A More Even Matchup

Dick CheneySure, I’m partisan (no, really?), but I don’t think I’m going out on much of a limb by saying that John Edwards came out ahead of Dick Cheney in last night’s vice presidential debate. Even so, it wasn’t nearly the “slam-dunk” of the first presidential debate last week. Cheney certainly had an impressive knowledge of facts (even if most of them turned out to be just plain wrong), but Edwards demonstrated the affability, charm, and composure that made him so successful as a trial lawyer. I do think he lost a few points in trying to copy the George W. Bush playbook — “Stay on message no matter what the actual question was” — but Cheney suffered in that regard as well (a failure Edwards was quick to point out with his “Your question was about jobs?” barb).

Still, it felt like Cheney was determined not only to sound evil, but to look the part as well. Hunched over, wringing his hands... I could have sworn I was looking as an overacting Bond villain. Unlike Kerry in the first debate, Edwards clearly knew where his audience was: In the camera.

But the most memorable point in the debate came when the issue of the anti-gay-marriage amendment was brought up. Cheney clearly expressed the regime’s position, and didn’t shy away from noting his disagreement with it. Now, if I’d been up there, I couldn’t have resisted retorting that the amendment was just a cynical attempt to pander to the extreme right, that they knew going in that it had no chance of passing — and that in all likelihood, Cheney had recommended to Duh-bya that he push for it as a purely strategic decision (after all, little George couldn’t make a decision to save his life). Cheney’s “disagreeing” with the policy is therefore mere posturing.

Edwards didn’t take that approach, though. Instead, he commended Cheney for supporting and loving his daughter, and for having the courage to admit her homosexuality publicly. Sure, he derided the administration for bringing up this wedge issue, but he did so calmly and without any hint of personal insult. Cheney, in turn, merely thanked Edwards for his kind words and left it at that. At the end, I couldn’t help but feel that he was almost... human.

Of course, he made sure to dispel that perception across the remainder of the debate, so I wasn’t left with any lingering doubts as to his cyborg status.

I found this morning’s desperate spin-doctoring by WTOP commentator Cal Thomas absolutely hilarious, in that it so obviously ignored reality in order to paint a “those damned liberals are doomed” picture. Mark Plotkin’s analysis, on the other hand, sounded as if he’d actually watched the debate, presenting successess and failures on both sides. The two are usually held up as a study in contrast — Thomas conservative, Plotkin liberal. But it appears that one of the two is so frantic that he’ll happily toe the party line, reality be damned.


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