Michael Totten

The Edwards And Cheney Debate

Let me begin with a caveat. I only watched the first half of the vice presidential debate, the portion that focused on foreign policy.
I have no idea who “won” or who will be perceived to have won. And I don’t really care.
Both were confident, articulate, knowledgeable, and presidential. Both had some command of the facts, and both were sometimes right. When they were wrong they weren’t offensively or freakishly wrong. There were no Howard Dean moments, in other words. (Although I’m liking Dean more these days. He’s out of his radical phase now.)
When John Edwards said we lost more soldiers in September than in August, and more soldiers in August than in July, and more soldiers in July than in June, he proved he isn’t stuck in denial about the fact that Iraq has taken a turn for the worse. I worry about Bush and Cheney sometimes. Are they even aware that Iraq is on fire? I don’t know. Probably. But I don’t know. They talk about Iraq as though everything is rainbows and sunshine. You don’t have to buy into hysterical doom-mongering to see that Iraq is whacked. And you can’t solve a problem if you can’t even admit a problem exists.
But Edwards seemed to be in denial about something else. He said the United States is taking 90 percent of the casualties in Iraq. Well, senator, welcome to the unipolar world of the American superpower. Our European allies do not have the military capacity to project power as we do. They cannot match us on the battlefield no matter how much they might want to. (And let us not forget that they do not want to.) That’s because they deliberately reduced their military power down to token “me too” levels. They knew — rightly — that we would pick up the slack. So we will pick up the slack. You and John Kerry will never get Europe to pick up your slack. It isn’t politically possible. Nor is it physically possible.
Edwards and Cheney went back and forth like this. Sometimes Cheney was right. Other times Edwards was right. I can imagine that if these two men were working together they could cobble together a plan for success in Iraq that isn’t hampered by Republican chauvinism or left-wing defeatism.
I don’t trust Kerry and Edwards, mostly because of John Kerry. Kerry is the boss, not Edwards. And Kerry has ran a wobbly campaign following a shaky record where he has been consistently on the weak side of national security.
But I don’t trust Bush as much as I used to, in part because he really does appear to be in denial. Also because he has practically no political capital to carry out a foreign policy I basically agree with, and because he is such a polarizing figure he has become an enormous liability.
I would put more trust in a Cheney/Edwards or an Edwards/Cheney ticket than the two options we currently have. Too bad it’s not an option.