Edwards Fails

So disappointing. Not just the debate, but the evenness of the press spin afterword. The fact is, Cheney came as close to steamrolling John Edwards as he could have come while still allowing the press to call it a draw with a straight face.

Cheney was credible and steady. He exuded competence and gravitas. Edwards will never be a Cheney, that much is obvious, but he was still worse than he needed to be. Edwards batted his eyelashes and flashed his pearly smile between questions, seeming as if he was more interested in getting the moderator and audience to admire his charm than to take him seriously as a potential president.

The task that Edwards failed at was similar to John Kerry’s: Don’t just slip a few negative details into answers filled with meaningless, boilerplate platitudes. Stay on message and drive the point home, forcing the other side to either answer the charge or concede the point.

For example, we knew Cheney would dodge questions about, say, Halliburton. But it was Edwards’ job to call attention to the fact that he avoided the issue, and then tell the American people why.

“The vice president never responded to the the issue of cutting soldiers’ combat pay while sending them into Iraq, because it is a fact, and it will stand up to the light of the truth well after this debate, and he knows it.”

“The vice president didn’t address the outsourcing of jobs because his administration supports it. It’s a fact, and one that they prefer not to own up to when confronted by the American people.”

“This administration sent 40,000 troops into battle without body aromor. It’s a fact, and the vice president knows it, and it’s wrong. No parent should have to take up a collection here at home to provide their son or daughter with basic equipment in Iraq.”

“In addition to being the first president in 70 years to lose jobs, George Bush refuses to even acknowledge that millions of Americans are underemployed, a situation so bad that parents are competing with their children for minimum-wage jobs. The fact is, this administration would rather cover up the problem by counting McDonalds jobs as ‘manufacturing‘ jobs because they make hamburgers. George Bush refuses to accept the reality of what’s going on in America, and the middle class is hurting as a result.”

And it goes on, and on, and on. Bush opposed 9/11 commission and the Department of Homeland Security. He didn’t fully fund No Child Left Behind. He still hasn’t caught Osama bin Laden.

Edwards’ mentioned most of these criticisms, but the problem was how. His occasional jabs were quick and forgettable; he never stuck to them and made them the focal point of what will be beamed into millions of households over the next three days. Edwards left us with very few takeaways, when the story could have been how Cheney was too stubborn and ultraconservative to even admit a mistake in voting against the Department of Education, against Head Start, against Meals-on-Wheels for seniors, against a resolution for freeing Nelson Mandela or against a Martin Luther King holiday.

Cheney won this debate because he successfully portrayed Kerry as vaccilating and unsteady. He also revealed how tremendously unready John Edwards is for this job, and undoubtedly left Democrats wishing they could sub in a Joe Biden to close the gravitas gap.

I still think John Kerry will win this race. The two additional cracks at Bush alone should ensure that. But seeing as how the Democrats have been so consistently outmaneuvered by the Republicans in this campaign, if Kerry does lose, tonight’s debate will be one of many reasons why.

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5 Responses to Edwards Fails

  1. Dean Esmay says:

    Well actually there are answers to every one of those charges that you just made, and many won’t stand up to the light of day. That may be why he didn’t hammer them all home like that. ;-)

  2. justin says:

    The VP debate was a draw. So the real story about the VP debate is not the comparison between Edwards and Cheney, it is the comparison between Bush and Cheney. Cheney makes a stronger case for the Bush administration than George Bush does, and that says little about overall strength of the Republican ticket with George Bush as president.

  3. Aaron W. Benson says:

    Re: Dean’s comments about the charges being rebutable and/or specious…

    Maybe so, but that’s never stopped Bush-Cheney. :-)

    How do you think they got ahead in this race, anyway? Their record?

  4. Aaron W. Benson says:

    Justin: I agree. People may say Edwards isn’t ready for prime time, but he’s at the bottom of the ticket. When your own president can’t make the case for his actions, that says a lot more.

  5. Dean Esmay says:

    Aaron: spoken like a partisan, my man. The administration has answered every one of your charges more than once. Perhaps you just haven’t been listening? Heh.

    It appears from where I stand that what you want most is red meat. You want Kerry and Edwards to be ferocious, tearing into their opponents right and left. It’s pretty clear to me that they’ve chosen a pretty negative attack already and probably realize that if they’re much more negative than they are now, they’ll delight the Bush haters but will alienate the middle. I suspect they are correct in that.

    I frankly think they’re doing a pretty good job. On the record, Bush clearly deserves re-election in my view, both for his masterful handling of the econmy–he inherited a worse incoming economic situation than any president since Franklin Roosevelt–and for his excellent handling of foreign policy. And I say that not as a Republican (I’m not) or a conservative (I’m not), but merely because it’s my analysis.

    The Bushies could do a better job of defending themselves. Bush himself certainly could. Cheney did a good job on defense, he really did. I wish Bush were that good at it.

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