On domestic issues, Cheney was weakest on the question of poverty and same-sex marriage. He said jobs were the main answer to poverty. In reality, it is stable two-parent homes with a mother and father that constitute the best anti-poverty program. Though Cheney says he supports the president's policy in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex "marriage," he repeated his contention that people should be allowed to live as they wish. That's a formula for social and cultural chaos and the Vice President allowed his personal situation with a lesbian daughter to dictate his judgment for the entire country. For his part, Edwards was on shaky ground when he claimed that no state has ever been forced to accept a marriage from another state. But with the courts dictating policy and overriding the will of voters and their elected representatives, the goal of gay rights advocates is to impose same-sex "marriage" on every state, regardless of what those states want.
The key to any debate is not to play too much defense, but to stay on offense. This, both Cheney and Edwards did. The Vice President did it far more effectively and his experience as a debater and a seasoned leader in government came through in contrast to Edwards' youth and inexperience. When moderator Gwen Ifill asked both men what qualifications they had to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, Cheney spoke of serving four presidents and long years in government. Edwards spoke about traveling around the world and meeting leaders. It was no contest.
President Bush could and should learn from his Vice President's performance. This isn't beanbag and there will be no excuse if Bush doesn't engage and disarm John Kerry in their second debate Friday night.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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