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The VP Debate
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I didn't watch last night, but reading the transcript, it certain seems to me that Cheney was much more convincing on the issue of Iraq.

Take this response from Cheney, for example, after Edwards repeated the "90% of the casualties and 90% of the cost" talking point from the first Presidential debate:

CHENEY: Well, Gwen, the 90 percent figure is just dead wrong. When you include the Iraqi security forces that have suffered casualties, as well as the allies, they've taken almost 50 percent of the casualties in operations in Iraq, which leaves the U.S. with 50 percent, not 90 percent.

With respect to the cost, it wasn't $200 billion. You probably weren't there to vote for that. But $120 billion is, in fact, what has been allocated to Iraq. The rest of it's for Afghanistan and the global war on terror.

The allies have stepped forward and agreed to reduce and forgive Iraqi debt to the tune of nearly $80 billion by one estimate. That, plus $14 billion they promised in terms of direct aid, puts the overall allied contribution financially at about $95 billion, not to the $120 billion we've got, but, you know, better than 40 percent. So your facts are just wrong, Senator.

Cheney pointed out the losses by Iraqi soldiers, and quoted figures on actual costs and money pledged by other countries.

Edwards never disputed any of this. In his immediate response to what Cheney said, he didn't dispute Cheney's figures.

It came up again in this exchange:

EDWARDS: The vice president suggests that we have the same number of countries involved now that we had in the first Gulf War. The first Gulf War cost the American people $5 billion.

And regardless of what the vice president says, we're at $200 billion and counting. Not only that, 90 percent of the coalition casualties, Mr. Vice President, the coalition casualties, are American casualties. Ninety percent of the cost of this effort are being borne by American taxpayers. It is the direct result of the failures of this administration.

IFILL: Mr. Vice President?

CHENEY: Classic example. He won't count the sacrifice and the contribution of Iraqi allies. It's their country. They're in the fight. They're increasingly the ones out there putting their necks on the line to take back their country from the terrorists and the old regime elements that are still left. They're doing a superb job. And for you to demean their sacrifices strikes me as...

EDWARDS: Oh, I'm not...

CHENEY: ... as beyond...

EDWARDS: I'm not demeaning...

CHENEY: It is indeed. You suggested...

EDWARDS: No, sir, I did not...

CHENEY: ... somehow they shouldn't count, because you want to be able to say that the Americans are taking 90 percent of the sacrifice. You cannot succeed in this effort if you're not willing to recognize the enormous contribution the Iraqis are increasingly making to their own future.

Edwards' rebuttal is to basically say "regardless of what the vice president says...", then repeat what he said before. This is lame.

Cheney did a good job of pointing out the central inconsistency in the Kerry/Edwards "plan" for Iraq:

Cheney: It's hard, after John Kerry referred to our allies as a coalition of the coerced and the bribed, to go out and persuade people to send troops and to participate in this process.

You end up with a situation in which -- talk about demeaning. In effect, you demean the sacrifice of our allies when you say it's the wrong war, wrong place, wrong time, and oh, by the way, send troops.

Exactly. I don't see how anybody can reasonably resolve this inherent contradiction.

Also, on the Kerry/Edwards plan for Iraq, when asked directly about the idea of getting more allies, this was Edwards' response:

IFILL: Senator Edwards, new question to you, and you have two minutes to respond.

Part of what you have said and Senator Kerry has said that you are going to do in order to get us out of the problems in Iraq is to internationalize the effort.

Yet French and German officials have both said they have no intention even if John Kerry is elected of sending any troops into Iraq for any peacekeeping effort. Does that make your effort or your plan to internationalize this effort seem kind of naive?

EDWARDS: Well, let's start with what we know. What we know is that the president and the vice president have not done the work to build the coalition that we need -- dramatically different than the first Gulf War. We know that they haven't done it, and we know they can't do it.

They didn't, by the way, just reject the allies going into lead- up to the war. They also rejected them in the effort to do the reconstruction in Iraq, and that has consequences.

What we believe is, as part of our entire plan for Iraq -- and we have a plan for Iraq.

They have a plan for Iraq too: more of the same.

We have a plan for success. And that plan includes speeding up the training of the military. We have less than half of the staff that we need there to complete that training.

Second, make sure that the reconstruction is sped up in a way that the Iraqis see some tangible benefit for what's happening.

And by the way, if we need to, we can take Iraqis out of Iraq to train them. It is not secure enough. It's so dangerous on the ground that they can't be trained there. We can take them out of Iraq for purposes of training.

We should do whatever has to be done to train the Iraqis and to speed up that process.

There's more, but none of it actually addresses the question the moderator asked, which was about getting other nations involved. He completely ducks that issue and talks about "speeding up" the training. So basically, our plan is to do their plan, only faster. Um...okay.

Look, realistically the only way to get countries like France and Germany on board, the thing that nobody is talking about, is that they want a slice of the post-war pie. They want contracts. Oil contracts. Construction contracts.

That's what would get them into Iraq. It's about money...the spoils of war. Their citizens don't support it, and neither is going to send large contingents of troops to relieve ours. What they could do is share the burden of the cost, training, and reconstruction. But they're simply not going to do that unless they profit from it.

I'm fairly certain that's the particular policy Kerry has in mind, to throw contracts the way of the French and Germans to get the involved in reconstruction efforts. But he and Edwards will never come out and say it.

Anyway, in both debates it should be abundantly clear to anyone watching and listening that Kerry and Edwards have no clearly distinct plan from what Bush is doing. They're relying on the trope that simply by virtue of not being Bush, lots of other countries will want to jump on what they keep calling a burning, sinking ship. And in the meantime, they use every opportunity to marginalize the efforts of the allies we do have.

Now that's great policy.

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