Wednesday, October 06, 2004

I can't see anybody but the diehards watching all of last night's debate. Blathada, blathada, blathada. Sure, Edwards won on logic, but we all know how far logic goes in deciding swing voters. He cited lots of facts, which Cheney usually avoided answering, always returning to the GOP mantra. But I was frustrated with Edwards. He spent far too much time on Iraq and way too little on jobs, the economy, taxes, and health care. My main disappointment, though, was that I expected more zing from someone with his reputation as a trial attorney. Where are his speech writers! I'll tell you what: he needs to hire Eric Mink, the local liberal columnist who writes on Wednesdays in the Post-Dispatch. Suppose Edwards had gone in prepared to say something like this:
People who think it's a good idea to start turning Medicare over to drug manufacturers, insurance companies and for-profit health-industry conglomerates and open up Social Security for plundering by the brokerage-investment industry should favor Bush. People who believe that loosening regulations on polluters keeps our air and water clean should favor Bush. People who think the best way to help Americans who are hungry, homeless, sick and impoverished is to bleed aid programs dry and rebate taxes to the super-rich should favor Bush.
Now that's got some pizzazz. Mink's whole column rings with controlled outrage. Click here in case you haven't read it yet.
Edwards didn't do our cause any damage last night, but if he had spoken with Mink's brand of sizzle, Cheney probably would have melted down.
Instead Cheney was unflappable and, a couple of times, even human. For example, given a chance to respond to Edwards's ideas about gay marriage--which Edwards prefaced by complimenting Cheney for his openness and support of his own gay daughter--Cheney simply thanked Edwards for the kind words and had no more to say. It was almost sweet.
Sure, most of the time, Cheney was his usual curmudgeonly self, but he didn't seem particularly mean spirited. A couple of times he refused to rebut Edwards's points, basically waving a dismissive hand in disgust and refusing to dignify such silliness with an answer. Mainly, though, Cheney avoided answering questions that didn't suit him and spouted the company line. Pretty much what we'd expect.
If I'd been coaching Cheney for this debate, I'd have broken him of two habits. The first is repeatedly saying "the fact of the matter is ...." That's like saying "To be perfectly honest with you." I distrust people who habitually use such phrases because they work too hard to convince me they're not lying. It's a case of "the lady doth protest too much." The other phrase I'd warn Cheney off of is "I don't know where to start." He means to imply frustration with so many lies, but by the second time he says it, he ends up sounding too lazy or arrogant to participate in the debate.
Not that I would ever want to help Cheney. No way. What I will do, though, is e-mail Mink's column to the Kerry people.

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