Thursday, October 07, 2004

Edwards fails this test, and it is a biggie

To expand on my "strategic" comments from my last post, with a few of my own comments thrown in for effect:

Here is the specific Q&A portion of the debate where Edwards gets to talk about why he should be allowed to be a "heartbeat away" from assuming the role of President of the United States:

IFILL: This goes to you, Senator Edwards, and you have two minutes.

Ten men and women have been nominees of their parties since 1976 to be vice president. Out of those ten, you have the least governmental experience of any of them.

What qualifies you to be a heartbeat away?

EDWARDS: The American people want in their president and in their vice president basically three things: They want to know that their president and their vice president will keep them safe. They want to know that they have good judgment. And they want to know that you'll tell them the truth. (All of these are true--but this answer is far from all-encompassing. But more to the point: it's not an answer to the question! And by the way, I don't like being told what I want in my leadership--the reason that this system of government works is because I get to make that decision myself)

John Kerry and I will tell the American people the truth. (Despite the fact that Kerry has a history of misrepresenting his own actions and the things he witnessed--both as far back as 1971, throughout his tenure in the Senate, and as recently as this campaign season)

During the time that I have served on the Intelligence Committee in the Senate, traveling to some of the places we've talked about tonight -- Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Middle East, Turkey -- meeting with the leaders of NATO, I have a very clear idea of what has to be done to keep this country safe. (Okay, that's the start of an answer--let's see if he follows up)

The threats we face: terrorism, killing terrorists and stopping them before they can do damage to us, making sure that we stop the spread of nuclear weapons. I agree with John Kerry from Thursday night, that the danger of nuclear weapons getting in the hands of terrorists is one of the greatest threats that America faces. (it's so dazzling how smart he is on all these big foreign-policy issues. I would've NEVER thought that nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists is a threat--thank goodness for these guys!)

But the one thing that we know from this administration is -- and I -- first of all, I don't claim to have the long political resume that Vice President Cheney has. That's just the truth, and the American people know that and deserve to know it. (Gee, thanks. I'm glad he's so gracious as to think that I deserve to know that. What other obvious facts am I deserving to know? Or, more importantly, what clearly obvious, so-simple-that-you-might-as-well-have-said-that-the-moon-orbits-the-earth facts am I NOT deserving to know?)

But what we know from this administration is that a long resume does not equal good judgment.
(I'll be picky here--we don't KNOW that from this administration. Evidence of the general truth of the statement "experience does not equal good judgment" is overwhelming: what, specifically, is he talking about here?)

Here are the judgments I would make: My first priority would be to keep this country safe. I would find terrorists where they are and stop them and kill them before they do harm to us.
We would stop the spread of nuclear weapons. (these look an awful lot like the same judgments the Bush adminstration has made--maybe the long resume is worth something after all?)

And we would also strengthen this military, which means providing the equipment and training that they need. (is he saying that he doesn't believe that the military HAS the equipment and training that they need? If so, this is the first time he's stated that; if not, than it's a superfluous sentence)

We want to raise the active-duty forces by 40,000, double the special forces so we can find terrorists where they are, and provide the kind of support for families -- health care, housing -- that they deserve while their loved ones are serving and protecting us. (These aren't judgements to be made--they're talking points. BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY: THIS DOESN'T ANSWER THE QUESTION ABOUT HIS QUALIFICATIONS!!!)

Cheney responded to the question on Edwards' qualifications by telling us about what Bush asked him to be able to do when he signed on 4+ years ago, talked about the fact that Cheney always was going to be a soldier for Bush rather than a posturer with future political aspirations, and then in closing said that the most important consideration in choosing a Vice President is choosing someone who could take over--and to be honest, I personally agree that THAT is the biggest test in choosing a VP candidate.

In response to that, Edwards used a 30-second redirect to say this:

EDWARDS: I think the most important thing I've learned from this process is what I now know about John Kerry. (Really? That's the most important thing he's learned from being a major participant in a national campaign? I daresay that you have wasted this opportunity, Senator)

I knew him before. I know him better now. (So what?)

He's the one candidate who's led troops in battle. He was a prosecutor, putting people behind bars to protect neighborhoods from crime. He fought for 100,000 cops on the street, and went with John McCain to Vietnam to find out what happened to our POWs. (SO WHAT??)

And the American people saw for themselves on Thursday night the strength, resolve, and backbone that I, myself, have seen in John Kerry. (Don't tell me what I saw on Thursday night--tell me how what Kerry did on Thursday night has anything to do with the man who would be replacing him if he was incapacitated for some reason)

He is ready to be commander in chief. (BUT WHAT ABOUT YOU???)

Now, I'll be fair by saying that speaking off-the-cuff in these debates opens you to assaults like the one I just launched. Without the ability to look over comments ad naseum--like you get to do in preparing a stump speech--words might get put in the mix that you really wish you hadn't said. And yes, I was relentlessly picky about this--but there's a reason for it. Of all the things that happened in the debate, this was the one that had the most immediate impact to me: Edwards had a chance to stake legitimacy on the world's stage, and he dodged the question.

This is a major miss by Edwards. A soft-serve--but very important--question like "why should you be put in the vital role of the next to assume the reigns in the event something happens to your President", and Edwards' response is nothing other than condescension to a ridiculous degree and a repeating of talking points. He even volunteers for the extra 30 seconds--but not to toot his own horn with experiences or big thinking. No, he thought it was vital to tout the top of his ticket. This, despite the fact that Cheney's response hadn't been particularly attacking of Kerry, and DESPITE THE FACT that the question was all about Edwards' abilities.

WHO IS THIS GUY??? And what claim does he have to be next-in-line for the most important job in our world?

He likes Kerry--I get it. He thought Kerry did a swell job last Thursday--I get it. But what does Edwards bring to the administration? Or even more importantly, what would he be worth to ME if something happens to Kerry in the event that they win this election? I DON'T GET IT!!!

And again, I can't tell you how big this shows up negatively in regards to Kerry's decision-making. He spent a loooong time concentrating on who his running mate should be. The choices were distinct and represented all likes of liberal (and moderate) thinkers in the Democratic party. His choice: this guy. The reasons: well, I'm sure there are some, but I haven't heard a good one yet. And even worse, Edwards hasn't SHOWN me any reason to believe that he would be a suitable fill-in to the Oval Office.

Considering that, among the most important decisions Kerry has had to make, we have had a total miss (VP choice) and two total miscalculations (response to the SBVT and the staging of the DNC as a Veteran's rally), I once again don't see any evidence that Kerry has the ability to govern this country. He can debate, that's for sure--but he can't choose. Or at least he can't choose well. And that has implications of a far greater range than I even have the capacity to write about!


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