Sharp attacks, Accusations in Vice Presidential Debate

by Staff

By Steven Thomma and Matt Stearns, KRT Campus CLEVELAND — Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen.John Edwards slammed away at each other Tuesday night over the war inIraq and the war on terrorism in a debate marked by sharp personalattacks delivered in unemotional tones.

Cheney was aggressive from the start, repeatedly challengingSen. John Kerry’s senate record, accusing him of being too weak andvacillating to defend the United States against terrorists, andrepeatedly saying of Edwards, “the senator’s got his facts wrong.”

Edwards was equally aggressive, accusing President Bush andCheney of misleading the country about Iraq, first by suggesting thatIraq was linked to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the UnitedStates, and then by trying to suggest that conditions there arebetter than they are. He repeatedly accused Cheney of distorting thefacts to mislead the public.

Sitting across from each other at a table, the two men spokeharsh words at each other in civil tones on issues including Iraq,terrorism, budget deficits, AIDS, health care and taxes. Severaltimes they glared straight into each other’s eyes as one accused theother of, in effect, lying. But their voices never rose in anger.

The two men chided each other several times on the shortcomingsof each other’s experience.

“Frankly senator, you have a record that’s not verydistinguished,” Cheney said.

“Mr. Vice President,” Edwards countered later, “I don’t thinkthe country can take four more years of this type of experience.”

Edwards criticized Cheney for his role as former chiefexecutive officer of the Halliburton oil-services conglomerate andCheney criticized frivolous lawsuits by trial lawyers, Edwards’former profession.

It was the only debate the two vice presidential candidateswill have, and it was unlikely to have a major impact on theelection, as few voters make their decisions based on the second halfof the ticket. Nevertheless, it was a strongly argued exchange byboth men on topics at the heart of the election.

Cheney defended the war in Iraq as part of the broader war onterrorism and said not only that it was the right thing to do, butalso that significant progress was being made.

“It’s important to look at all of our developments in Iraqwithin the broader context of the global war on terror,” Cheney said.”This was the most likely nexus between the terrorists and weapons ofmass destruction.”

He lambasted Kerry’s record and credentials.

“I don’t believe he has the qualities we need in a commander inchief,” Cheney said in a direct assault on Kerry. “I don’t think,based on his record, that he would pursue the kind of aggressivepolicies that need to be pursued if we’re going to defeat theseterrorists … I’m not challenging John Kerry’s patriotism … Whatwe question is his judgment — and his judgment’sflawed. And the record’s there for anybody who wants to look at it.”

Edwards accused Cheney of misleading the people about Iraq.

“Mr. Vice President, you are still not being straight with theAmerican people,” Edwards said in his opening answer. “I mean, thereality, you and George Bush continue to tell people, first, thatthings are going well in Iraq. The American people don’t need us toexplain this to them. They see it over the television every singleday.”

Edwards noted that L. Paul Bremer, the former U.S.administrator in Iraq, said this week that the United States neededmore troops all along in Iraq.

“They didn’t have enough troops to secure the country. Theyalso didn’t have a plan to win the peace. They also didn’t put thealliances together to make this successful,” Edwards said.

“We need a fresh start. We need a president who will speed upthe training of the Iraqis, get more staff in for doing that. We needto speed up the reconstruction, so the Iraqis see some tangiblebenefit. We need a new president who has the credibility, which JohnKerry has, to bring others into this effort.”

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