D A N V
I L L E, Ky., Oct. 5 — The vice-presidential
candidates, Republican Dick Cheney and Democrat Joseph Lieberman, engaged
tonight in a relaxed, confident exchange that was short on sparks and
thick with policy disagreements and even
They opened their
first and only showdown with a flurry of numbers as each tried to paint
the other’s budget proposal as reckless.
Medicare, Social Security and education reform, Cheney said the Democrats
— led by Lieberman’s running mate, Al Gore — had wasted their time in
“Eight years of talk and no action,”
Cheney said, echoing a refrain of his ticket mate, George W. Bush.
“They’ve been in a position of responsibility in the White House with a
powerful interest, if you will, in Washington D.C., and they’ve been
unable to work with others.”
Better or Worse
Lieberman defended the vice president,
saying he had delivered “big time” as a strong leader with a record of
bipartisanship and riffing on a line Ronald Reagan used to zing Democrat
Jimmy Carter during the 1980 presidential debates.
“If you asked most people in America today
that famous question … ‘Are you better off today than you were eight years
ago?’ most people would say, ‘Yes.’”
set up a back and forth of one-liners between the candidates, as Lieberman
poked fun of Cheney for making millions in recent years at the helm of the
Halliburton oil services company in Texas.
“And I’m pleased to see, Dick, from the newspapers, that you’re better off
than you were eight years ago, too,” Lieberman said.
Unruffled, Cheney shot back, “I can tell you,
Joe, that the government had absolutely nothing to do with it.”
Asked later whether Lieberman had corrupted
his reputation in Congress as a straight shooter since joining the Gore
campaign, Cheney expressed disappointment in the Connecticut senator.
“I like the old Joe Lieberman better than I
like the new Joe Lieberman,” Cheney said. “Having joined with Al Gore,
that depth of conviction that we had admired before isn’t quite as strong
as it was, perhaps, in the past.”
But mostly, they argued over policy.
Cheney tried to portray Lieberman and Gore as
“old way” tax-and-spend liberals who would blow projected federal budget
surpluses on expanding government programs.
“Gore promises $900 billion in spending over and above the surplus,”
Cheney said, promising a “new era.”
the argument laid out by Bush on the trail, at the GOP nominating
convention and in the first presidential debate, Cheney said his campaign
would take “one quarter of the surplus and return it to the taxpayer.”
“The average American family is paying about
40 percent in federal, state and local taxes,” Cheney said. “We think it
is appropriate to return to the American people so that they can make
choices themselves in how that money ought to be spent.”
By Lieberman’s math, this would require that
“they raid the Medicare trust fund to pay for … their tax cut and other
proposals they can’t afford to pay for.”
Lieberman warned Bush and Cheney would spend $1.6 trillion (the Bush price
tag of $1.3 trillion plus the projected loss of interest from less taxes
coming in) of the $1.8 trillion surplus on tax cuts, bringing the nation
“back down the road to higher interest rates, to higher unemployment.”
Two days after Bush and Gore met in the first
of three presidential debates, Cheney and Lieberman sat just inches from
one another for their debate. But the traditional vice-presidential role
as the “hatchet man” on the ticket was not in evidence — at least at the
policy-heavy start of their debate. In fact, both candidates opened by
vowing to be positive.
Tonight’s format allowed for no opening
statements, but Lieberman made one anyway, talking about his mother and
thanking the crowd. Cheney also offered thanks, but dove right into a
pitch for his tax cut. The notoriously dry Cheney even cracked a joke.
“I too want to avoid any personal attacks,”
Cheney said to Lieberman. “I promise not to bring up your singing.”
Lieberman captured headlines last month by
singing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” on a late night talk show.
The event was held at tiny Centre College in
Danville, Ky. Befitting the small-town setting, the candidates were
preceded by an introduction from 10-year-old local boy Michael Ward, who
helped this city fight to convince the campaigns to participate in the
debate back when the Bush campaign was refusing to participate.
Vice-presidential debates aren’t known for
swaying elections, but an ABCNEWS snap poll taken immediately after the
debate showed most gave Cheney the win. The telephone poll of 539
registered voters who watched the vice-presidential debate found 43
percent thought Cheney won, 24 percent said Lieberman won, 27 percent
called it a tie. Both men and women gave the edge to Cheney.
The results have a margin of error of +/- 4.5
The format for tonight’s debate was
less formal than Tuesday’s first presidential debate, where the two
candidates stood behind lecterns. Lieberman and Cheney sat tonight at a
rounded desk, faced by debate moderator Bernard Shaw of CNN.
The second Bush-Gore debate, scheduled for
Oct. 11 in Winston-Salem, N.C., will feature a similar talk-show format.
The third and final presidential debate is set for Oct. 17 in St. Louis
and will feature a town hall meeting setting. During negotiations with the
Gore campaign and the Commission on Presidential Debates, Bush officials
lobbied for the use of less formal debate formats.
C Y B E R D E B A T E
| Talk to the presidential campaigns.
I G N M E U P
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