A Civil Tongue
VP Hopefuls Hedge on Issues
By Amy Williams
The Clovis Free Press
-- Former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney(R) and Senator Joe Lieberman(D)
met in a friendly debate Thursday night, speculating about taxes and
Social Security. The nominees, meeting for a hedging session as the
election looms just five weeks before the Nov. 7th. Historically,
these secondary debates rarely carry much weight with voters. Sen.
Lieberman, in his second Senate term from Connecticut and Secretary
Cheney, a former congressman before serving as defense secretary,
started out trying to set a civil tone.
Lieberman and Cheney went over familiar ground on tax cuts, education,
Social Security, fiscal responsibility, use of the military and the
newly approved abortion drug RU-486 much of the same ground covered
by Al Gore and George W. Bush on Tuesday night.
to the Editor
Vice presidential debates rarely affect
the national race since the job as No. 2 is so much less weighty than
that of president, although over the last quarter century they have
often produced some of the sharpest exchanges. But Lieberman, the two-term
senator from Connecticut and the first Jew on a major party ticket,
and Cheney, a former congressman and defense secretary, started out
trying to set a different tone. ``I am going to be positive tonight,''
said Lieberman in remarks opening the 90-minute debate. ``I too want
to avoid any personal attacks and I promise, Joe, not to bring up your
singing,'' Cheney joked, referring to Lieberman's recent singing of
the song ``My Way'' on late night television. Responded Lieberman: ``I
promise not to sing.''
The two got into an immediate disagreement
on how the parties would spend the expected budget surpluses over the
next decade. Cheney said the Democratic proposals would spend $900 billion
more than the expected surplus while Lieberman said the Republicans
would leave the government $1.1 trillion in debt. The candidates came
to Centre College well-equipped with facts and figures, citing them
constantly to make their points. After one particularly detailed discourse
by Lieberman, Cheney remarked a voter would ``have to have a CPA (certified
public accountant) to understand what he just said.'' Unlike the presidential
debate, the two vice presidential candidates answered many questions
on defense and foreign policy.
Cheney, served as defense secretary for
Bush's father, former President George Bush(R), during the Gulf War,
said the nation's military had declined over eight years under President
Clinton. But Lieberman said, ``It's not right and it's not good for
our military to run them down essentially in the midst of a partisan
political debate.'' Cheney responded, ``I'm not attacking the military,
Joe ... but it is irresponsible we should not have this debate in a
presidential campaign.'' On the issue of whether Iraqi leader Saddam
Hussein was rebuilding his arsenal, Cheney said he thought U.S. resolve
had declined under Clinton and if Saddam was building up his arms, then
leaders should ``take serious consideration of military action.'' Again
Lieberman said the campaign was not time to go over the military options.
But he added, ``there will be no peace until he (Saddam) goes'' and
pointed out it was the senior Bush who left the Iraqi in power at the
end of the war.
Both men supported the day's developments
in Yugoslavia where the opposition took charge of Belgrade's streets
and appeared to have chased President Slobodan Milosevic from power.
``That is a very happy ending,'' Lieberman said, and Cheney agreed,
saying, ``I hope it marks the end of Milosevic.'' ``I think this is
an opportunity for the United States to test President Putin of Russia,
that in fact now is the time we ought to find whether he is indeed committed
to democracy, whether or not he is willing to support the forces of
freedom and democracy diplomatically in the area there of Eastern Europe,''
Cheney said. Cheney and Lieberman met at a point in the campaign when
the race was one of the closest in the past 40 years. Gore led Bush
by six percentage points in the latest Reuters tracking poll.
With a margin of error of three percentage points, the poll contained
the first signs of the post-debate reaction with Gore receiving a slight
Meanwhile, Gore and Bush plan to trade
friendly jabs in a second of three debates on Wednesday in Winston-Salem,
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