• 2005-02-21

    Journal Entry: comment on Vice Presidential debate


    Gang Wu, for Jour 607, Journalistic Writing, due October 12, 2004

    First I want to say that both Cheney and Edwards have apparently drawn on the lessons of the first presidential debate between George W. Bush and John Kerry. They tried their best to avoid showing contempt, intolerance, or anger. They kept their composition very good. That may also explain why this debate looked so boring – there were no dramas as Kerry and Bush did in their first debate. But that does not necessarily mean Cheney and Edward’s talk was pointless. Actually they were well prepared and did a good job in picking on each other’s weak points.
    From the scene of the debate, or technically speaking, I could not tell who have won this time.
    The two talked about war, economy and even gay marriage. But I will focus on the war part, because the increasing casualty and unclear future of Iraq are making more and more people rethink the meaning and consequence of the war. The answer has been surfacing now, which is that it is a wrong war in a wrong place and at a wrong time. When American people woke up from the vengeful emotion against the 9/11 terrorists and all bad guys, they realized that Saddam Hussein is not the mastermind of 9/11, Osama Bin Laden is. But Bush is insisting on his justification of war, which makes it a deadly weak point for his reelection. I will predict that how the two candidacies hold their stands in dealing with the ongoing Iraq war and terrorism issues will determine the outcome of the election in November.
    As Kerry did in his first debate, Edwards also successfully held on to Bush’s weak point that there is no connection between the attacks of September 11th and Saddam Hussein. The point was strengthened when Edwards emphasized that the 9/11 commission and Bush’s own secretary of State had said it, and “the CIA is now about to report that the connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein is tenuous at best.” Even the secretary of Defense said the previous day that he knows of no hard evidence of the connection. By saying “we need to be straight with the American people,” Edwards is suggesting the Bush administration is lying to its people.
    Cheney did not flinch or lose temper. He tried to reason. He said we should look at all of our developments in Iraq within the broader context of the global war on terror. He said we had to go after the terrorists wherever we might find them,  He said we also had to go after state sponsors of terror, those who might provide sanctuary or safe harbor for terror. Then he stressed the connection between Saddam and Qaeda. Saddam Hussein had been for years listed on the state sponsor of terror; that he had established relationships with Abu Nidal, who operated out of Baghdad; he paid $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers; and he had an established relationship with al Qaeda, Cheney said. It sounded reasonable, but the interlink of Abu Nidal and the little amount of money are not convincing enough. And what about the terrorist sponsor Afghanistan? How dare he talk about the “possibility” of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
    Edwards followed his attacks to Bush’s dealing with Afghanistan. He pointed out that the real haven of 9/11 terrorists was ignored when the US army used to move along well. The troops were turned to Iraq. When Cheney countered by describing a rosy picture of a new democracy taking shape in Afghanistan, Edwards listed strong points to show that the country is still in a mess. Afghanistan produce 75 percent of opium in the world. The country is still controlled by warlords. Most important of all, the eastern part of the country where American’s real enemy Osama Bin Laden hides is still out of control.
    I want to point out that John Kerry camp’s anti-war stand is not decisive at all. They know the invasion to Iraq is a wrong war, but they do not dare to declare that the US should not launch the war from the very beginning, and if Kerry takes over the administration, they will pull out the army and end the war right away. It made me suspicious of the real interests of the United States in invading Iraq, that what critiques in the world are saying is true: the US wants oil. If Kerry and Edwards do not make it clear that the US should stay away from other countries’ domestic politics in name of building democracy, I will conclude that Kerry is only taking advantage of the American people’s decent anti-war sentiment in order to win his presidency. The ambiguity also weakens Kerry’s appeal to the Americans. He or Edwards would have to struggle to find that Bush’s mistake in the war is lack of preparation and planning, and what Kerry could do if he wins is to speed up training of Iraqi personnel and hopefully pull out the US army earlier.
    Cheney also tried to grab Kerry and Edwards’ weak points. The well-known flip-flop may be one. Senator John Kerry’s voting for and against war in different times has long been laughed at by Bush camp. Cheney used this to question how a state leader with inconsistency could lead the American people to fight against terrorism. He also questioned Kerry’s notion of “global test.” Actually these two “weak points” are not weak points, or they could be transformed into strong points for Kerry and Edwards. Kerry used to be for war, now against war. It shows that one might make mistake, but now he is clear and change his mind in the right direction. But Bush made mistakes and never admitted that or correct it. It’s even worse. I also applaud for Kerry’s global test thinking. Edwards made it clear in his debate that the US needs to win credibility from the world so as to win allies in the war against terrorism.
    A wise leader should not only show how strong he is to lead his people to fight all enemies. It should be someone who can fight when bullied but who is good at making friends and make sure there is no fight. ENDITEM

    <strong>Teacher's note:
    Gang, Good job. Very thoughtful and interesting analysis of the debate. I like the fact that you included good backgrond, which added a different dimension to what they said in the debate.</strong>