules about the candidates addressing each other directly and they slowly grew more comfortable with using their time for any purpose or topic.
My criticism of Cheney (and Bush as well) is that he failed to point out that Edwards and Kerry are 2 of only 4 senators who voted FOR the war and AGAINST the $87 billion funding measure. The attack would be much more powerful if the number of Democrats who supported both measures was emphasized. Also, if Kerry is going to continue to hold up the 1991 Gulf War as model of how a coalition can be built, he needs to be held accountable for voting against that war as well.
Cheney's worst moment was his handling of the question of why the political divide, in Washington and in the country as a whole, has only worsened during these four years. He essentially gave a two-minute non-answer. He conceded that it was true, said he didn't know why, and promised that they would keep working on it. He didn't take the opportunity to blame Democrats for this, but assuming that he was trying to take the high road on such a loaded question, he also didn't sell the president as someone who will continue to reach across the aisle whenever possible. And he didn't even mention the divide in the country as a whole, which he could've addressed with:
"After 9/11, we experienced a unity unlike anything we've ever had in my lifetime. I understand that eventually, elections come and it's time for everyone to stand and be counted, but I believe all Americans, whether they support the administration or not, know in their hearts that this president loves this country and will never waver in his determination to serve and protect her."
Fortunately for Cheney, this was also one of Edwards' worst moments. Left with a huge opening, Edward could have launched into his Two Americas speech and how Kerry understands that the flag belongs to all Americans, not one political party. Instead, he insisted on changing the subject to health care, as a terrific opportunity to label the administration as out-of-touch slipped by.