War of Words

Vice presidential candidates Dick Cheney and John Edwards face off in front of the nation Oct. 5 at Case Western Reserve University's Veale Convocation Center, leaving us to wonder: Does the VP debate really have any effect whatsoever on the outcome of the election? We ponder the strategies, surprises and surreal moments tied to our nation's 28-year-old tradition of letting the guys in the No. 2 slots go a few rounds with each other every four years.

Name John Edwards Dick Cheney
Age 51 63
Resume Attorney
U.S. senator (D-North Carolina)
Wyoming congressman
Secretary of Defense
CEO of Halliburton
Vice president of the United States of America
Speaking Style Engaging, though at times schmaltzy Mumbles, not big on rhetorical flourishes
Best Move Playing up his connection to real working Americans and what's important to them The trust-me-because-everything-I'm-saying-is-right sneer — very convincing
Achilles Heel Has only worked in Washington since 1999, after being elected senator in '98 His former involvement with oil giant Halliburton and the company's big-money, no-bid contracts in Iraq
"Star Wars" Alter Ego The young, plucky and very inexperienced Luke Skywalker, who lives with his aunt and uncle on a remote farm far away from the matters of the Empire. Shadow governments, secure undisclosed locations, a life prolonged by technology -- he’s all Darth Vader … in a good way, of course.

Odds Are…
• 1,000,000 to 1 Case and MoveOn.org benefactor and billionaire Peter B. Lewis is so moved by Cheney’s words that he will announce he’s throwing a Republican Party fund-raiser.
• 12 to 1 Folksy, millworkers’ son Edwards will show up clad in the sort of pricey Italian suits fellow down-home Democrat Bill Clinton wore while running for office.
• 6 to 1 Cheney will still try to argue that Saddam Hussein was involved in planning the Sept. 11 attacks.
• 2 to 1 Cheney will subliminally confirm his core conservative nature in the wake of his same-sex marriage comments by donning a bright red tie for the match-up.

If every United States voter between the ages of 18 and 23 went to the polls this November, they could sway the outcome of the election. Unfortunately, a number of those college-aged voters are more worried about the next keg than the person who’ll be a heartbeat away from the U.S. presidency for the next four years. Of course, if you turned the debate into a drinking game…
• Take one drink any time the names “Saddam Hussein” or “Osama bin Laden” are mentioned by anyone.
• Take one drink every time Edwards drops the names “Halliburton” or “Enron.”
• Take two drinks every time Cheney mentions
the phrases “trial lawyer” or “Swift boat.”
• Do a shot if Cheney utters the George W. Bush buzzword “evildoers.”
• Chug your entire drink if Edwards clumsily knocks over a water glass as he did during the CBS Democratic primary debate earlier this year.

Say What?
Even if voters don’t cast their votes based on the VP debates, the verbal sparring over the years has churned out a load of great sound bites. Here are a few of our favorites:

“Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.”
— Lloyd Bentsen to Dan Quayle (1988)

“Who am I? Why am I here?”
— Opening statement of Ross Perot’s seemingly discombobulated running mate, retired Vice Adm. James Stockdale (1992)

“I want to avoid any personal attacks. I promise not to bring up your singing.”
— Dick Cheney to Joe Lieberman (2000)

Four Years Ago Today…
Tiny Centre College in Danville, Ky., was the scene of the last vice presidential debate, on Oct. 5, 2000 — exactly four years ago to the day from when Cheney and Edwards will face off here. The smallest entity to ever host a debate, the college almost didn’t have its moment in the spotlight. “After we won the debate, we lost the debate and then won it back again,” recalls Centre College director of communications Mike Norris. After the college was selected and began making renovations to the hall where the debate would be held, Republicans vetoed the list of debate locations and provided their own crop of possibilities that didn’t include Danville. The college promptly launched a “Save the Debate” campaign, which snared national headlines, and the Republicans ultimately backed down. That wasn’t the only wrinkle. Rumors also circulated that protesters unhappy that third-party candidates weren’t invited to participate would try to shut down the debate. Norris says the college sidestepped that pitfall by setting up a PA system on campus so protesters could have a forum to express their views. And in true small-town fashion, the college provided lemonade and cookies. “They did not disrupt our debate,” Norris says.

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