BY JAMES TARANTO
Wednesday, October 6, 2004 3:19 p.m. EDT
of the Tube This Afternoon
We're scheduled to appear on CNBC's "Kudlow & Cramer" this afternoon,
discussing last night's vice presidential debate. The program airs from 5 to
6 p.m. Eastern Time, and our segment is scheduled for the last 10 minutes of
the hour. As usual, check your local listings.
Two decades ago, when we were a teenager, we knew an older man named Paul. Paul
was in his late 50s, a reformed alcoholic and born-again Christian, and he had
very conservative views on social issues. In particular, he had a strong antipathy
to homosexuality. And he taught us a lesson about the complexity of political
From the description above, you'd think he was a member of the "religious
right" and thus a reliable Republican voter. But in fact he was a diehard
Democrat who detested Ronald Reagan. Why? Well, Paul worked for the U.S. Postal
Service, which means he was a blue-collar worker, a federal employee and a union
Given his age, he presumably became a Democrat during the FDR and Truman years,
when the main difference between the two parties had to do with economic class,
with the Dems the party of the workingman. Most of today's "social issues"
weren't even on the political radar at that time; what liberals today call "extreme
right-wing" views were, for better or worse, merely a matter of longstanding
We thought of Paul during last night's debate, when John Edwards said this
during an exchange on same-sex marriage:
I think the vice president and his wife love their daughter. I think they
love her very much. And you can't have anything but respect for the fact that
they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the
fact that they embrace her. It's a wonderful thing. And there are millions
of parents like that who love their children, who want their children to be
Why bring the Cheneys' daughter's private life into this? Here's a theory:
At present, a vast majority of Americans oppose same-sex marriage; when it comes
up to a statewide vote--whether in a red state or blue--voters typically reject
it by majorities ranging from 60% to 80%. This means there are a lot of Democrats
who, like Paul 20 years ago, belong to their party despite its views
on social issues. Among these, we would surmise, are many black and other minority
voters whose party identification grew out of Lyndon Johnson's civil rights
triumphs in the 1960s.
We don't agree with the gay-rights crowd that "bigotry" is behind
all opposition to same-sex marriage, but there's no doubt that some opponents
harbor antigay prejudice. Were these the voters John Edwards was addressing
when he brought Cheney's daughter into the debate?
The Kedwards Two-Step
Having watched the first two debates, we can now discern a theme: Kedwards,
trying to appeal to two different sets of voters, are sending two divergent
sets of messages. We noted
Friday that on numerous occasions during last week's debate John Kerry said
something strong and sensible, followed by a "but" clause that contradicted
or qualified it. President
Bush laid out some of the foreign policy contradictions in a speech this
Last week in our debate he once again came down firmly on every side of the
Iraq war. He stated that Saddam Hussein was a threat, and that America had
no business removing that threat. Sen. Kerry said our soldiers and Marines
are not fighting for a mistake, but also called the liberation of Iraq a "colossal
error." He said we need to do more to train Iraqis, but he also said
we shouldn't be spending so much money over there. He said he wants to hold
a summit meeting--so he can invite other countries to join what he calls "the
wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." He said terrorists are
pouring across the Iraqi border, but also said that fighting those terrorists
is a diversion from the war on terror. You hear all that, and you can understand
why somebody would make a face.
John Edwards was at it last night too. "There is no connection between
the attacks of Sept. 11 and Saddam Hussein," he declared. While this statement
now appears to be true, in the sense that Saddam was not a conspirator in the
attacks, pleading the innocence of America's enemies isn't an appealing message
outside the antiwar left. And, as The
Weekly Standard notes, two years ago Edwards did acknowledge connections
of a different kind:
- "Others argue that if even our allies support us, we should not support
this resolution because confronting Iraq now would undermine the long-term
fight against terrorist groups like al Qaeda. Yet, I believe that this is
not an either-or choice. Our national security requires us to do both, and
we can."--Oct. 10, 2002
- "The terrorist threat against America is all too clear. Thousands of terrorist
operatives around the world would pay anything to get their hands on Saddam's
arsenal, and there is every reason to believe that Saddam would turn his weapons
over to these terrorists. No one can doubt that if the terrorists of Sept. 11
had had weapons of mass destruction, they would have used them. On Sept. 12,
2002, we can hardly ignore the terrorist threat and the serious danger that
Saddam would allow his arsenal to be used in aid of terror."--Sept. 12,
Last night Edwards appealed to swing voters by acknowledging that "Saddam
Hussein was a threat that needed to be addressed directly." Then he moved
back to the left by saying that if the U.N. weapons inspectors "had time
to do their job, they would have discovered what we now know, that in fact Saddam
Hussein had no weapons, that in fact Saddam Hussein has no connection with 9/11,
that in fact Saddam Hussein has little or no connection with al Qaeda."
It's a similar story on domestic policy. Kedwards want to cut taxes (yours)
and raise taxes (on the other fellow, that rich scoundrel). They "believe
that marriage is between a man and a woman," as Edwards said last night,
but "we should not use the Constitution to divide this country."
Not all these positions are contradictory, and we even agree in part with that
last one (we oppose both court-mandated same-sex marriage and the Federal Marriage
Amendment). But when it comes to most issues, it's hard to tell which "side"
In domestic policy, at least, this reflects smart politics given that the Democrats'
ideological base is committed to such unpopular things as higher taxes. Bill
Clinton after all was the master of triangulation. In foreign policy, we have
to agree with the president that sending "mixed messages" is dangerously
irresponsible. But even there, it's probably Kedwards' best hope for victory.
They have to be hawkish enough to appeal to swing voters yet dovish enough to
hold their base, which otherwise might swing to Nader or just not turn out.
Hence their votes for the war and against funding the troops. (Cheney on the
latter got in one of his best digs of the night: "If they couldn't stand
up to the pressures that Howard Dean represented, how can we expect them to
stand up to al Qaeda?")
Thus Kedwards try to tell both sides what they want to hear. But that also
means each side hears what the other side wants to hear. To judge by the enthusiasm
Kerry has encountered on the campaign trail since Thursday, the left-wing base
was happy with what he had to say. They heard what came after the "but"s
and shrugged off what came before. It remains to be seen whether swing voters
cooperated and did the opposite.
Us a Break
Here's another bit of class-warfare demagoguery from Edwards:
The country needs to know that under what they have put in place and want
to put in place, a millionaire sitting by their [sic] swimming pool, collecting
their statements to see how much money they're making, make their money from
dividends, pays a lower tax rate than the men and women who are receiving
paychecks for serving on the ground in Iraq.
Wrong, according to the Internal Revenue Service Web site:
If you serve in a combat zone as an enlisted person or as a warrant officer
(including commissioned warrant officers) for any part of a month, all your
military pay received for military service that month is excluded from gross
income. For commissioned officers, the monthly exclusion is capped at the
highest enlisted pay, plus any hostile fire or imminent danger pay received.
page notes that Iraq and neighboring countries have been considered a combat
zone since Jan. 17, 1991. Also eligible for the combat exemption are those serving
in Afghanistan and parts of the former Yugoslavia and vicinity.
Did anyone else notice that John Edwards was blinking like crazy? To find out
what that means, we consulted a March 1988 article from Psychology Today:
Increased blinking is often a sign of physical or psychological stress. People
blink more when angry or excited, for example. And one of the earliest studies
in blink research determined that anxiety can increase the blink rate: While
courtroom witnesses were under hostile cross-examination they blinked much
Richard Nixon is a case in point, says Stern, who first became interested
in blinking during the Watergate era. "President Nixon's blink rate markedly
increased when he was asked a question he was not prepared to answer," [psychologist
John] Stern says. "His speech was well-controlled and did not manifest other
symptoms of anxiety, but you could see it in his eyes. Most politicians have
learned to disguise feelings except in ways they cannot inhibit."
Edwards can take heart that Nixon was elected vice president 52 years ago.
All That's Missing Is a Canal and Panama
"We have a plan for Iraq. . . . We have a plan
for success. . . . We have to do better. We have a plan. . . .
We have plans on both of those subjects. . . . John Kerry and
I have a plan to do something about it. . . . We have proposed
a plan to keep cases out of the system that don't belong there. . . .
We think we have a plan to keep cases that don't belong in the system
out, but we also do what they haven't done. . . . We have a serious
health care plan. . . . We have a clear plan to improve
our public schools."--John Edwards, vice presidential debate, Oct. 5
in Every Way
One of Dick Cheney's best zingers last night was when he said to John Edwards:
"In my capacity as vice president, I am the president of Senate, the presiding
officer. I'm up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session. The first
time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight."
It turns out Cheney was mistaken, as the Associated Press reports:
On Feb. 1, 2001, the vice president thanked Edwards by name at a Senate prayer
breakfast and sat beside him during the event.
On April 8, 2001, Cheney and Edwards shook hands when they met off-camera
during a taping of NBC's "Meet the Press," moderator Tim Russert said Wednesday
On Jan. 8, 2003, the two met when the first-term North Carolina senator accompanied
Elizabeth Dole to her swearing-in by Cheney as a North Carolina senator, Edwards
aides also said.
Edwards did remember, and at a postdebate rally, he accused Cheney of "still
not being straight with the American people":
"The vice president said that the first time I met Senator Edwards was tonight
when we walked on the stage. I guess he forgot the time we sat next to each
other for a couple hours about three years ago. I guess he forgot the time
we met at the swearing in of another senator. So, my wife Elizabeth reminded
him on the stage," Edwards said as the crowd roared.
According to Edwards' staff, Cheney replied, "Oh, yeah."
As it happens, we met Dick Cheney once, shaking his hand after a dinner in
Washington. We remember meeting him because he is the vice president of the
United States. We would be surprised, indeed flattered, if he remembered us.
Muntner likens Edwards to "a 15 year old girl sniffing about the High
School football Captain, 'I guess he forgot about the time three years ago when
he sat next to me on the bus!' It conveys that they aren't even in the same
Write Early and Often--III
The Wall Street Journal received this comment by e-mail yesterday, signed "Willis
I was going to vote for Bush but then I saw the Vice Presidential debate.
John Edwards is so CUTE!!!!
He hit every answer out of the ballpark! And his hair RULES!!!!!
I'm DEFINITELY voting for Kerry/Edwards now!
This election is so OVER! America is finally going to get the President
Why don't those stupid Republican just give up already???? I mean, they
don't even have good HAIRCUTS.
The e-mail was sent at 4:58 p.m., four hours and two minutes before the debate
began. Our initial reaction was to be pleasantly surprised that the Democratic
National Committee's boilerplate is so much more entertaining than for last
week's Bush-Kerry debate. But alas, it turns out the actual
DNC boilerplate is depressingly similar to last week's:
The debate between John Edwards and Dick Cheney presented Americans with
a stark choice.
John Edwards shared an optimistic vision for the next four years: Genuine
leadership in the war on terror. An economic growth plan that creates
jobs and keeps them here at home. Affordable health care for every American.
A plan to make America stronger at home and respected abroad.
But Dick Cheney had nothing to share but attacks and excuses. As the architect
of four years of failed Bush administration policies, Cheney had a lot to
answer for in this debate. But he failed to explain those failures, instead
attacking John Kerry over and over again.
I want a plan for the future, not attacks and excuses. The vice presidential
debate made it clear that John Kerry and John Edwards are the right choice.
Journal letters editor reports having received a mere 800 of these as of 9
this morning. Meanwhile, readers keep e-mailing us sightings of the Bush-Kerry
Francisco Chronicle reports (bottom of column) receiving "no fewer
than four letters" declaring Edwards the winner before the debate. The
Enquirer reports receiving this nonboilerplate e-mail:
My wife and I are an undecided voters [sic] in Florida. My parents are undecided
and live in Ohio. My brother and his wife are undecided and live in Pennsylvania.
That is, we all were undecided until we saw the Edwards-Cheney debate this
evening. After watching Edwards dismantle Cheney, we have all decided to vote
for Kerry-Edwards en masse. And not just the family members I just mentioned;
all of my neighbors happened to be undecided and they all told me after the
debate that they are going to vote for Kerry-Edwards as well. My family members
in Ohio and Pennsylvania report the same thing. In other words, I can say
with great confidence that, as a result of the Edwards demolition of Cheney
this evening, approximately 600 formerly undecided voters have decided to
vote for Kerry-Edwards.
All because Edwards did such a good job tonight.
The Enquirer calls this letter "hot air," because it was received
at 4:58 p.m. (the same time the above letter to the Journal was sent). But the
paper doesn't note, as we did
yesterday, that it fell for the joke last week and published a DNC-generated
Bush-Kerry debate letter.
York Times also waddles in with a piece on phony postdebate spin:
Determined to win the post-debate spin war on Tuesday night, the Bush campaign
called on its supporters to flood the news media with quick declarations that
Vice President Dick Cheney had come out ahead.
Ken Mehlman, Mr. Bush's campaign manager, delivered the request in an e-mail
message to supporters early Tuesday morning.
"Immediately after the debate, visit online polls, chat rooms and discussion
boards and make your voice heard," he said in the note, sent to the six million
supporters on the campaign's e-mail list. "People's perceptions are shaped
as much by their conversations around the water cooler as by the debates themselves."
The note--which is a mirror image of one sent out by the Democrats just before
the first presidential debate last week . . .
Apparently for the Times this story wasn't fit to print until Republicans
got into the act. But the Christian
Science Monitor beat them to this story by more than 20 months.
Emily Litella Alliance
The centerpiece of John Kerry's "plan" for Iraq has been the promise
to use his "credibility" to persuade more "allies" to join
the effort. But today's Washington Times reports that Kerry "conceded yesterday
that he probably will not be able to convince France and Germany to contribute
troops to Iraq if he is elected president":
"Does that mean allies are going to trade their young for our young in body
bags? I know they are not. I know that," he said.
As we first noted in December
2002, Rep. Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat, has been pushing for reinstitution
of the draft as a way of hindering American national security. Rangel believes
conscription would make it harder politically to sustain a war effort. Yesterday
the House brought Rangel's draft bill to a vote, and it failed, 402-2.
The only "aye" votes came from Reps. John Murtha of Pennsylvania and
Pete Stark of California. Rangel voted against his own bill!
Democrats have been trying to scare young voters by claiming President Bush
has a "secret plan" to reintroduce conscription after the election.
"It is a prostitution of the legislative process to take a serious issue
and use it for political purposes on the eve of the election just to say they
are against the draft," the New
York Times quotes Rangel as telling the kettle.
This Worry or Reassure Us?
"Kerry Disagrees With Wife on bin Laden"--headline, Associated Press,
Because He's in Jail
"Report: Saddam Not in Pursuit of Weapons"--headline, Associated Press,
Could've Fooled Us
"Bush-Kerry Battle Can't Strain Friendship"--headline, Philadelphia
Inquirer, Oct. 5
John Kerry Serve in Vietnam?
"Asia Missing From US Election Debate"--headline, Straits Times (Singapore),
One 'How Many' Too Many
A Monday item prompted this comment from reader Rollie Smith:
The piece on unclaimed Marine uniforms takes me back to the piece you did
on the piles of shoes at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. The
guy didn't like your questions. I have questions for the New York Times:
How much unclaimed laundry there was after Sept. 11?
How many prescriptions were never picked up?
How many dental appointments missed?
How many dinner reservations missed?
How many paychecks uncashed?
How many birthday cards and presents never opened?
How many do-it-youself projects never got that last touch-up of paint?
How many cars in the shop had no owners to pick them up?
I could go on. So could you.
We may never know why the uniforms have gone unclaimed, and we'll never
know how many "how manys" after 9/11. But if the uniforms are unclaimed due
to the reason the Times implies, it is because there were too many how manys.
Says There's No Change on Capitol Hill?--II
Remember that item
yesterday on "Congresswoman" Dana Rohrabacher? We thought we were
just having a laugh at the expense of NewsMax.com for getting the wrong sex
when referring to a lawmaker with a name of ambiguous gender. But check out
this Associated Press dispatch on a bill the House passed yesterday to split
the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in three:
"We don't want to create a hyperliberal court in California" by putting the
court's more conservative judges in the two new circuits, said Representative
Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California, who switched her vote.
As we said, when we met Rohrabacher in 1990, he was unmistakably male. But
the AP reporter should know what sex Rohrabacher is now, right? After all, he--the
reporter, we mean, not Rohrabacher--was on the scene to report, right?
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Today on OpinionJournal:
& Outlook: L. Paul Bremer's selective Iraq history.
Rosett: Standing for American principles is more important than being
Evans on Richard Avedon, the man who shot Alger Hiss, the Duke of Windsor
and murderer Dick Hickock.