"The Middle East can never be stable until we wipe out Saddam Hussein." GWB? Dick Cheney? Paul Wolfowitz? No. That was vice-presidential wannabe Joseph Lieberman in October of 2000, debating his Republican counterpart, Dick Cheney, on the issues of the day. The Senator from Connecticut spoke those words twice and even mentioned the imminent [our word] danger of WMD's in the hands of rogue states that evening. But nowadays all such thoughts are relegated to the "wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time" (Bush Lied™) file.
The issues don't change much from decade to decade, and it's fascinating to watch how arguments pro or con a particular point go back and forth between parties depending upon the current occupant of the White House. One thing that has changed between those halcyon pre-chad, pre-9/11 days and our Fahrenheit 911/527's/MoveOn, campaign-finance-reform-loophole era is the tenor of the debate. C-Span rebroadcast Cheney's and Lieberman's oh-so-civilized and -- in Donald Rumsfeld's term -- helpful debate last night. Low key, measured and rational. Who knew there were such things in this day and age? But when we reported to Tuck this morning, he reminded us that we had indeed loved this particular debate at the time. Don't expect more of the same Tuesday night, but, then, Dick Cheney and Joseph Lieberman are gentlemen of the old school. Statesman types. Here's a bit of CNN's report at the time:
On this, both vice presidential candidates agreed: It was a good debate that steered clear of personal attacks and covered important issues.
Both candidates said they had prepared for much tougher rhetoric. Cheney said he and Lieberman joked afterward that they could have set aside much of their preparation had they known the polite tenor of the sole vice presidential debate.
The give-and-take between both No. 2 men on the major party tickets was never testy or acrimonious, as was the debate between their principles, Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush, two nights ago in Boston.
Rather, the event moved at a much more orderly pace, with both candidates using little more than their alloted two minutes for responses, and only infrequently asking for more time on certain questions. Through the debate's full length, neither man stepped on the other's answer or interrupted to present a counterpoint.
Can't wait to see how John Edwards will choose to play the Lieberman role on Tuesday evening. A notorious millionaire ambulance-chasing lawyer before his born-again phase as a condescending populist feeler of our pain, he is predicted to go the trial-lawyer route. We loved that in Perry Mason, but when it comes to national leaders, we prefer the Cheney/Lieberman kind of tough love that treats us as responsible, independent fellow citizens rather than irresponsible, dependent wards of the state.
Update: The professor links, commenting that "Campaign finance 'reform' has been enormously destructive to civil society, in my opinion."
Update II: The Anchoress links 6-plus years later:
Sissy Willis recalls a gentlemanly moment in our recent politics.