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October 06, 2004

What gravitas?

Cheney disgraced himself last night. Cheney had more to prove than Edwards. He has been the Republicans' touchstone grownup for the last four years. Instead of showing grace under pressure, Cheney was rude, defensive, and peevish. Far from projecting gravitas, Cheney played petulant old duffer to Bush's petulant child.

Edwards deftly kept Cheney on the defensive all night. Cheney deals poorly with frustration. Edwards' needling kept Cheney on edge and brought out all of his worst attributes: the insults, the lying, the sneering, the slightly incoherent micromanagerial rants, the curt refusals to follow up questions. Cheney completely rolled over on the Halliburton questions. His response, "I'd need more than 30 seconds to answer those charges," while true, was hardly encouraging.

As Matt Yglesias points out, Edwards demolished Cheney in the domestic policy segment:

Edwards positively owned Cheney. Not only does Edwards ooze compassion, but Cheney couldn't even feign any sort of interest in the subject matter.

Not only was Cheney unable to articulate his party's policies, he was unable to summon the deceny to feign concern for the good people of Cleveland. As Froomkin says, TV does not like mean.

Afterwards, Cheney wouldn't even rise from his chair to shake hands with Edwards. All told, Cheney was an incredibly poor sport for a guy who holds an ostensibly ceremonial office.


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The key word, alas, being "ostensibly."

You know, I'm so used to Cheney's baldface lying, in pretty much every public appearance he's made in the past four years, that his disgraceful performance in this debate didn't faze me as much as it really should. As John Emerson said over on Seeing The Forest, "I don't know what the rules are for scoring formal debates, but if they allow people to win debates by lying, we should ignore them." (And Steve Gilliard notes that Cheney didn't even try to defend himself against the most serious charges Edwards leveled at him, merely dismissing them with a sneer and a growl.)

The media are finally -- finally -- starting to take Dick to task on this. What he though would be a smug little zinger -- "the first time I've ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight" -- has completely blown up in his face. Of course, in and of itself, this is no big thing, but (A) Gore was dubbed a "serial exaggerator" for much less, and (B) it's a wedge to open up some discussion of Cheney's really significant lies -- on the 9/11-Iraq connection, on Afghanistan, on Halliburton, on Allawi, on Zarqawi, on A.Q. Khan, on the Medicare drug benefit, on the $87 billion, Kerry's congressional record -- hell, is there anything Cheney didn't lie about last night? "I never met you" is just the beginning -- hopefully it spurs a more thorough vetting of what has got to be one of the most dishonest debate performances in American history.

But the lie about Edwards is even worse in context, as it arose out of Cheney's statement that he presides over the Senate, implying that he is there every Tuesday when the Senate in session when, according to multiple blogs, he's only been there two whole times in the last 3+ years (probably when there was a chance he would need to break a tie). Lying about Edwards and lying about himself. Geez.

It's actually very nice to see Cheney taken down as a serial liar. I'm hoping the Daily Show will carry on in that vein tonight.

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