Cheney v. Edwards

One of President Bush’s core campaign claims is that he knows what he thinks; it is the corollary of his repeated claim that voters know where he stands, whether they share his opinions or reject them. This claim has the merit of being broadly true; even if one does not accept the flipside of the coin, that Sen. John Kerry is inconsistent, most voters would probably agree that the president knows his own mind.

The odd thing, though, is that although Bush can speak his mind to big crowds, small gatherings or individuals, he often seems incapable of doing so in response to a question. That was evident last week during his faltering performance in the first presidential debate against Kerry; Bush said mostly the things he has said clearly and with considerable effect before, but managed to do so on this occasion only weakly and defensively.

Having apparently drained momentum from his campaign, the president’s weak effort Thursday makes tonight’s vice-presidential debate that much more important. As has been noted elsewhere, Vice President Dick Cheney needs to burnish the incumbent ticket’s reputation as a steady and resolute pair of hands holding the levers of power during a profoundly testing and difficult time.

It is not clear whether Cheney will be helped or obstructed in this effort by the
opponent he faces. Sen. John Edwards has considerably less experience than almost anyone in recent political history who has made it onto a presidential ticket — and only a tiny fraction of Cheney’s experience — but one of his long-standing campaign claims is that his career has been one of taking on dauntingly powerful opponents and whipping them.

Thus, pleasingly, we are likely to avoid the snorefest that constituted the vice-presidential debate in 2000. Then, Cheney deflated his opponent, Sen. JoeLieberman, by being scrupulously respectful rather than by goading him, as had been anticipated. The result was that the two sides barely laid a glove on each other, like boxers circling each other and jabbing the air but never really engaging.

Cheney-Edwards, however, will almost certainly be nothing like that. ABC’s political blog, The Note, described the veepstakes as “Shrek v. Breck,” which captures the dynamic of tonight’s battle: The experienced Cheney has to stomp on the pipsqueak; the good-looking Edwards has to slay the ogre.

The chances of a real knock-down fight are higher not merely because both sides have a strong incentive to engineer one but also because the two tickets are offering genuinely and sharply differentiated visions of America’s future and of its needs.

These differences should not, and fortunately probably cannot, be obscured.

So, take the gloves off and come out swinging.

WHAT THE PAPERS SAY

Tulsa World

His mouth is not the problem. Most Oklahomans by now are familiar with Senate candidate Tom Coburn’s shoot-from-the-lip rhetoric. He’s gotten himself in political hot water with a number of his off-the-cuff comments and had to clarify several of them in an attempt to quell controversy.

He shocked some observers and endeared himself to others when he called for the death penalty for doctors who perform abortions. He later said he did not mean they should be sentenced to death now, but rather after abortion is once again made illegal.

His most controversial comment, perhaps, was his assertion that this election amounts to a contest of “good versus evil.”

But Coburn’s tendency to say exactly what he means isn’t his biggest failing as a public leader. In fact, that trait can even be useful at times.

No, his biggest failing is he won’t be an effective representative for all of Oklahoma.

He demonstrated that during his six years in Congress and he shows no sign he has changed.

He has shown, rather, that he will continue to be divisive and uncompromising. His stubbornness will only work against the state, because his fellow senators will quickly isolate and marginalize him.

He has shown he does not have the ability to articulate clear, reasonable plans for moving Oklahoma and the country forward.

No, Coburn’s biggest problem isn’t what he says. It’s what he can’t and won’t do for Oklahoma.
— Oct. 3

Grand Forks Herald

Collin Peterson has earned the respect of Minnesota’s 7th District, and deserves reelection.

Peterson is a conservative Democrat who by all accounts comes by his views honestly.

He’s a “fair trader” who strongly believes America should keep its sugar program - so
strongly that he’s holding off on campaigning for Sen. John Kerry until the presidential candidate forcefully agrees.

And he co-founded the “Blue Dog Democrats,” the group of conservative and middle of the road Democrats who support “common sense legislation that embraces the ideas and values of mainstream America.”

Peterson’s opponent, David Sturrock, is a political science professor at Southwest State University in Marshall, Minn. He’s a fine candidate and has good ideas. But Peterson wins our support.
— Oct. 1