Tuesday's Dick Cheney-John Edwards vice presidential debate, like other vice presidential debates, will have virtually no impact on the outcome of the election. Yet it was a lot more informative - and feisty - than last week's presidential debate.
Based on what they saw and how successful the candidates' "spinners" are in the aftermath of the debate, viewers will have to decide for themselves who "won." But Vice President Cheney likely blunted the momentum John Kerry built up in his debate with President Bush. Cheney got in some licks that Bush didn't.
Chief among them is Kerry's sorry voting record on national defense and national security issues during his 20 years in the U.S. Senate. He belonged to that body of congressional leftists who distrusted American power more than Soviet power. He voted against most weapons systems that helped win the Cold War; he was for a nuclear freeze that could have lost us the Cold War; and he opposed strengthening the CIA, which has cost our nation dearly in terms of recruiting human intelligence.
Cheney called attention to the fact that, although Kerry and Edwards speak of creating a far better coalition to fight terrorism and democratize Iraq, Kerry voted against supporting just such an international coalition put together in 1991 to drive Iraq out of Kuwait.
Cheney noted that some tough talk during a presidential campaign - "We'll hunt down the terrorists and kill them wherever they are" - cannot undo Kerry's long anti-defense, anti-national security record.
This includes, incidentally, both Sens. Kerry and Edwards voting against funding the overthrow of Saddam Hussein after first voting to authorize it. The vice president pointed out that when Kerry and Edwards voted for the war, polls showed the nation backed it - but when Howard Dean's candidacy energized the anti-war wing of the Democratic Party, the two senators voted against funding the troops.
If Kerry and Edwards won't stand up to Howard Dean, Cheney asked, how can you expect them to stand up to al-Qaida? Good question.
The latter half of the debate was supposed to center on domestic issues, but it kept drifting back to Iraq and foreign policy. This election year it's not "the economy, stupid," so much as it's "the war on terror, stupid."
As long as that's the case, it's hard to see voters turning the security of our country over to a couple of guys who can "talk the talk," but have never demonstrated a willingness to "walk the walk."