A QUIET LITTLE DIVERSION
the one and only Vice Presidential Debate of Election 2000
Sunday, October 8, 2000
by RICHARD E. BERG-ANDERSSON
The one (and only) Vice Presidential Debate- held at Norton Center for the Arts on the campus of Centre College in Danville, Kentucky- got underway at approximately 9 o'clock P.M. EDT on Thursday 5 October 2000 (0100 UTC 6 October). The two vice-presidential candidates, former Secretary of Defense Richard "Dick" Cheney- the Republican and, thus, Governor George W. Bush's running mate- and Senator Joseph "Joe" Lieberman of Connecticut- the Democrat and, thus, Vice President Al Gore's running mate- were already seated at a horseshoe-shaped table (Cheney to the left relative to the audience, Lieberman to the right). The moderator of this debate, CNN anchorman Bernard Shaw, sat in front of them with his back to the audience so that he could face them.
Mr. Shaw introduced the Debate and announced the rules under which it would be conducted: 2 minutes for a given candidate to answer the moderator's question and 2 minutes for a response to either the question itself or the first candidate's answer from the other candidate; at the moderator's discretion, an additional 2 minutes each could be used by each candidate to further address a given topic.
[I am using the same "Ten Point Must" system- as well as the same criteria for scoring each "Round" of the Debate- as I used for the first Presidential Debate two evenings before; for those of you reading this who might find yourself interested in how I go about ranking each "Round", I would suggest you read the first portion of my previous Commentary]
The first question went to Senator Lieberman: Few hard-working Americans would base their well-being on bonuses they'd hoped to get five or ten years from now. Why do you... predict surpluses you cannot possibly guarantee to pay for your proposed programs.
Senator Lieberman launched into what was essentially an Opening Statement (even though no Opening Statement was to be permitted under the rules) in which he thanked his home state of Connecticut and his family: My 85-year-old mom gave me some good advice about the Debate earlier today: she said 'Sweetheart' (as she is prone to call me) 'Remember: Be positive and know that I will love you no matter what your opponent says about you'... I am going to be positive tonight; I'm not going to indulge in negative personal attacks... I am going to explain tonight how we're going to do all [the basic promises of the Gore/Lieberman campaign] and remain fiscally responsible. Let me briefly get to your question.
You have about 10 seconds, moderator Shaw interrupted to the laughter of the audience as well as the Senator. All right, Lieberman gamely continued. We're not spending any more than is projected by the experts- in fact, unlike our opponents, we're setting aside 300 billion dollars in a reserve fund just in case those projections the non-partisan experts make are not quite right...
Secretary Cheney commented: I am delighted to be here with you, Joe- and I, too, want to avoid any personal attacks... I think this is an extraordinarily important decision we're going to make on November 7th- we're really going to choose between what I consider to be an old way of governing ourselves: high levels of spending, high taxes, ever more intrusive bureaucracy or a new course- a new era, if you will- and Governor Bush and I want to offer that new course of action. With respect to the surplus... we've got to make some kind of forecast - we can't make 12-month decisions in this business. We're talking about the kinds of fundamental changes in programs and government that are going to affect people's lives for the next 25 or 30 years- and, while it may be a little risky in some respects- from an economic standpoint- to try to forecast surpluses, I think you have to make some planning assumption on which to proceed. We care a great deal about the issues that are at stake here and one of the difficulties we have, frankly, is that- for the last eight years- we've ignored a lot of these problems... There are important issues out there that need to be resolved and it's important for us to get on with that business and that's what Governor Bush and I want to do.
Round One: Senator Lieberman squandered a valuable opportunity to address the moderator's basic question with his "opening remarks" (from a campaign strategy standpoint, this may have been an attempt to show the Connecticut Senator as a generally humble man- however, from a purely debating standpoint [which is what I am here grading], it wasted precious time with which to address a question which, I am quite sure, is on a lot of voters' minds), leaving him only enough time to quickly give a blanket assurance. Secretary Cheney much better addressed the issue (and answered the question to boot!) while still managing to clearly state the core themes of the Republican Fall campaign.
Scoring: Cheney 10, Lieberman 8
Shaw asked the next question of Dick Cheney: You alluded to problems: there's... no magic bullets to solve the problems of Public Education- but what's the next best solution?
Cheney answered: Well, I think Public Education IS the solution: our desire is to find ways to reform our educational system, to return it to its former glory... but if you look at where we are- from the standpoint of the Nation- recent exams... show that there's been no progress on reading scores in the last eight years, almost no progress on math. The achievement gap between minority and non-minority students is as big as it's ever been; we've had a significant increase in spending for education nationwide but it's produced almost no positive results. That's really unacceptable from our standpoint... What Governor Bush and I want to do is to change that... we want to emphasize local control... we want to insist on high standards- one of the worst thing we can do is to fail to establish high standards... and we want accountability: we have to test every child every year to know whether or not we're making progress with respect to achieving those goals and objectives. So we think it's extraordinarily important- this is probably the single most important issue in this campaign: Governor Bush has made it clear that, when he is elected, this will be his number one priority...
Lieberman responded: Al Gore and I are committed to making America's public schools the best in the world and I disagree with what my opponent has said. A lot of progress has been made in recent years: average testing scores are up... but there's more to be done... I want to go back to your last question 'cause it leads to this question. I think both of us agree that, leaving aside the Social Security and Medicare surpluses, there's 1.8 trillion dollars in surplus available to spend over the next 10 years- as I said before, we're being fiscally responsible about it: we're taking 300 billion off the top to put into a reserve fund: the rest of it we're going to use for middle-class tax cuts and investments in programs like Education. Now, there's a big difference here between these two tickets: our opponents are going to spend 1.6 trillion- of the 1.8 trillion surplus projected- on that big tax cut Al Gore talked about the other night so effectively. We're saving money to invest in Education: you cannot reform Education and improve it in this country without spending some money. Al Gore and I have committed 170 billion dollars for that purpose to recruit 100,000 new teachers, to reduce the size of classrooms, to help local school districts build new buildings... And we're not just going to stop at high school- we're going to go on and give the middle-class the ability to deduct up to 10,000 dollars a year in the cost of college tuition: now, that's a tremendous life-saving change which will help people carry on their education and allow them to develop the kinds of skills that will help them succeed in the high-tech economy of today.
Shaw was asked by Dick Cheney to invoke the moderator's discretion so that the important issue of Education could be further discussed and Shaw did so, allowing Cheney to rebut: Let's talk about this question of the surplus because it really drives a lot of what we're talking about here... If you look at our proposal, we take half of the projected surplus and set it aside for Social Security- over 2.4 trillion dollars; we take roughly a fourth of it for other urgent priorities such as Medicare reform and Education... and we take roughly one fourth of it and return it in the form of a tax cut to the American taxpayer. We think it is extraordinarily important to do that- but it is a fundamental difference between our two approaches. If you look, frankly, by our numbers and the numbers of the Senate Budget Committee which has toted up all the promises that Vice President Gore has made during the course of the campaign, they are some 900 billion dollars in spending over and above that projected surplus already and we still have a month to go in the campaign. The fact is that the program that we put together, we think, is very responsible: the suggestion that, somehow, all of it is going for tax cuts isn't true. Another way to look at it is that, over the course of the next 10 years, we'll collect roughly 25 trillion dollars in revenue: we want to take about 5 percent of that and return that to the American taxpayer in the form of tax relief. We're at the highest level of taxation we've had since World War II... we think it is appropriate to return to the American People so that they can make choices themselves on how that money ought to be spent, whether they want to spend it on education or on retirement, or on paying their bills- it's their choice, it's their prerogative. We want to give THEM the opportunity to make those kinds of choices for themselves and we think this is a totally reasonable approach.
Lieberman retorted: Let me start with the numbers: with all respect, the Senate Budget Committee estimates that Dick Cheney has just referred to are the estimates of the partisan Republican staff of the Senate Budget Committee. We're using the numbers used by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and we start with an agreement, which is that the surplus in the Social Security funds should be locked up and used for Social Security- that's where the agreement ends. We also... believe and pledge that the surplus in the Medicare trust fund should also be locked up with a sign on it that says 'Politicians, keep your hands off!': our opponents do not do that; in fact, they raid the Medicare trust fund to pay for... their tax cut and other programs that they can't afford because they've spent so much on the tax cut. Let me come back to the remaining 1.8 trillion that we both talked about: the numbers show that 1.6 trillion goes to that big tax cut which- as Al Gore said the other night- sends 43 percent to the top 1 percent. But really, worse than that, when you add on the other spending programs that our opponents have committed to- plus the cost of their plan to privatize Social Security- by our calculation, they are 1.1 trillion in debt! And that means we go back down the road to higher interest rates, to higher unemployment- to a kind of "stealth tax increase" on every American family because when interest rates go up so, too, do the costs of mortgage payments, car payments, student loans, credit card transactions. so, if we've learned anything over the last eight years, it is that one of the most important things the Government can do... is to be fiscally responsible And that's why Al Gore and I are committed to balancing the budget every year- in fact, to pay off the debt by the year 2012 when, by our calculation, our opponents' economic plan still leaves America 2.8 trillion dollars in debt.
Round Two: This was a close one, which could have gone either way. I give this "Round" to Senator Lieberman because Dick Cheney asked for the moderator's discretion to expand discussion on- in this case- Education and then, instead, Cheney proceeded to abandon discussion of Education and focus on the surplus and the differing numbers used in its calculation (Good Politics, perhaps- but "dirty pool" for which the former Defense Secretary SHOULD be penalized slightly: if I am going to take off points for Lieberman's "Opening Statement" as a violation of the rules, I must do the same to Cheney in this case). Cheney's "indiscretion", however, didn't cost him as much as Lieberman's had in the previous "Round". Scoring: Lieberman 10, Cheney 9 [cumulative: Cheney 19, Lieberman 18 ]
Shaw asked the next question of Senator Lieberman: Gentlemen, this is the 21st Century- yet, on average, an American working woman in our great Nation earns 75 cents for each dollar earned by a working male. What do you males propose to do about it?
Joe Lieberman answered: Obviously, in our time- fortunately- great advances have been made by women achieving the kind of equality that they were too long denied... Women- actually, the number I have is- receive 72 cents for every dollar a man receives in a comparable job. Al Gore and I have issued an economic plan in which we've stated specific goals for the future: one of those goals is to eliminate the pay gap between men and women- it is unfair and it is unacceptable... the first way we will do that is by supporting the Equal Pay Act... which gives women the right to file legal actions against employers who are not treating them fairly and not paying them equally. Secondly, we're going to do everything we can using governmental support of business agencies such as the Small Business Administration to help women business owners have an opportunity to invest and begin businesses and make larger incomes themselves- and there are other Civil Rights and Human Rights laws that I think can come to play here. So- bottom line- this is an unfair and unacceptable situation... until women are receiving the same amount of pay for the same job they're doing as a man receives, we've not achieved genuine equality in this country... in so many families, women are a significant breadearner or the only breadearner so this cause affects not only the women, but families and the children as well.
Cheney rebutted: I certainly share the view that we ought to have equal pay for equal work, regardless of someone's gender and we've made major progress in recent years- I think we've still got a ways to go. But I also think that it is not just about the differential with respect to women: if you look, for example, at our opponents' tax proposal, they discriminate between stay-at-home moms with children that they take care of themselves and those who go to work or who, in fact, have their kids taken care of outside the home. You- in effect- as a stay-at-home mom, get no tax advantage under the Gore tax plan- as contrasted with the Bush proposal which, in fact, provides tax relief for absolutely everybody who pays taxes- and it's important to understand that the things that we're trying to change and the things that we're trying to address in the course of the campaign... what our plans are for the future focus very much on giving as much control as we can to individual Americans- be they men or women, be they single or married- as much control as possible over their own lives, especially in the area of taxation... The proposal we have from Al Gore, basically, doesn't do that: it, in effect, lays out some 29 separate tax credits and, if you live your life the way they want you to live your life- if you do, in fact, behave in a certain way- then you qualify for a tax credit... Bottom line, though, is 50 million American taxpayers out there get no advantages at all out of the Gore tax proposal...
Lieberman responded: This is an important difference between us and I want to try to clarify it briefly... In fact, the tax relief program that Al Gore and I have proposed... includes a 500 dollar tax credit for stay-at-home moms just as a way of saying we understand that you are performing a service for our Society and we want you to have that tax credit. Second, the number of 50 million Americans not benefiting from our tax cut program is absolutely wrong... although Governor Bush says that his tax cut program- large as it is- gives a tax cut to everybody... the Joint Committee on Taxation- again, a non-partisan group in Congress- has said that 27 million Americans don't get what the Governor said they would... Again, Al Gore and I want to live within our means: we're not going to give it all away in one big tax cut- and certainly not to the top 1 percent of the public that doesn't need it now- so we're focusing our tax cuts on the middle class in the areas where they tell us they need it: tax credits for better and more expensive child care, tax credits for middle class families that don't have health insurance from their employers,... a very exciting deduction: for up to 10,000 dollars a year in the cost of a college tuition, a 3000 dollar tax credit... for a family member who stays home with a parent or grandparent who's ill and a very exciting tax credit program... that encourages savings... by having the Federal Government match savings for the 75 million Americans who make 100,000 dollars or less- up to 2000 dollars a year... if a young couple making 50,000 dollars a year saves 1000 dollars, the Government will put another 1000 dollars in that account: by the time they retire, they'll not only have guaranteed Social Security- but more than 200,000 dollars in that retirement fund.
Cheney retorted: You'd have to be a CPA to understand what he just said: the fact of the matter is that that plan is so complex that an ordinary American's never going to figure out what they can qualify for and it is a classic example of wanting to have a program- in this case, a tax program- that will, in fact, direct people to live their lives in certain ways rather than empower them to make decisions for themselves. It IS a big difference between us: they like tax credits, we like tax reform and tax cuts.
Round Three: Cheney was a decisive winner of this "Round": Lieberman started off well by promoting something of interest to the Democrats' traditional core constituency of Feminists but Cheney deftly turned it on its head by suggesting that stay-at-home moms were not included. Lieberman's retort with a tax credit for stay-at-home moms in the Gore tax proposal came off as rather patronizing (a pat on the back for a job well done, but not much more) and then the Connecticut Senator went on, only to get hung up on details (even calling some of the details "very exciting": I myself don't usually see all that much excitement in reading Title 26 of the United States Code) and Cheney, at the end, scored him big-time with turning Lieberman's numbers-crunching into proof of just how complicated targeted tax cuts- a opposed to an omnibus tax cut as proposed by the Republicans- really are. In the end, tax cuts are, after all, a strongly Republican issue and it is rather difficult for a Democrat to trump the GOP on this particular issue. Scoring: Cheney 10, Lieberman 8 [cumulative: Cheney 29, Lieberman 26 ]
Shaw asked the next question of Dick Cheney: Would you support the effort of House Republicans who want legislation to restrict distribution of the Abortion drug RU-486?
Cheney replied: Governor Bush and I have emphasized, while we clearly are both pro-Life- that's what we believe, we want to look for ways to try to reduce the incidence of Abortion in our Society. Many on the pro-Choice side have said exactly the same thing: even Bill Clinton- who's been a supporter of Abortion Rights- has advocated reducing Abortion to make it as rare as possible. With respect to the question of RU-486: we believe that, of course... it's recently been approved by the FDA; that really was a question of whether or not it was safe to be used by women- they didn't address the... question of whether or not there should or should not be Abortion in the Society so much as evaluating that particular drug. What we'd like to be able to do is to look for ways to reach across the divide between the two points of view and find things that we can do together to reduce the incidence of Abortion within such things as promoting adoption as an alternative, encouraging parental notification and we also think banning the horrific practice of partial-birth abortions is an area where there could be agreement. Congress has twice passed- by overwhelming margins, a significant number of votes in both Parties- the ban on partial-birth abortions; twice it's been vetoed by Bill Clinton and Al Gore. We would hope that, eventually, they would recognize that that's not a good position for them to be in. With respect to the RU-486 proposal at this stage... Governor Bush made it clear the other night that he did not anticipate that he would be able to go in and direct the FDA to reverse course on that particular issue, primarily because... the decision they made was on the efficacy of the drug...
Lieberman rebutted: This... very important question... is one on which these two Tickets have dramatically different points of view- my answer is: no, I would not support legislation... to override the Food and Drug Administration decision on RU-486. The Administration- FDA- worked 12 years on this serious problem: they made a judgment based on what was good for women's health- a doctor has to prescribe and care for a woman using it. I think it's a decision that we ought to let stand because it was made by experts. But let me say, more generally, that the significant difference here on this issue is that Al Gore and I respect and will protect a woman's Right to Choose and our opponents will not. We know that this is a difficult personal, moral, medical issue but that is exactly why it ought to be left- under our Law- to a woman, her doctor and her God. Now, one area in which we agree... is that we believe that the Government ought to do everything it can to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and, therefore, the number of abortions; incidentally, here there is good news to report: the number of abortions is actually down in America over the last eight years- in fact, over the last eight years, the number of teenage pregnancies has dropped 20 percent and the reason it has is that there a good programs out there that Al Gore and I will continue to support, such as Family Planning and programs that encourage abstinence. But when the health of a woman is involved, I think the Government has to be respectful: I supported, in fact, a bill in the Senate that would have prohibited late-term abortions except in cases where the health or life of the mother were involved; I did not support the so-called "Partial-Birth Abortion" Bill because it would have prohibited... that form of abortion at ANY stage of the pregnancy regardless of the effect on the health and life of the woman and that's unacceptable.
Round Four: This was another close one, not only because both men did well in their arguments but also because, as noted in my Commentary on the first Presidential Debate held two nights earlier, Abortion is such a divisive issue. Both men deserve points (as well as high praise) for being rather conciliatory in this Debate to their opponents' position on what has, in the past, often been discussed with much recrimination and, often, more heat than light: Cheney conceded that even President Clinton wanted to reduce the number of abortions (something that would not have been heard much in either the '92 and '96 campaigns in which Bill Clinton was the Democrats' presidential nominee), while Lieberman noted the agreement with the other side that neither campaign wanted to see unwanted pregnancies. I give this "Round" to Lieberman because not only was he the one to link the Abortion issue to that of unwanted (particularly teenage) pregnancies but also, from his position as a sitting Senator, he could talk about what HE actually voted for/against regarding this issue; it is true that this gave Lieberman an advantage Cheney did not have (one of the few times being "Inside the Beltway" WAS an advantage), but the Connecticut Senator used it wisely. However- and this was rather refreshing, considering the sincere and honest passion (and rightfully so!) that this issue usually engenders within and between both the pro-Life and pro-Choice sides- this was one case where I really wished I could (under "Ten Point Must") give both candidates a 10, but- unfortunately- one has to get a 9. Scoring: Lieberman 10, Cheney 9 [cumulative: Cheney 38, Lieberman 36 ]
Bernard Shaw asked the next question of Joe Lieberman: If Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic prevails, notwithstanding the election results, would you support his overthrow?
The Connecticut Senator responded by citing the good news from Belgrade today that Milosevic's opponent Kostunica had been declared the President-elect of Yugoslavia and also that Milosevic had already left Belgrade. That is a very happy ending to a terrible story, Lieberman opined, and it's the end of a reign of terror. If that [the then-latest news out of Yugoslavia] is not confirmed and does not happen, then I think the United States- with its European allies- ought to do everything we can to encourage the people of Serbia to do exactly what they've been doing over the last few days: to rise up and end this reign of terror... and bring themselves back into the family of Nations, where they will be welcomed by the United States and others... I'm very proud, on this night... of the leadership role the United States played in the effort to stop [Milosevic's] aggression and genocide in Bosnia and Kosovo. I know our opponents have said that they thought that was an overreaching: it wasn't- it was a matter of principle and America's national interest and values and the fact is that we stopped the aggression, we stopped the genocide and, therefore, strengthened our relationship with our European allies in NATO and, in fact, made the United States more respected and trusted by our allies and more feared by our enemies. I think that Vice President Gore played a critical role- passionate, purposive role- in leading the Administration, along with Republican supporters like Bob Dole and John McCain, to do the right thing in the Balkans and, hopefully, tonight we are seeing the final results of that bold and brave effort.
Former Secretary Cheney rebutted: Like Joe, certainly I'm pleased to see what's happened in Yugoslavia today; I hope that it marks the end of Milosevic. I think, probably more than anything else, it's a victory for the Serbian people: they've taken to the streets to support their democracy, to support their vote and, in some respects, this is a continuation of a process that began ten years ago all across Eastern Europe and has only now arrived in Serbia- we saw it in Germany, we saw it in Romania, we saw it in Czechoslovakia as the people of Eastern Europe rose up and made their claim for Freedom and I think we all admire that. I think, with respect to how this process has been managed most recently, we want to do everything we can to support Mr. Milosevic's departure- certainly, though, that would not involve committing U.S. troops: I do think it's noteworthy that there appears to be an effort underway to get the Russians involved: I know that the other night, for example, Tuesday night- in the debate in Boston- Governor Bush suggested exactly that, that we ought to try to get the Russians involved to exercise some leverage over the Serbians and Al Gore poo-poohed it, but now- it's clear from the press- that, in fact, that is exactly what they were doing, that... Governor Bush was correct... in his recommendation. He has supported the Administration on Kosovo, he lobbied actively against passage of the Byrd-Warner provision which would have set a specific deadline, one that he felt was too soon for forcing U.S. troops out, so he's been supportive of the policy that we've seen with respect in Yugoslavia and I think he deserves a lot of credit for that. I'd go beyond that: I think this is an opportunity for the United States to test President Putin of Russia, that- in fact- now is the time when we ought to find out whether or not he is, indeed, committed to Democracy, whether or not he's willing to support the forces of Freedom and Democracy diplomatically in the area there of Eastern Europe and it's a test for him, in effect, of whether he represents the Old Guard in the Soviet Union. One of the most important challenges we face as a Nation is how we manage that process of integrating those 150 million Eastern Europeans into the security and economic framework of Europe.
Round Five: I give this "Round" to Senator Lieberman, mainly because I found Cheney's citing the events of more than a decade ago beginning with the bringing down of the Berlin Wall as rather dismissive of eight years of the Clinton Administration (given the very actions in both Bosnia and Kosovo being discussed in relation to current events in Yugoslavia) and, in addition, relying too heavily on the GOP's claim of "whatever a Democrat President did subsequently was almost solely do to what our Party's guy in the White House did beforehand"; we might as well now elect a President of the long-dormant Federalist Party because modern democracy in Europe would not have been possible without the ideas, efforts and political philosophies of key members of President Washington's Administration (Vice President John Adams, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson... hell, even Secretary of War Henry Knox!), if one wanted to take that argument to its logical conclusion (again, good Politics- perhaps- but weak as a debating point, which is what I am ranking here). I also took points from Cheney because of his citing the role of the Russians in the Clinton Administration's efforts to make sure Milosevic finally left power and then claiming that Al Gore had "poo-poohed" Governor Bush's suggestion, which was not true [from my own Commentary on the first Presidential Debate, here is what the Vice-President actually said: I think the Governor's instinct is not necessarily bad because we have worked with the Russians in a constructive way... but I think we have to be very careful before we invite the Russians to play the lead role in mediating... those of you reading this Commentary can be the judge of whether or not Gore "poo-pooh"ed Bush's proposal of involving the Russians... my own considered judgment is that Gore did not, merely urging caution!); beyond this, what would the former Defense Secretary's reaction have been had Gore publicly and prematurely announced the other night (and in the midst of a political debate to boot!)- during what must have been sensitive (and, I would imagine, secret) diplomatic efforts- that the Russians were, in fact, becoming involved in those very efforts?: I personally found it all disingenuous on the part of Dick Cheney. At the same time, however, Cheney doesn't lose this "Round" as badly as he could have because of the Connecticut Senator's claim that Gore was "leading the Administration" on this issue (I thought Gore was only running for Commander-in-Chief and Chief Diplomat: I never realized he already had the job!) Scoring: Lieberman 10, Cheney 9 [cumulative: Cheney 47, Lieberman 46 ]
Moderator Shaw asked the next question of Secretary Cheney: You and Governor Bush charge that the Clinton-Gore administration have presided over the deterioration and overextension of America's armed forces. Should U.S. military personnel be deployed as warriors or peacekeepers?
Cheney answered: My preference is to deploy them as warriors. There may be occasion when it's appropriate to use them in a peacekeeping role, but I think that role ought to be limited- I think there ought to be a time limit on it. The reason we have a military is to be able to fight and win wars and to maintain with sufficient strength so that would-be adversaries are deterred from ever launching a war in the first place. I think that the Administration has, in fact, in this area failed in a major responsibility. We've seen a reduction in our forces far beyond anything that was justified by the end of the Cold War. At the same time we've seen a rapid expansion of our commitments around the world as troops have been sent hither and yon, testimony just last week by the Joint Chiefs of Staff before the House Armed Services Committee that pointed out a lot of these problems: for example, General Mike Ryan of the Air Force- with 40 percent fewer aircraft, he's now undertaking three times as many deployments on a regular basis as he had to previously. So, we're overcommitted and we're underresourced. This has had some other unfortunate effects: I saw a letter, for example, the other day from a young captain stationed down in Fort Bragg- a graduate of West Point from '95- getting ready to get out of the service because he's only allowed to train with his troops when fuel's available for the vehicles and only allowed to fire their weapons twice a year: he's concerned that, if he ever had to send them into combat, it would mean lives lost. That is a legitimate concern... in fact, the U.S. Military is worse off today than it was eight years ago; a major responsibility for us in the future and a high priority for myself and Governor Bush will be to rebuild the U.S. Military to give them the resources they need to do the job we ask them to do for us and to give them good leadership.
Shaw turned to Senator Lieberman for rebuttal: You're shaking your head in disagreement.
Lieberman replied: Well, I am... and, most important, I want to assure the American people that the American Military is the best-trained, best-equipped, most powerful force in the world and that Al Gore and I will do whatever it takes to keep them that way. It's not right, and it's not good for our military, to run them down essentially in the midst of a partisan political debate. The fact is that you've got to judge the military by what the military leaders say and Secretary Bill Cohen, a good Republican, General Shelton, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff- both, will tell you that the American military is ready to meet ANY threat we may face in the world today. And the fact is, judging by its results from Desert Storm to the Balkans- Bosnia and Kosovo- to the operations that are still being conducted to keep Saddam Hussein in a box in Iraq, the American Military has performed brilliantly; in fact, this Administration has turned around the drop in spending on the Military that began in the mid-80s and went right through the Bush-Cheney Administration and the early years of the Clinton Administration, but now that's stopped. In fact, we passed the largest pay increase in a generation for our military. And the interesting fact here, in spite of the rhetoric that my opponent has just spoken, is that the reality is that, if you look at our projected budgets for the next ten years, Al Gore and I actually commit more than twice as much- 100 billion dollars in additional funding- for our military than Governor Bush does and their budget allows nothing additional for acquisition of new weapons systems. And that's something that the same General Mike Ryan of the Air Force and all the other Chiefs of the Services will not be happy about because they need the new equipment, the new systems that Al Gore and I are committed to giving them.
Secretary Cheney asked that the "moderator's prerogative" be invoked once more to expand upon this subject.
This is of special interest of mine... The facts are dramatically different. I'm not attacking the military, Joe; I have enormous regard for the men and women of the U.S. Military- I had the great privilege of working with them for the four years I was Secretary of Defense. No one has a higher regard than I do for them- but it's irresponsible to suggest that we should NOT have this debate in a Presidential Campaign: that we should, somehow, ignore what is a major, major concern! And if you have friends or relatives serving in the U.S. Military, you know there's a problem. If you look at the data that's available: 40 percent of our Army helicopters that are not combat ready, combat readiness level in the Air Force that's dropped from 85 percent to 65 percent, significant problems of retention. The important thing for us to remember is that we're a democracy and we're defended by volunteers: everybody out there tonight wearing the uniform standing on guard to protect the United States is there because they volunteered to put on a uniform and when we don't give them the spare parts they need to maintain their equipment, when we don't give our pilots the flying hours they need to maintain their proficiency, when we don't give them the kind of leadership that spells out what their mission is and let's them know why they're there and what they're doing and why they're putting their lives at risk, then we undermine that morale. That is an extraordinarily valuable trust! There is no more important responsibility for a President of the United States than his role as Commander in Chief, the obligation he undertakes on behalf of all of us to decide when to send our young men and women to war. When we send them without the right kind of training, when we send them poorly equipped or with equipment that's old and broken down, we put their lives at risk. We will suffer more casualties in the next conflict if we don't look to those basic, fundamental problems now. And with all due respect, Joe, this Administration has a bad track record in this regard, and it's available for anybody who wants to look at the record and wants to talk to our men and women in uniform, and wants to spend time with the members of the Joint Chiefs, wants to look at readiness levels and... other indicators. Final point: the issue of procurement is very important because we're running now off the buildup of the investment we made back during the Reagan years: as that equipment gets old, it has to be replaced. We've taken money out of the procurement budget to support other ventures- we have not been investing in the future of the U.S. Military.
Lieberman retorted: I think it's very important to respond to this. Yes, of course, it's an important debate to have as part of this campaign, but I don't want either the military to feel uneasy or the American People to feel insecure. And what I'm saying now I'm basing on service on the Senate Armed Services Committee talking to exactly the people Dick Cheney has mentioned: the Secretary of Defense, the Chiefs of Staff, I've visited our fighting forces around the world- and I'm telling you that we are ready to meet any contingency that might arise. The good news here, and the interesting news, is that we have met our recruitment targets in each of the Services this year. In fact, in the areas where our opponents have said we are overextended- such as the Balkans- the soldiers there have the higher rate of re-enlistment than anywhere else in the service because they feel a sense of purpose, a sense of mission. In fact, this administration has begun to transform the American Military to take it away from being a Cold War force to prepare it to meet the threats of the new generation of tomorrow: of weapons of mass destruction, of ballistic missiles, of terrorism, even of cyber-warfare. And the fact is that Governor Bush recommended- in his major policy statement on the Military earlier this year- that we skip the next generation of military equipment: helicopters, submarines, tactical air fighters, all the rest. That would really cripple our readiness: exactly the readiness that Dick Cheney is talking about. Al Gore and I are committed to continuing this acquisition program, transforming the military. There's fewer people in uniform today- but... person by person, unit by unit, this is the most powerful and effective military, not only in the world today, but in the History of the World and, again, Al Gore and I will do whatever is necessary to keep it that way.
Round Six: Dick Cheney might have won this "Round" in any event: as with tax cuts, anything dealing with Defense and the Military is usually a better issue for the Republicans than it is for the Democrats. But Lieberman clearly lost this one anyway: his claim that Cheney was "running down the military" was rather disingenuous, and his notion that he didn't want "the military to feel uneasy or the American People to feel insecure" sounded something like a grade-B science fiction flick in which the powers-that-be are assuring the public "don't panic, everything is under control" as the giant cockroach is in the background about to destroy a large metropolis ("move along, there's nothing to see here"; "stay in your homes, be off the streets by nightfall"). It is true Cheney had, in this "Round", the advantage that Lieberman had had in the previous "Round"- speaking from having once been "on the ground" as regards this issue and he, too, used his advantage wisely. The Connecticut Democrat might have had a lower score (say, an 8) but for the fact that he did admit that the drop in defense spending he claimed had also continued into the Clinton Administration, though his reference to a "Bush-Cheney" Administration (obviously referring to President Bush, pater familias and then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney... I doubt Lieberman wants a Bush/Cheney Administration next year!) and then referring only to "Clinton" thereafter was pure, unadulterated Politics (expected, perhaps- what with all the GOP candidates' references to a "Clinton-Gore" Administration- but unfair from the debating standpoint which I am grading). Scoring: Cheney 10, Lieberman 9 [cumulative: Cheney 57, Lieberman 55 ]
Shaw asked the next question of the Connecticut Senator: Once again in the Middle East: peace talks on the one hand, deadly confrontations on the other- and the flashpoint, Jerusalem; and then there's Syria. Is United States policy what it should be?
Lieberman responded: Yes, it is. It has truly pained me in the last week... to watch the unrest and the death occurring in the Middle East between the Israelis and the Palestinians. So much work has been done by the people there with the support of this Administration- so much progress has been made in the original Oslo agreements between the Israelis and the Palestinians, adopted in 1993 and the peace between Israel and Jordan thereafter... America has a national strategic interest and a principal interest in peace in the Middle East and Al Gore has played a critical role in advancing that process over the last eight years. What pains me, as I watched the unrest in recent days between the Israelis and the Palestinians, is that these two peoples have come, in some senses, generations forward- centuries forward- in the last seven years; they are SO close to a final peace agreement. I hope and pray that the death and unrest in the last week will not create the kinds of scars that make it hard for them to go back to the peace table with American assistance and achieve what I'm convinced the great majority of the Israeli and Palestinian people want- indeed, people throughout the Middle East- which is Peace... We've been on a very constructive course in the Middle East- played an unusual, unique role- and I... commit that Al Gore and I will continue to do that: I hope I might, through my friendships in Israel and throughout the Arab world, play a unique role in bringing peace to... this sacred region of the world.
Secretary Cheney commented: It has been a very very difficult area to work in for a long time: numerous Administrations going back- certainly- to World War II have had to wrestle with the problem of what should happen in the Middle East. We made significant breakthroughs, I think, at the end of the Bush Administration because of the Gulf War: in effect, we had joined together with Arab allies and done enormous damage to the Iraqi armed forces and Iraq, at the time, was the biggest military threat to Israel. By virtue of the end of the Cold War, the Soviets were no longer a factor: they used to fish in troubled waters whenever they had the opportunity in the Middle East but with the end of the Soviet Union- the implosion, if you will, of the empire- that created a vacuum, if you will, and made it easier for us to operate there. We were able to, I think, reassure both Arabs and Israelis that the United States would play a major role there: that we had the ability and the will to deploy forces to the region if we had to, to engage in military operations to support our friends and oppose our foes- and, of course, we were able to convene the Madrid Conference that, in effect, was the first time Arab and Israelis sat down face to face and began this process of trying to move the Peace Process forward. I think also a lot of credit goes to some great men like Yitzhak Rabin: his tragic passing was of major consequence, a great tragedy for everybody who cares about peace in the Middle East. He was a man who had the military stature to be able to confidently persuade the Israelis, I think, to take some risks for peace: I think Prime Minister Barak has tried the same thing. I hope that we can get this resolved as soon as possible: my guess is that the NEXT administration is going to be the one that's going to have to come to grips with the current state of affairs there. I think it's very important that we have an Administration where we have a President with firm leadership who has the kind of track record of dealing straight with people, of keeping his word, so that friends and allies both respect us and our adversaries fear us.
Round Seven: I give this "Round" to Senator Lieberman: he spoke eloquently and passionately of the problems between some Israelis and some Palestinians caused by the recent unrest in and around Jerusalem and its potential effect on the prospects for peace in that troubled region. Cheney recited a litany of accomplishments of an Administration that left office nearly eight years earlier but did not really counter the Democrat's claims of a "critical role" in the Middle East Peace Process for Vice President Gore; in addition, the former Defense Secretary's implication that President Clinton (and, by further implication, Gore)- as a man who does not "deal straight with people" or "keep his word"- had a negative effect on that process was somewhat disingenuous. Scoring: Lieberman 10, Cheney 9 [cumulative: Cheney 66, Lieberman 65 ]
The moderator now put the next question to former Secretary Cheney: If Iraq's president Saddam Hussein were found to be developing weapons of mass destruction, Governor Bush has said he would, quote, 'Take him out'. Would you agree with such a deadly policy?
The Secretary responded: We might have no other choice: we'll have to see if that happens. The thing about Iraq, of course, was- at the end of the war- we had pretty well decimated their military: we had put them back in the box, so to speak- we had a strong international coalition raid against them, effective economic sanctions and a very robust inspection regime that was in place so that the inspection regime, under U.N. auspices, was able to do a good job of stripping out the capacity to build weapons of mass destruction, the work that he'd been doing that had not been destroyed during the war in biological and chemical agents, as well as a nuclear program. Unfortunately, now we find ourselves in a situation where that's started to fray on us, where the coalition now no longer is tied tightly together: recently the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, two Gulf states, have reopened diplomatic relations with Baghdad, the Russians and the French now are flying commercial airliners back into Baghdad and sort of thumbing their nose, if you will, at the international sanctions regime and, of course, the U.N. inspectors have been kicked out and there's been absolutely no response. So, we're in a situation today where, I think, our posture vis-a-vis Iraq is weaker than it was at the end of the war: I think that's unfortunate- I also think it's unfortunate that we find ourselves in a position where we don't know for sure what might be transpiring inside Iraq. I certainly hope he's not regenerating that kind of capability but if he were- if, in fact, Saddam Hussein WERE taking steps to try to rebuild nuclear capability or weapons of mass destruction, you'd have to give very serious consideration to military action... to stop that activity. I don't think you can afford to have a man like Saddam Hussein with nuclear weapons in the Middle East.
Senator Lieberman rebutted: It would, of course, be a very serious situation if we had evidence- credible evidence- that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction. But I must say, I don't think a political campaign is the occasion to declare exactly what we would do in that case: I think that's a matter of such critical National Security importance that it ought to be left to those- Commander in Chief, the leaders of the military, the Secretary of State- to make that kind of decision without the heat of a political campaign. The fact is that we will not enjoy real stability in the Middle East until Saddam Hussein is gone. The Gulf War was a great victory- and, incidentally, Al Gore and I were two of the ten Democrats in the Senate who crossed party lines to support President Bush and Secretary Cheney in that war and we're both very proud that we did that- but the war did not end with a total victory and Saddam Hussein remained there and, as a result, we have had almost ten years now of instability. We have continued to operate- almost all of this time military action- to enforce a no-fly zone: we have been struggling with Saddam about the inspectors- we ought to do and we are doing everything we can to get those inspectors back in there but, in the end, there's not going to be peace until he goes and that's why I was proud to co-sponsor the Iraq Liberation Act with Senator Trent Lott, why I have kept in touch with the indigenous Iraqi opposition, broad based, to Saddam Hussein- Vice President Gore met with them earlier this year: we are supporting them in their efforts and we will continue to support them until the Iraqi people rise up and do what the people of Serbia have done in the last few days. Get rid of a despot: we will welcome you back into the family of Nations where you belong.
Round Eight: This one goes to Secretary Cheney- again, largely because anything involving military action is almost always a core Republican issue (meaning a Democrat is going to, almost by definition, have to be noticeably better in debate on such an issue than his opponent). However, Cheney also very well played the "military card" in using it to underline the diplomatic difficulties inherent in the question; Senator Lieberman did not effectively blunt Cheney's claim that there had been "absolutely no response" to the changed situation with respect to Iraq since President Bush's Administration: his assurances that "we are doing everything we can" was not specific enough to have done so. Scoring: Cheney 10, Lieberman 9 [cumulative: Cheney 76, Lieberman 74 ]
Bernard Shaw asked Senator Lieberman the next question: Many experts are forecasting continuing chaotic oil prices in the world market, wholesale natural gas prices here in our country are leaping- then there are coal and electricity. Have previous Republican and Democratic Congresses and Administrations, including this one, done their job to protect the American people?
Lieberman answered: Not enough, but this Administration and Vice President Gore and I have had both a long-term strategy to develop energy independence and a short-term strategy. In fact, if... this Administration had been given the amount of funding that it had requested from the Republican Congress, we'd be further along in the implementation of that long-term strategy which is aimed at developing alternative, cleaner sources of energy, aimed at giving tax credits to individuals and businesses to conserve and use energy more efficiently, aimed at a partnership for a new generation of vehicles with the American automobile industry which is making great progress and can produce a vehicle that can get 80 miles per gallon. We also have a short-term strategy to deal with exactly the kind of ups and downs of energy prices and I know it was controversial, but Al Gore and I believed that it was important, in the short-term, to reach into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve: take some of that oil that we have, put it in the market, show the big oil companies and the OPEC oil-producing countries that we've got some resources with which we can fight back- we're not just going to lay back and let them roll over our economy. We did it also because gasoline prices were rising and home heating oil inventories were real low. And both of our Tickets agree on LIHEAP- Low Income [Heat and Energy] Assistance Program, but our opponents really offer no assistance to middle-class families who are hit by rising gas prices and a shortage of home heating oil. The fact is that, since the Reserve was opened, the price of oil on world markets has dropped 6 dollars a barrel- now, that's a good result and I'm proud of it.
Cheney rebutted: This is an area where again, I think, Joe and I have fairly significant disagreements. My assessment is that there IS no comprehensive Energy Policy today: that, as a Nation, we are in trouble because the Administration has not addressed these issues. We have the prospects of brownouts in California, we have a potential... home heating oil crisis in the Northeast, we've had gasoline price rises in various other places. For years now the Administration's talked about reducing our dependence on foreign sources of oil, but they haven't done it- in fact, we've gone exactly in the opposite direction. We've got the lowest rate of domestic production of oil now in 46 years: you have to go back to 1954 to find a time when we produced as little oil as we do today. Our imports are at an all-time record high: in the month of June, we imported almost 12 million barrels a day- that means we're more subject to the wide fluctuations and swings in price. We have other problems: we don't have refinery capacity- we haven't built a new refinery in this country for over ten years and the refineries are now operating at 96 or 97 percent of capacity, which means, even with more crude available, they're probably not going to be able to do very much by way of producing additional home heating oil for this Winter. We have a... serious long-term problem with our growing dependence on foreign sources of energy: that will always be the case but we ought to be able to shift the trend and begin to move it in the right direction. We need to do a lot more about generating the capacity for power here at home: we need to get on with the business and we think we can do it very safely in an environmentally sound manner- we don't think that we ought to buy into this false choice that somehow we cannot develop energy resources without being cautious with the environment: we can- we've got the technology to do it and we ought to do it. We do support the low income energy assistance program: we think it's very important so that senior citizens, for example, don't suffer this winter, but we need to get on to the business of having a plan to develop our domestic energy resources in producing more supplies, and this Administration hasn't produced them.
Round Nine: Yet another round where superior experience made the difference: in this particular case, having someone who so recently worked in the private sector energy industry proved to be an asset to the Republicans. Cheney picked apart the problem and the Clinton Administration's apparent failures on this issue very effectively; Lieberman admitted at the outset that even the current Administration hadn't done enough, though Cheney did nothing to challenge or attack the Administration's use of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to lower oil prices (interesting, considering how he cited the lack of fuel availability to the military earlier, in "Round Six"). Scoring: Cheney 10, Lieberman 9 [cumulative: Cheney 86, Lieberman 83 ]
Shaw then put the next question to Dick Cheney: Your congressional record: you sponsored a bill that said no to oil and gas exploration in Wyoming wilderness areas- your home state. However, you co-sponsored a bill that said yes to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Your explanation?
Cheney jocularly- yet somewhat dismissively- replied: It just shows I've got a balanced approach to how we deal with environmental issues.
Not a case of "not in my backyard"? , the moderator pressed him.
Cheney responded quickly: No, I think we have to make choices and the Wyoming wilderness bill, frankly, was one of my proudest achievements as a Member of Congress: I worked on that with my good friend Al Simpson... for about four years. We set aside a part of Wyoming, nearly a million acres of wilderness, that ought to be separate and not be developed- we think that was important. There are a lot of areas where Governor Bush and I... support restraints: we support the moratorium on drilling off the coast of California, but there are places where we think we ought to go forward and develop those resources. The Arctic National Wildlife Reserve is one of them: it's on North Slope- it's right next to Prudhoe Bay. The infrastructure is there to be able to deliver that product to market: we think we can do it given today's technology in a way that will not damage the environment, will not permanently mar the countryside at all, and so what we're looking for, I think, with respect to Environmental Policy and Energy Policy is balance. We do have to make choices, we recognize that we have to make choices... The way you phrased the question, frankly, I welcome- because I think it shows, in fact, we are trying to pursue a balanced approach and the suggestion that somehow all we care about is energy development isn't true- but we do have to get on with developing those resources or we're going to find ourselves ever more dependent on foreign sources: we're going to find that... the fact that we don't have an energy policy out there is one of the major storm clouds on the horizon for our economy. I think if you look for something that could develop, some problem that could arise- that might, in fact, jeopardize our continuing prosperity- it's the possibility that we might find ourselves without adequate supplies of energy in the future and there would be no quicker way to shut down our economy than that.
Senator Lieberman rebutted: We agree on the problem but we couldn't disagree more on the response to the problem. The problem is accurately stated: no matter how strong we are economically, if we remain dependent on a source of energy that is outside our control, we're not going to be as strong as we should be and others around the world can effectively yank our chain- and we cannot allow that to continue to happen. I'm afraid that our opponents' response to this... is one-sided and it is essentially to develop the resources within the United States almost regardless of where. I'm against drilling in the Arctic Refuge: this is one of the most beautiful, pristine places that the good Lord has created on earth and it happens, fortunately, to be within the United States of America. It's just not worth it to do that for what seems to be the possibility of six months' worth of oil, 7 to 12 years from now- that's not much of a response to the immediate problem that gasoline consumers and home heating oil customers are facing this Winter. There are more resources within the United States that we can develop- and, in fact, this isn't mentioned much and appreciated much- but, in the last eight years, drilling for gas on Federal lands has gone up 60 percent and it's been done in an environmentally protective way: in fact, the Administration has encouraged the drilling for deep gas and oil going on in the western Gulf today. But the answer here is new technology that will create millions of new jobs. Let me just say this: if we can get three miles more per gallon from our cars... we'll save 1 million barrels of oil a day, which is exactly what the Refuge, at its best, in Alaska would produce. Now the choice to me is clear: we've got to develop fuel cells, alternative energy- we've got to encourage people to conserve and to be efficient.
Round Ten: This "Round" went to Joe Lieberman. Former Secretary Cheney seemed rather dismissive of the real issue behind Shaw's question; there is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with a Congressman from a State working with one of his State's Senators to keep a pristine area within that State from being developed: I am certain that is precisely what the people of Wyoming back in the 1980's elected Dick Cheney to the Federal House of Representatives to do! But Cheney here missed a golden opportunity to explain- particularly with his recent background in the energy industry, that which he so deftly called upon in besting the Connecticut Senator in the previous "Round"- why it might have been more necessary to protect Wyoming from the type of development his own Ticket now wishes to pursue in Alaska. Instead, he tried to turn the question on its head by arguing that his provincial- if not altogether chauvinistic- protection of an environmental resource in his home State was actually an argument that the Bush/Cheney Ticket was "balanced" on this particular issue of Energy Development in relation to Environmental Protection; it, frankly, fell rather flat and what I was left with was no credible evidence that he had, in fact, been so balanced so much as he was so provincial and chauvinistic- again, that may have been his job at the time, but it did not serve him well here. Lieberman, meanwhile, appealed very much better to what is usually a Democrat's core constituency- Environmentalism- while, at the same time, undermining Cheney's very argument that we should explore for oil in Alaska's pristine wilderness by pointing out just how little oil such drilling would ultimately produce. Scoring: Lieberman 10, Cheney 9 [cumulative: Cheney 95, Lieberman 93 ]
Shaw asked the next question of Senator Lieberman: We all know Social Security is the backbone of the retirement system in our Nation. Can either of you pledge tonight categorically that no one will lose benefits under your plans?
The Connecticut Democrat responded: Yes, indeed. I can pledge to the American people categorically that no one will lose benefits under our plan for Social Security as far forward as 2054. And let me come back and say... that Al Gore and I view Social Security as probably the best thing the Government did in... the last century- it has created a floor under which seniors cannot fall, and so many of them depend on it for their basic living, for their livelihood. It is critically important to protect it- that's why Al and I have committed to putting that Social Security surplus in a lockbox, not touching it and that's what allows us to keep Social Security solvent to 2054. Our opponents have an idea for privatizing Social Security that will jeopardize Social Security payments to recipients. And I looked at this idea and, if I may use an oil industry analogy, which is to say that sometimes as you know, Dick, better than I, you got to drill deep to discover whether there's oil in a well: for a while, I was drilling into this idea of privatization of Social Security and, the deeper I got, the drier the well became- and it seemed to me, at the end, that what it was going to do was dry up Social Security. It requires taking as much as a trillion dollars out of the Social Security fund: the independent analysts have said that would put the fund out of money in 2023 or, if it's not out of money, benefits will have to be cut by over 50 percent- that's just not worth doing. Al Gore and I are going to guarantee Social Security and add to it the retirement savings plan that I mentioned earlier which will help middle-class families looking forward: they will have not only Social Security, but a superb extra retirement account as well. 'Social Security plus' from us- with all respect, 'Social Security minus' from the Bush/Cheney ticket.
The Wyoming Republican rebutted: You won't be surprised... if I disagree with Joe's description of our program. The fact of the matter is that the Social Security system's in trouble: it's been a fantastic program, it's been there for 65 years, it's provided benefits for senior citizens over that period of time- for my parents- and it means a great deal to millions of Americans and Governor Bush and I want to make absolutely certain that the first thing we do is guarantee the continuation of those payments, those benefits and keep those promises that were made. But if you look down the road- you're, say, 30 years old today, and I have two daughters about that age: they seriously question whether or not there'll be any system left for them and that's because the demographics that are at work out there, and it's almost an iron law- we know how many people there are, we know when they're going to reach retirement age, we know when that Baby Boom generation's coming along, we know how long people are likely to live after that and it's going to drive the system into bankruptcy unless we reform it and deal with it. The reform we would like to offer is to allow our young people to begin to take a portion of the payroll tax, 2 percent of it, and invest it in a personal retirement account. That does several things. First of all, it gives them a stake in the Social Security system: that becomes their property- they own it, they can pass it on to their kids if they want: they don't have that kind of equity in Social Security today. Secondly, we can generate a higher return off that investment than you get in the existing system: today, you get about a 2 percent return in... what you pay into Social Security- we can generate, we think, at least 6 percent: all the evidence shows at least three times what we're able to get now and long-term, by generating a... bigger return, we'll put additional funds into the system that will help us survive that crunch that's otherwise going to hit in the future. Bottom line is there's a choice here: with respect, frankly, to Al Gore and Joe's plan, they don't reform Social Security at all- they add another huge obligation on top of it that future generations will have to pay: they don't touch the basic system itself- they don't reform it, they don't save it. We have a plan to do that and a plan to give our young people a choice and more control over their own lives.
Round Eleven: This one goes to Dick Cheney, but not by much. Both men eloquently defended their respective Ticket's position on the issue of saving Social Security, but Cheney contrasted his plan to his opponents' much more specifically than the Connecticut Senator did. Lieberman was left, at times, to awkward humor (his oil-drilling analogy was, frankly, rather lame... it seemed more a partisan attempt to score Cheney once more on having been in the energy industry [in effect, Lieberman was trying to bring his victory in "Round Ten" into this "Round" where it really had no place]) and campaign catch-phrases (" ' Social Security plus' versus 'Social Security minus' ") which detracted from what might otherwise have been a good argument. Scoring: Cheney 10, Lieberman 9 [cumulative: Cheney 105, Lieberman 102 ]
The moderator now put the next question to Secretary Cheney: Washington is a cauldron of political bickering and partisanship. The American people, gentleman, have had enough. How would you elevate political discourse and purpose?
Cheney answered: Well... I think there are a number of ways to do it. First of all, I agree with your assessment... I've been out of Washington for the last eight years... and spent the last five years running a company, a global concern, and been out in the private sector building a business, hiring people, creating jobs: I've got a different perspective on Washington than I had when I was there in the past. I'm proud of my service in Washington for 25 years but also proud that I had the opportunity to go out and get a different experience. And you're absolutely right: people are fed up. They've had enough with the bickering and the partisanship that seems to characterize the debate that goes on in the Nation's Capital. I've seen it done differently, though; I've seen it done differently in Texas. I've watched George Bush and one of the reasons I was eager to sign on when he asked me to become his running mate is because I've been so tremendously impressed with what he's done as the Governor of Texas. He came in when he had a Legislature completely controlled by the other Party- he managed to reach across partisan lines and unite Republicans and Democrats and Independents, put them to work to achieve good things for the State of Texas partly because he didn't point the finger of blame looking for scapegoats- he was quick to share the credit. He ended up, as a result of that activity, at the end of his first term, having the top Democrat in the state, Lieutenant Governor Bob Bulloch, endorse the Republican Governor George Bush for re-election. It IS possible to change the tone; it IS possible to get people to work together and to begin to focus on achieving results- but I think it's going to take new leadership. I don't think you can do it, with all due respect to Al Gore, with somebody who spent all the last 24 years in that Washington environment and who campaigns on the basis of castigating others, pointing the finger of blame at others in terms of blaming Business or various and sundry groups for failings: I think you have to be able to reach out and work together and build coalitions- I think George W. Bush has done that in Texas and can do it at the national level.
Lieberman responded: You're absolutely right. There's too much partisanship in Washington- it puzzles me... You'd think people in public life and politics would want to do what would make them popular, and yet- too often- people in both parties act in a way that brings down the institutions of government and each of us individually- it's a shame. I have tried very hard in my career to call them as I see them and work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get things done and I'm proud of my record in that regard, and I certainly think that would be an asset that I could bring to the Vice Presidency should I be fortunate enough to be elected... In my Senate career, I've worked with Bob Dole, for instance, on Bosnia and I worked with John McCain on cultural values. I worked with Connie Mack on foreign policy, I've worked with Don Nickles on the International Religious Freedom Act. If I go on much longer I'm going to get in trouble with my own Party... The fact is that that's the way things get done and I'm proud of those partnerships. And let me say a word about Al Gore: in his years in the House and the Senate, he formed similar bipartisan partnerships. If you look back over the last eight years, the most significant accomplishments of this Administration- in which Al Gore was centrally involved- were the result, most of them, of bipartisan agreements. After all, the Welfare Reform Act- which Al Gore promised to lead the effort on- to get people off of welfare, to set time limits, to get people to enjoy the dignity of work: that was a bipartisan act that was adopted. The Anti-Crime Act which has... helped to lower crime more than 20 percent in our country today also was bipartisan. And then the Balanced Budget Act of 1997- which was critical to getting our economy to the point, and our Government to the point, of unprecedented surplus we enjoy today- also was bipartisan, and Al Gore was involved. So I'd say that's exactly the kind of bipartisan leadership that he and I can bring to Washington to get things done.
The former Defense Secretary jumped in at this point without any appeal to "moderator's discretion" as required by the rules of this Debate: With all due respect, Joe, there's just an awful lot of evidence that there has not been any bipartisan leadership out of this Administration or out of Al Gore. The fact is, Medicare problems have not been addressed: we've had eight years of promises on prescription drugs with no action. Social Security problems have not been addressed: we've had eight years of talk and no action. The educational problem has not been addressed: we've had eight years of talk and no action. Now they've been in a position of responsibility in the White House- the powerful interests, if you will, in Washington, D.C.- and they've been unable to work with others. Medicare is a classic example: you had the Breaux Commission, a good effort at a bipartisan solution for Medicare. Whether you bought or didn't buy the answer that was generated, the fact is the Administration helped set it up and then pulled the plug on it because they'd rather have the issue than they would the solution. This Administration has NOT led from a bipartisan standpoint and I really do think that Al Gore's record in this regard isn't very good.
Senator Lieberman retorted: Dick Cheney must be one of the few people in America who thinks that nothing has been accomplished in the last eight years... the fact is that promises were made and promises were kept... Did Al Gore make promises in 1992? Absolutely. Did he deliver? Big time- let me put it that way- and that's the record... Look at the 22 million new jobs, look at the 4 million new businesses, look at the lower interest rates, low rate of inflation, high rate of growth. I think if you asked most people in America today that famous question that Ronald Reagan asked, "Are you better off today than you were eight years ago?", most people would say ' yes'. I'm pleased to see, Dick, from the newspapers, that you're better off than you were eight years ago, too.
Cheney wryly replied: I can tell you, Joe, that the Government had absolutely nothing to do with it.
Lieberman jocularly responded: I can see my wife and I think she's thinking, 'Gee, I wish he could go out into the private sector' to which Cheney said: Well, I'm going to try and help you do that, Joe. The Connecticut Senator retorted: No, I think you've done so well there, I want to keep you there.
Round Twelve: All that joshing at the end of this "Round" aside, I'm going to hit Dick Cheney but good on this "Round" and I'll explain why: first of all, the violation of the rules by jumping in without asking the moderator's discretion (although, to be fair, Shaw did not interrupt or otherwise stop him) costs Cheney (for reasons I explained earlier when I took points from Lieberman in "Round One" and Cheney in "Round Two"). Beyond this, however, Cheney should have quit while he was ahead- for, before he so impulsively jumped in, Cheney might actually have won this "Round"; instead, he swung and missed for Strike Three at what was actually- had he but taken the pitch- Ball Four. Cheney jumped in and opined that there was "an awful lot of evidence that there has not been any bipartisan leadership... out of Al Gore" ("not ANY"?!- Lieberman had just outlined how Al Gore had been so bipartisan on a number of issues!! But Cheney did not dispute the Connecticut Democrat's citations). But then there was also Cheney's claim that the Clinton Administration had bagged the Breaux Commission "because they'd rather have the issue than they would the solution"- fair comment?: ordinarily yes, except for what the Wyoming Republican said just beforehand- for isn't it possible that the Administration "pulled the plug" simply because they "didn't buy the answer that was generated"?? It is perfectly acceptable for a Republican candidate to score a Democrat opponent on being "wrong" (this being merely the Republican's own opinion, of course) on a particular policy or set of issues, but what Cheney seems to imply (and this is actually a disease that has appeared to infect the whole Republican campaign this year: it was even seen in some of Governor Bush's "whining" two nights before) is that the Democrats had no right to not "buy the answer that was generated", that the ONLY possible motivation for the Democrats on their side of political discourse was preferring to "have the issue" more than "they would the solution". Good Politics (at least insofar as it "preaches to the choir", as I have already argued- in an earlier Commentary- these Debates tend primarily to do), maybe... but it is absolutely unacceptable as a fair debating point, given Cheney's own admission, in effect, that the Administration DID have a right to disagree with the Breaux Commission's findings as compared to Cheney's own- frankly, partisan- opinion that this Commission provided "a good effort at a bipartisan solution for Medicare"!! Scoring: Lieberman 10, Cheney 7 [cumulative: tied at 112-all ]
Shaw then asked the next question: Dick Cheney, Joe Lieberman: you are Black for this question. Imagine yourself an African-American. You become the target of Racial Profiling either while walking or driving. African-American Joseph Lieberman, what would you do about it?
The Connecticut Senator answered: I'd be outraged. It is such an assault on the basic promise that America makes that the law will treat individuals as individuals regardless of their status- that is to say: their race, their nationality, their gender, their sexual orientation, etcetera, etcetera- and the sad fact is that Racial Profiling occurs in this country. I have a few African-American friends who have gone through this horror and, you know, it makes me want to kind of hit the wall because it is such an assault on their Humanity and their Citizenship. We can't tolerate it anymore- that's why I supported legislation, in the first instance, in Congress 'cause it's the most we could get done to do... hard studies to make the case of the extent to which Racial Profiling is occurring in our country. But it's also why I'm so proud that Al Gore has said two things: first, we would issue, if we're fortunate enough to be elected, an Executive Order prohibiting Racial Profiling and, secondly, the first Civil Rights... legislation we would send to Congress would be a national ban on Racial Profiling: it is just wrong. It is unAmerican and to think that- in the 21st Century- this kind of nonsense is still going on. We've got to stop it and the only way to stop it is through the law. The law, after all, is meant to express our values and our aspirations for our Society and our values are violently contradicted by the kind of Racial Profiling that I know exists. I had a friend a while ago... who works in the Government, works at the White House, African-American, stopped, surrounded by police for no other cause that anyone can determine than the color of his skin- that can't be in America anymore.
The Wyoming Republican responded: I'd like to answer your question to the best of my ability, but I don't think I can understand fully what it would be like. I try hard to put myself in that position and imagine what it would've been like, but- of course- I've always been part of the majority, never been part of a minority group but it has to be a horrible experience... the sense of anger and frustration and rage that would go with knowing that the only reason you were stopped, the only reason you were arrested, was because of the color of your skin would make me extraordinarily angry, and I'm not sure how I would respond. I think that we have to recognize that while we've made enormous progress in the U.S. in racial relations and we have come a very long way, we still have a long way to go, that we still have not only the problems we're talking about here tonight in terms of the problems you mentioned in Profiling, but beyond that, we still have an achievement gap in education, income differentials, differences in life span. We still have, I think, a Society... where we haven't done enough yet to live up to that standard that we'd all like to live up to, I think, in terms of equality of opportunity: that we judge people as individuals, that- as Martin Luther King said- we ought to judge people on the content of their character instead of the color of their skin. I would hope that we can continue to make progress in that regard in the years ahead.
Round Thirteen: This "Round" was a "toughie" to score: both men spoke passionately and eloquently as regards the problem inherent in the question. This may, in fact, be another "Round" where I would have really liked to give both men a 10, but I can't- under "Ten Point Must"- someone has to get a 9. I give the 10 here to Dick Cheney: unlike the Connecticut Senator, Cheney acknowledged the difficulty of a White male in our Society to truly contemplate- indeed, fathom!- what being the victim of Racial Profiling would actually be like; this is not a knock on Joe Lieberman at all: the Nutmeg State (and I myself am a "native Nutmegger" ["Constitutioner", somehow, just doesn't cut it!]) Democrat, after all, was in the forefront of the Civil Rights movement back during a time when it did NOT have full consensus in America and I am sure he spoke from having had close dealings with the African-American community within the context of the struggle for Racial Equality for over 35 years. However, it has to be noted that Dick Cheney did- albeit in one sentence only- tie the problem in with other core themes of his Ticket's campaign relative to, just to take one example, public schools in predominantly Black neighborhoods which do not teach their children well; meanwhile, I think Senator Lieberman (much like Cheney himself back in "Round Ten") missed a golden opportunity- as a Jew- to teach from personal experience: the public Joe Lieberman we see is, despite his being among the more centrist- if not even somewhat conservative- Democrats, extremely idealistic and ever optimistic. If the Senator has ever been the victim of anti-Semitism, he has- at least to MY knowledge- never once mentioned it publicly (at least not during this election campaign), instead concentrating on the more positive aspects of the Jewish experience in America, such as his reference before the Democratic National Convention of how- unlike in the country where his maternal grandmother was born- she would be greeted on Saturday mornings by her non-Jewish neighbors with "Good Sabbath, Mrs. Manger". But surely the Connecticut Democrat has been touched, in some way, by the pain of anti-Semitism (if only through the pain of many among his co-religionists) which, in many ways, mirrors the subject of this "Round"'s question; his own wife Hadassah was born to parents who, in war-ravaged Czechoslovakia, had once been inside the cauldron of that searing experience now known as The Holocaust- the ultimate, sickening end of what the means of Racial Profiling itself portend. Joe Lieberman may have his own personal reasons for not publicly linking the two and I- who, after all, do not know the Senator personally (other than, of course, having once shaken his hand on a Westville section of New Haven street as a visiting teenager nearly 30 years ago!)- must fully respect that, but- alas!- it gives this "Round" to his opponent. Scoring: Cheney 10, Lieberman 9 [cumulative: Cheney 122, Lieberman 121 ]
Shaw then put the next question to Senator Lieberman (he was supposed to have put it to Dick Cheney-- of which more later): Sexual orientation: should a male who loves a male and a female who loves a female have... all the constitutional rights enjoyed by every American citizen?
The Connecticut Democrat answered: A very current and difficult question and I've been thinking about it- and I want to explain what my thoughts have been. Maybe I should begin this answer by going back to the beginning of the country and the Declaration of Independence which says- right there at the outset- that all of us are created equal and that we're endowed, not by any bunch of politicians or philosophers, but by our Creator, with those inalienable Rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. At the beginning of our History, that promise- that ideal- was not realized or experienced by all Americans, but over time- since then- we have extended the orbit of that promise and in our time- at the frontier of that effort- is extending those kinds of Rights to Gay and Lesbian Americans who are Citizens of this Country and Children of the same awesome God just as much as any of the rest of us are. That's why I have been an original co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which aims to prevent Gay and Lesbian Americans who are otherwise qualified from being discriminated against in the workplace and I've sponsored other pieces of legislation and... taken other actions that carry out that ideal. The question you pose is a difficult one for this reason: it confronts or challenges the traditional notion of marriage as being limited to a heterosexual couple, which I support- but I must say I'm thinking about this, because I have friends who are in Gay and Lesbian partnerships who've said to me: isn't it unfair that we don't have similar, legal rights- to inheritance, to visitation when one of the partners is ill, to health care benefits. And that's why I'm thinking about it and my mind is open to taking some action that will address those elements of unfairness while respecting the traditional religious and civil institution of marriage.
Dick Cheney responded: This is a tough one... The fact of the matter is we live in a free society, and Freedom means freedom for everybody. We don't get to choose and shouldn't be able to choose and say ' you get to live free but you don't ' and I think that means that people should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into. It's really no one else's business in terms of trying to regulate or prohibit behavior in that regard. The next step then, of course, is the question you ask of whether or not there ought to be some kind of official sanction, if you will, of the relationship or if these relationships should be treated the same way a conventional marriage is: that's a tougher problem; that's not a slam dunk. I think the fact of the matter, of course, is that matter's regulated by the States. I think different States are likely to come to different conclusions, and that's appropriate: I don't think there should necessarily be a Federal policy in this area. I try to be open-minded about it as much as I can and tolerant of those relationships and, like Joe, I'm also wrestling with the extent to which there ought to be legal sanction of those relationships. I think we ought to do everything we can to tolerate and accommodate whatever kind of relationships people want to enter into.
Round Fourteen: This was the toughest "Round" of all to score so far- even tougher than the "Rounds" involving the FDA approval of the Abortion pill RU-486 in particular and the desire for the legality or illegality of Abortion in general, both earlier in this Debate ("Round Four") as well as that "Round" involving the RU-486/Abortion issue in the first Presidential Debate two nights earlier. Both men spoke eloquently and refreshingly openly about an issue with which both are trying their best to deal with their own personal and political "gut instinct" to preserve the sanctity of Heterosexual Marriage in relation for the calls for a legal sanction for, at the very least, Homosexual Civil Union; neither candidate seemed particularly happy with being unable to resolve this conflict within themselves and the exchange showed both men- regardless of their general political philosophies or particular stands on issues of the day- to be caring, thoughtful, reflective persons worthy of being considered for high office in our Society. Senator Lieberman, essentially, did here something along the lines of what- in effect- I had urged him to do in the previous "Round": therefore, I have to give him the 10 here; Cheney was either unable or unwilling to cite any anecdotal evidence of any Gay and Lesbian relationships he himself knows of and how these might play into his thinking: I myself find it rather hard to believe that the former Defense Secretary did not know any Gay men or Lesbian women either personally or professionally. Like Lieberman in the previous "Round", Secretary Cheney may have his own personal reasons for not addressing that particular aspect of the issue: if so, I fully respect these but it cost Cheney this "Round". Scoring: Lieberman 10, Cheney 9 [cumulative: tied again at 131-all ]
Shaw now admitted his error at the start of "Round Fourteen": It occurs to me that your moderator has committed a boo-boo: I asked the racial profiling question of you (indicating Senator Lieberman), you responded, and then I asked the sexual orientation question of you (again indicating Senator Lieberman): I should not have done that in terms of rotation. Gentlemen, I apologize.
Senator Lieberman commented: We forgive you... You're human, like we are.
Thus absolved, Shaw put the next question to former Secretary Cheney: Vice President of the United States of America: What would you bring to the job that you're opponent wouldn't?
Cheney replied: We clearly come from different political perspectives: Joe is a Democrat from New England; I'm a Republican from the West, from Wyoming- and I think that weighs into it to some extent. Clearly we're both in the positions we're in because of our personal relationships with our principals. I think the areas that I would bring are the things that Governor Bush emphasized when he picked me: that I have been White House Chief of Staff and ran the White House under President Ford, that I'd spent ten years in the House, eight of that in the leadership, served as Secretary of Defense and then had significant experience in the Private Sector and I think that where there are differences between Joe and myself in terms of background and experience, I clearly have spent a lot of time in executive positions running large organizations both in private business as well as in government and that's a set of qualifications that Governor Bush found attractive when he selected me. I'll leave it at that.
Lieberman commented: I have great respect for Dick Cheney. I don't agree with a lot of things he said in this campaign but I have great respect for him: he was a very distinguished Secretary of Defense and I don't have anything negative to say about him- so I want to say, with the humility that is required to respond to this statement, that I think what I would bring to the office of the Vice Presidency is a lifetime's experience: growing up in a working class family, having the opportunity to go to a great public school system, then to go on to college and then to be drawn- really by President Kennedy, as well as the values of service my family gave me- into public life: wanting to make a difference and I've had extraordinary opportunities- thanks again to those folks back home in Connecticut- as a State Senator, as an Attorney General fighting to enforce the law- to protect them and the environment and as consumers and to litigate on behalf of Human Rights- and then, for the last 12 years, as a member of the Senate of the United States focusing on National Security questions, environmental protection, economic growth and values. But perhaps what I most bring is a friendship and shared values and shared priorities with Al Gore. I have tremendous respect for Al Gore: I've known him for 15 years- he's an outstanding person as a public official and as a private person. His life is built on his faith- it's devoted to his family; he volunteered for service in Vietnam from the beginning. In Congress, he's been willing to take on the big interests and fight for average people; as Vice President, he's been- I think- the most effective Vice President in the History of the United States and he's got the right program to use the prosperity all the American People have earned to help particularly hard-working middle-class families raise up their children to enjoy a better life. I think that's what this is all about, why I'm so proud to be his running mate.
Round Fifteen: Dick Cheney only talked about his own qualifications, while Joe Lieberman praised his worthy opponent for his service as Defense Secretary and later would speak of the top of his Ticket, Al Gore; while some of this could be seen as ranging between the politically motivated and the simply sycophantic, the fact is that Cheney did not talk about Governor Bush per se (unless Cheney was arguing that the Texan's having chosen him was proof positive of his leadership!... which would have sounded rather egotistical, if not narcissistic, and I DON'T think Cheney meant THAT!!) and no one- despite the inordinate amount of attention paid to this Debate (even by myself!)- ultimately votes for Vice President when they step into the voting booth. Scoring: Lieberman 10, Cheney 9 [cumulative: Lieberman 141, Cheney 140 ]
Shaw now asked the next question, at the same time correcting his previous error: And, because of my boo-boo, I'm going to direct this question again to Secretary Cheney. Have you noticed a contradiction or hypocritical shift by your opponent on positions and issues since he was nominated?
Cheney responded: We've been trying very hard to keep this on a high plane, Bernie. Lieberman chimed in: Thanks, Bernie.
The former Defense Secretary continued: I do have a couple of concerns where I like the old Joe Lieberman better than I do the new Joe Lieberman- let me see if I can put it in those terms. Joe established, I thought, an outstanding record in his work on this whole question of violence in the media and the kinds of materials that were being peddled to our children- and many of us on the Republican side admired him for that. There is, I must say, the view now- that having joined with Al Gore on the Ticket on the other side- that that depth of conviction that we'd admired before isn't quite as strong as it was, perhaps, in the past: the temptation on the one hand to criticize the activities of the industry, as was pointed out recently in the Federal Trade Commission- where they're taking clearly material meant for adults and selling it to our children, while at the same time they are participating in fundraising events with some of the people responsible for that activity, has been a source of concern for many of us. We were especially disturbed, Joe, at a recent fundraiser you attended where there was a comedian who got up and criticized George Bush's religion and I know you're not responsible for having uttered any words of criticism of his religion- but, to some extent, my concern would be, frankly, that you haven't been... as consistent as you had been in the past, that a lot of your good friends like Bill Bennett and others of us who'd admired your firmness of purpose over the years have felt that you're not quite the crusader for that cause that you once were.
The Connecticut Senator rebutted: You'll not be surprised to hear that I disagree. First let me talk about that joke about religion which I found very distasteful and, believe me, if... anybody has devoted his life to respecting the role of religion in American life and understands that Americans- from the beginning of our History- have turned to God for strength and purpose, it's me. And any offense that was done, I apologize for- and I thought that humor was unacceptable. Let me come to the question of Hollywood and then answer the general question: Al Gore and I have felt for a long time, first as parents and then only second as public officials, that we cannot let America's parents stand alone in this competition that they feel they're in with Hollywood to raise their own kids and give their kids the faith and the values they want to give them and I've been a consistent crusader on that behalf. John McCain and I actually requested the Federal Trade Commission report that came out three or four weeks ago which proved conclusively that the entertainment industry was marketing adult-rated products to our children- now, that is just not acceptable. One finding was that they were actually using 10 to 12-year-olds to test-screen adult-rated products. When that report came out, Al Gore and I said to the entertainment industry: stop it- and, if you don't stop it in six months, we're going to ask the Federal Trade Commission to take action against you: there was no similar strong response from our opponents. We repeated that message when we went to Los Angeles; I repeat it today: we will not stop until the entertainment industry stops marketing its products to our children... Al Gore and I agree on most everything, but we disagree on some things- and he said to me, from the beginning, be yourself, that's why I chose you; don't change a single position you have and I have not changed a single position since Al Gore nominated me to be his Vice President.
This ended the ranked portion of the Debate because, as with the first Presidential Debate, I do not consider Closing Statements (as I would not consider Opening Statements) to be part of the Debate proper (at least not under the formats being used).
Round Sixteen (Final Round): This was one case where I really wanted to give each man a 9, for I was not all that happy with the way either candidate handled this "minefield" of a question; however, someone has to get a 10 under "Ten Point Must". I thought it was VERY disingenuous for Dick Cheney to have scored Senator Lieberman in this manner: the former Defense Secretary certainly knows, from his Washington experiences, that a running mate often is chosen by a presidential nominee who differs with many positions the candidate for Vice President has taken- yet, at the same time, the Vice President must- if elected- support the President utterly if he is to be an effective Vice President once he takes office. This was the Republican attack on Vice President Gore as a Clinton clone taken to a new low: yet I am almost certain that Mr. Cheney would have bristled at any suggestion by a Democrat that future President George Bush, the father of Cheney's own "principal", was somehow unprincipled by having "abandoned" moderate Republicanism by accepting Ronald Reagan's nominating him for the very office which Cheney himself was now seeking or, conversely, that Ronald Reagan was not a true conservative precisely because he chose George Bush, pater to be his running mate. What did at-the-time White House Chief of Staff Dick Cheney think of President Gerald Ford having bested Reagan for the '76 GOP nomination having then picked Reagan-supported Bob Dole to be his running mate! At the same time, Cheney was correct in pointing out the essential hypocrisy of Joe Lieberman having attended a Hollywood-industry fundraiser at which the Texas Governor's religious belief was attacked, even in a humorous manner (Governor Bush is a Methodist- the very religious tradition in which I myself was raised and, while I am not currently an actively participating member of the United Methodist Church as an adult, I- too- would be offended by that comedian's routine: if not for myself, then for all my one-time friends and acquaintances from Methodist Youth Fellowship "back in the day" in my old hometown of Madison, New Jersey), and the Connecticut Senator- as he himself pointed out- prides himself on being a political friend of Religion in general. This was not an easy position for Joe Lieberman to extricate himself from and he missed a golden opportunity to explain that, of the two Parties, Hollywood is more likely to support his Party than Dick Cheney's (it could have been handled much like the manner Al Gore had noted, two nights earlier, that- while he would not employ a "litmus test" in appointing Federal judges, he could be almost certain- no matter what issues other than Abortion Rights he might base them on- they would uphold Roe v. Wade) and that a Vice President's loyalty to the President begins during the post-Convention campaign the two run for those offices- NOT suddenly at 12 Noon EST on the 20 January next following the Presidential Election. This "Round", therefore, was a most difficult call for me to make- not least because it would mean the difference between a tie between the two candidates in the Debate and an outright victory for Senator Lieberman: in the end, I went with the victory for Lieberman (by the same small margin of points, however, as his running mate, Mr. Gore, had won the first Presidential Debate) because I felt that Cheney's attempt to imply that Joe Lieberman was intentionally abandoning his basic, core values- personal as well as political- was pure Politics and bad Debating (one man's opinion) and that the Connecticut Democrat had managed to defend himself at the end by himself implying that the Democrat Ticket was less "Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee" than that of the GOP (although I was still not happy with Lieberman having not been very effective in his attempts to wriggle out of the rightful scoring by Cheney on the Hollywood fundraiser). Scoring: Lieberman 10, Cheney 9
FINAL SCORE: Senator Joseph Lieberman [Democrat] 151;
former Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney [Republican]