Jewish World ReviewOct. 6, 2004 /21 Tishrei, 5765

Joel C. Rosenberg

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Mr. Gravitas vs. The Breck Girl | Now THAT was a debate.

Mr. Gravitas vs. the Breck Girl.

Conservative substance combined with a serious, purposeful style easily trumped the unbearable lightness of Sen. Edwards' being.

The Vice President scored the evening's best soundbite: "If [Kerry and Edwards] couldn't stand up to the pressures that Howard Dean represented, how can we expect them to stand up to al Qaeda?"

And the night's killer comeback: "The reason they keep trying to attack Halliburton is because they want to obscure their own record. Senator, frankly, you have a record in the Senate that's not very distinguished.

"You've missed 33 out of 36 meetings of the Judiciary Committee, almost 70 percent of the meetings of the Intelligence Committee. You've missed a lot of key votes on tax policy, on energy, on Medicare reform. You're hometown newspaper has taken to calling you 'Senator Gone.' You've got one of the worst attendance records in the United States Senate....I am the President of the Senate, the presiding officer. I'm up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session. The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight."

[Fine, so they're actually met three times. The line was hilarious and the point was perfect: Edwards wants to be a heartbeat away from Commander-in-Chief but he's been AWOL from his current job for the past three years.]

The Vice President also made one of the most insightful comments of the campaign: "With respect to Israel and Palestine, Gwen, the suicide bombers, in part, were generated by Saddam Hussein, who paid $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers. I personally think one of the reasons that we don't have as many suicide attacks today in Israel as we have in the past is because Saddam's no longer in business."

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But the most important thing the Vice President did was to hammer home Sen. Kerry's September 10th mentality as dangerous and out of touch.

"Now, the fact of the matter is, the big difference here, Gwen, is that they are not prepared to deal with states that sponsor terror," the Vice President said, crisply framing the central issue in this election. "They've got a very limited view about how to use U.S. military force to defend America. We heard Senator Kerry say the other night that there ought to be some kind of a global test before U.S. troops are deployed preemptively to protect the United States."

Mr. Cheney didn't just frame the issue. He painted the picture of Sen. Kerry's appalling record of being on the wrong side of every major national security policy in a generation.

"That's part of a track record that goes back to the 1970s when he ran for Congress the first time and said troops should not be deployed without U.N. approval; then in the mid-'80s he ran on the basis of cutting most of our major defense programs. In 1991, he voted against Desert Storm. It's a consistent pattern over time of always being on the wrong side of defense issues."

Sen. Edwards and moderator Gwen Ifill seemed floored by Mr. Cheney's directness.

"I'm saying specifically that I don't believe he has the qualities we need in a Commander-in-Chief, because I don't think, based on his record, that he would pursue the kind of aggressive policies that need to be pursued if we're going to defeat these terrorists," Mr. Cheney continued. "We need to battle them overseas so we don't have to battle them here at home....

"In 1984, when he ran for the Senate, [Sen. Kerry] opposed, or called for the elimination of a great many major weapons systems that were crucial to winning the Cold War and are important today to our overall forces. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and occupied it in 1990 and '91, he stood up on the floor of the Senate and voted against going in to liberate Kuwait and push Saddam Hussein back to Iraq."

As much as I hate using a French phrase, the Vice President's performance was a tour-de-force.

Will the President follow his mentor's model on Friday? He'd better. Even Americans who think he lost last week's debate still trust him on the key national security issues upon which this election will be decided. It's time to brand the Kerry-Edwards ticket as having a September-10th mindset and not let up.

JWR contributor Joel C. Rosenberg is the New York Times best-selling author of The Last Jihad and The Last Days and a former senior aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky. Comment by clicking here.


© 2004, Joel C. Rosenberg