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Debate notes...

So I think this debate was a wash rhetorically... no witty legal-eagle theatrics from Edwards, no "go fuck yourself" from Cheney (and here I was waiting to find out who the FCC would fine if Dick got riled up and swore over the airwaves). The bullshit was also a bit more evenly balanced this time around...

The big little white lie:
CHENEY: The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight.

It's a great line, but if the "outsourcing" line from Kerry last week was puffery this is just plain bullshit. Details are in today's FactCheck.org article.

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics:
EDWARDS:You know, we've taken 90 percent of the coalition causalities. American taxpayers have borne 90 percent of the costs of the effort in Iraq.

And we see the result of there not being a coalition: The first Gulf war cost America $5 billion. We're at $200 billion and counting.

John Kerry will never give up control over the security of the United States of America to any other country. We will not outsource our responsibility to keep this country safe.

IFILL: Mr. Vice President, you have 90 seconds to respond.

CHENEY: Well, Gwen, the 90 percent figure is just dead wrong. When you include the Iraqi security forces that have suffered casualties, as well as the allies, they've taken almost 50 percent of the casualties in operations in Iraq, which leaves the U.S. with 50 percent, not 90 percent.

With respect to the cost, it wasn't $200 billion. You probably weren't there to vote for that. But $120 billion is, in fact, what has been allocated to Iraq. The rest of it's for Afghanistan and the global war on terror.


So we've got that $200 billion number again (and Cheney's response was reasonable, but I wonder how many people noticed that he separated the "global war on terror"), but that's not what I'm going to worry at.

"The 90% figure is just dead wrong" only if you change the math (a common practice amongst politicians). Granted, the Kerry-Edwards campaign is choosing statistics that make their case: when ranking the cost/casualty distribution across the coalition that invaded Iraq, 88% of the casualties to date have been American troops. Not a bad number when trying to make the point that our coalition partners aren't bearing much of the burden, and that the coalition isn't what the Administration claims it is.

Bush's response last week to the assertion was to deflect it: the questioning the level of participation by coalition partner governments is an insult to the coalition soldiers.

Cheney took a different tack; he changed the equation by counting Iraqi casualties (and Iraq wasn't a member of the coalition that invaded Iraq, so it doesn't invalidate Edwards' statement), but what does this say? It does drop the percentage of American casualties (read "makes our losses look smaller"). It doesn't counter the assertion that our coalition partners, for whatever reason, aren't taking as heavy losses as US troops.

Does any of this really mean anything? It depends on whether the administration can successfully rewrite history. So far they haven't successfully made the case that there is a broad-based international coalition and that the burden is equitably distributed.

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