Published on Wednesday, October 6, 2004 by NY Newsday
At Right Moment, Edwards Pounced
by Jimmy Breslin
Somewhere around 9:45 last night, Richard Cheney, vice president of the nation, turned and said to Sen. John Edwards, Democratic candidate, that he missed big votes in the Senate and had the worst attendance record. Cheney said that he sat as the head of the Senate and was there for practically every session.
Cheney spoke in a deep, dull, confident voice and said things like, "al-Zarqawi has been in Baghdad before the war and after the war." As if all this smoke and fire and reports of dead soldiers and dead babies are an illusion.
Now he said snidely to Edwards, "The first time I met you was when you walked onto the stage tonight."
Until this point, Cheney had attempted to become a sitting advertisement for smugness. He sat and threw out shadings and plain lies at times and tried to make it look reasonable. Edwards, the experienced trial man, was supposed to bury him and this was not happening.
Now, this was the moment when Edwards turned to Cheney and said that as a congressman, Cheney had voted against Head Start, against banning plastic toy pistols, against Meals on Wheels, against a resolution calling for Nelson Mandela to be freed, and against the establishment of a holiday for Martin Luther King.
Edwards said this with a sudden vibrancy and a controlled resentment and the rest of the night was his.
He was excellent in bringing up the Halliburton company, which under Cheney had federal charges against it and became, as Edwards said easily and thus devoid of vitriol, an outfit in the company with Enron.
The mention of Halliburton caused Cheney to become mute. He had nothing to say about why we had bin Laden trapped in the mountains, in Tora Bora, and we took the case out of the hands of the Tenth Mountain division and turned it over to the Afghanistan war and drug lords, who had been associated with bin Laden only a couple of weeks before. He did not mention that we had sent troops into battle without body armor.
And now the night turned into broad views. Dick Cheney brought up in his dull voice every charge he and George Bush had been making against John Kerry for weeks and weeks now - and they have succeeded in making war boring.
Last night Cheney did not put a scratch into Kerry's chances to become the president. He was supposed to do a job on him with the votes on the war that they think are great enough to put them into the White House again. But as you listen to them last night, points so tired, so meaningless at a moment when you have soldiers dying, children dying, soldiers being sent home with no arms and legs.
This was the point when all the ugliness that surely fills much of Dick Cheney's insides came out. Edwards said, rightly so, that this business of calling our effort in Iraq a coalition is a slight reach, when 90 percent of the casualties and 90 percent of the money is American.
Cheney said this was ridiculous. Why, you are insulting the brave soldiers from our coalition partners who fight alongside us in Iraq. He said we had 30, or was it 34, members of the coalition fighting alongside us. Included in the coalition are places like Poland, which might have a couple of thousand soldiers, and this puts them high on the list of those purportedly helping.
This is how Cheney got through the last four years and after last night it looks impossible that he will have any more.
© 2004 Newsday, Inc.