Wednesday, October 06, 2004

In Slate, Fred Kaplan dings John Edwards for not countering all Cheney's lies in yesterday's debate. But he hasn't got room to list all the major ones himself, though the ones he does reel off are whoppers.

For instance, I'm still looking around for a fact-check comprehensive enough to call Cheney on the carpet for his remarks on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born terrorist who has lately been on the news chopping American heads off. Cheney said Zarqawi was in making ricin in Baghdad before the war, and used that as evidence for Saddam's support for terrorism. Zarqawi was indeed making ricin in Iraq before the war -- in a camp in the northern "no-fly zone", which Saddam did not control, and which we could have bombed into oblivion at any time. The Pentagon had plans to do exactly that, and according to an NBC news report which has stood unchallenged for months, the Bush administration wouldn't let them execute because it "feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam."

Predictably, the debate didn't get anyone who was already committed to a candidate to change their minds about anything. Kevin Drum notes that an ABC News poll of registered voters pretty much reflected their party affiliations, which were biased Republican because more Republicans stayed home to watch the debate. But a CBS poll of uncommitted voters showed a decisive victory for Edwards.

One last comment. Like Josh Marshall, I thought it looked like Cheney's heart wasn't really in it towards the end of the debate. But it looked to me like there was a definite moment when his heart went out of it -- when Edwards praised Cheney's relationship with his gay daughter. At long last, that may have, however briefly, rekindled some basic sense of decency.

More: Here's a half decent fact check from, the site that Cheney was trying to refer you to on Edwards's remarks on Halliburton -- except that they actually say Edwards was pretty much right. And they strain awfully hard to find stuff to pin on Edwards. On the Halliburton business, they say he erred by talking about fines paid when Cheney was CEO -- rather than for fines paid later for gross misconduct that occurred while Cheney was CEO. They also ding Edwards for reporting Congressional appropriations for Iraq as "the cost of the war" -- including tens of billions of dollars that have been appropriated but not yet spent. The best rejoinder to that is at Pandagon: "By that standard, my car cost $622." And of course, nothing about Zarqawi...

Yet more: Josh Marshall relays a reader's comment that Edwards may have been deliberately leaving some of Cheney's lies for post-debate spin. It's apparently sometimes good courtroom tactics, when you have a witness caught in a lie, to wait to point it out until they're off the witness stand, and less able to do damage control.


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