"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Wednesday Morning Quarterback 

In the long-awaited brawl between Darth Vader and Sunny Jim, the winner remains uncertain (unless, of course, you're an undecided voter, in which case the clear winner was the Senator from North Carolina). The losers, however, are easy to identify: The Empty Flight Suit is the biggest loser, having been finally revealed as obviously less qualified to be President than his opponent, his opponent's running mate, or even his own running mate. Also in the loser column is any American (myself included) who wasted 90 minutes we can never get back watching this crap, instead of watching the Minnesota Twins demolish those other Princes of Darkness, the New York Yankees.

In the light of a new day, however, the story is (predictably) Cheney's lack of casual acquaintance with anything vaguely resembling "truth." Let's put this as politely and charitably as the facts will allow: Dick Cheney is a lying sack of ferret vomit.

The highest density of lies-per-word-uttered came during this passage:
You're [sic] hometown newspaper has taken to calling you "Senator Gone." You've got one of the worst attendance records in the United States Senate.

Now, in my capacity as Vice President, I am the President of the 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.

Well, let's see. That's five sentences, and three whoppers. We have a winner!

First of all, Edwards' hometown newspaper (the Raleigh News & Observer) has never called him "Senator Gone." The quote comes from the Pilot, a weekly paper in the bustling metropolis of Southern Pines, North Carolina (about 20 miles from Edwards' boyhood home in Robbins, for those of you who left your atlas in your other pants). And what does the Pilot think of its newfound notoriety? Not much, it seems:
It’s not every day that a non-daily paper in a small town gets mentioned in a nationally televised debate in prime time. But it happened to The Pilot Tuesday night.

“His hometown newspaper has taken to calling him ‘Senator Gone,’” Vice President Richard Cheney said of his Democratic challenger, Sen. John Edwards.

Well, not exactly.

The Pilot hasn’t “taken to calling him” anything. In fact, the vice president’s obscure reference sent us scrambling to our library. And sure enough, we did publish an editorial 15 months ago, on June 25, 2003, headlined, “Edwards Should Do His Day Job.” In it, we noted that Sen. Jesse Helms used to be called “Senator No.” And we added: “Four and a half years into his first term, John Edwards is becoming known as Senator Gone.”

The reference was to Edwards’ frequent absences from the Senate floor as he traveled here and there (mostly there) pursuing his presidential ambitions.

But we also wrote: “Members of the senator’s staff point out that Edwards’ attendance record this year has been better than the three other Democratic senators who are campaigning for president — Joe Lieberman, Richard Gephardt and Bob Graham. And the aides also say none of the votes Edwards missed was close, so his presence on the floor would not have changed the outcome.”

Thanks for the plug, Mr. Vice President. We’re proud to count you among our many readers.

Second, Cheney claims that he's "up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session," which is absolute poppycock. In fact, the record shows that Cheney presided over the Senate exactly twice in the last four years. On all other occasions (say, when our Dick is hunkered down in a secure, undisclosed location), a rotating President Pro Tem presides. Edwards himself presided twice - the same number as Cheney.

Finally, and most egregious, is Cheney's gratuitous lie that "The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight." Gratuitous - and stupid, because it is so easily refuted. Here's a photo of Cheney and Edwards together in 2001. Here's a photo from 2003 of the two of them together at Elizabeth Dole's swearing-in as a Senator. Finally, it appears as though the two of them met on at least one other occasion, when they both appeared on Tim Russert's show.

But these are small lies. Let's look at the big lie:
The Senator has got his facts wrong. I have not
suggested there's a connection between Iraq and 9/11.

Oh, really, "Dick"? Then what was this (from Meet the Press, September 14, 2003) all about:
Now, is there a connection between the Iraqi government and the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93? We know, as I say, that one of the perpetrators of that act did, in fact, receive support from the Iraqi government after the fact. With respect to 9/11, of course, we’ve had the story that’s been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we’ve never been able to develop anymore of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don’t know.

Sounds like some kind of suggested "connection" to my ears, but what do I know? I'm just a humble voter.

Cheney's biggest screwup wasn't a lie, per se, but an unfortunate misstatement:
Well, the reason they keep mentioning Halliburton is because they're trying to throw up a smoke screen. They know the charges are false. They know if you go, for example, to factcheck.com, an independent website sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania, you can get the specific details, with respect to Halliburton.

Any listener who surfed over to factcheck.com found him or herself redirected to Kerry supporter George Soros'georgesoros.com (it is not entirely clear how this redirection came about, but it appears to have resulted from some quick thinking by one or more Kerry supporters employed by the Cayman Islands firm that actually owns the dormant domain "factcheck.com"). In any case, I'm not sure that Cheney really wanted people to be looking at the real factcheck.org, anyway:
In fact, we did post an article pointing out that Cheney hasn't profited personally while in office from Halliburton's Iraq contracts, as falsely implied by a Kerry TV ad. But Edwards was talking about Cheney's responsibility for earlier Halliburton troubles. And in fact, Edwards was mostly right.

Edwards' performance was certainly less than perfect - in particular, he missed an easy cheap shot: When asked whether a mere six years in the Senate qualified him to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, he should have responded by comparing that experience to Bush's six years as governor of Texas prior to his own appointment to the office. Also, he was not as well prepared as I might have liked (for instance, he should have had Cheney's Meet the Press quote about imaginary ties between Iraq and al Qaeda close at hand, with a pinpoint citation), and he sometimes seemed to giggle like a teenage girl meeting Britney Spears ("Oops! I broke the rules again!"). But in general, he held up well in a contest against probably the smartest man in the Bush White House, and he kept the ball rolling for his boss' next big test on Friday.

Also, he didn't lie every time he opened his mouth. That oughta be good for something.




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