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Upon Further Review: The Cheney-Edwards Judges Fumbled


Trying desperately to keep their balance, the media keep falling down

Who won the October 5 debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards? If you listened to, watched, or read the media accounts, you may think that both of them “stretched the truth” during their spirited and personal argument.

But that’s not true. Cheney, the de facto POTUS, failed in the facts, and Edwards did not. Trying desperately to keep their balance, the media once again fell down.

Go ahead and take it point by point yourself, using The Washington Post‘s annotated debate transcript, in which it inserted what it called “Debate Referee” analysis. Both the Post and The New York Times also ran analyses that purported to list both veep candidates’ misstatements (what we non-politicians would sometimes call “lies”). These analyses — the Post‘s is here, and the Times‘ is here — were falsely “balanced.” The papers’ refs tried to take Edwards to the woodshed, but he didn’t deserve a whipping. Some examples follow. Here’s the Post on Edwards’s criticism of the Bush regime’s tax cuts for the wealthy:

Edwards asserted that “millionaires sitting by their swimming pool … pay a lower tax rate than the men and women who are receiving paychecks for serving” in Iraq. President Bush last year cut the tax rate on dividends to 15 percent, whereas most soldiers would be in a 15 percent tax bracket — and pay an effective rate much less after taking deductions for children and mortgages.

As a matter of fact, the “effective rate” is much less for the millionaires, let alone their after-tax income. How many times do we have to say this?

Respectable organizations such as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities have sliced and diced tax figures. The rich have many more options for deductions than the middle class’s children and mortgages. The wealthy are getting huge breaks from Bush on how to handle their taxes on investments, capital gains, corporate bidness, and estates. And that’s on top of a huge unfairness that already existed.

See the September 16 Bush Beat item “More Taxing News for Humans,” which pointed out that from 1979 to 2001, “the average after-tax income of the top 1 percent of households rose by a stunning $409,000, or 139 percent, after adjusting for inflation.” This compares with “the $6,300, or 17 percent, average increase among the middle fifth of the population, over this 22-year period, and the $1,100, or 8 percent, increase among the bottom fifth of the population.”

As for the Bush regime’s tax cuts? Practically every mainstream news outlet in the country referred to the late-September tax package approved by Congress as “middle-class tax breaks.” What a howler! For another view, read Robert Greenstein‘s “New ‘Middle-Class’ Tax-Cut Bill Represents Cynical Policymaking.” And take a gander at a fact sheet based on info from the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center. Here’s what the Tax Policy Center says of the recently touted “middle-class” tax-cut bill:

In 2005, two-thirds (68 percent) of the legislation’s benefits would go to the top fifth of households, while only 10 percent of the benefits would go to the middle fifth of households, a peculiar outcome for a “middle-class” tax-cut bill.

While protecting corporate tax-abuse schemes, the Bush regime is cutting off the middle class at its knees. And most of the media go right along with it. Hey, if you make more than $250,000 a year, you should vote for Bush. If you don’t make that much, you’re a sucker if you vote for him.

For your reading displeasure, take a look at this trenchant analysis by Greenstein and Isaac Shapiro of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. They shrewdly point out:

Although the [“middle-class tax-cut”] bill includes no “offsets” to pay for the cost of its tax cuts, sooner or later the federal government will have to cover these costs, either by raising taxes or by cutting programs. These financing measures ultimately will offset part or all the gains that many families receive from the tax cuts. Since the gains that many middle-class families will secure from these tax-cut provisions are modest, there is a substantial possibility that many, if not most, middle-class households will lose more from the measures that ultimately are adopted to offset the tax cuts’ costs than they will receive in tax-cut benefits.

Congress could have cracked down on what economists call “abusive corporate tax shelters” when it also passed a series of “corporate tax-reform” measures. That didn’t happen, y’all.

“Instead,” say Greenstein and Shapiro, “Congress leaders made a decision to use the corporate tax-reform savings largely to finance an array of new tax breaks for corporations and other special interests, and to push through the middle-class tax package without paying for it.”

Let’s move on to Halliburton. Edwards excoriated Cheney, linking him to Halliburton’s sweetheart deal in Iraq. The Post‘s judges, referring to Edwards’s point that Halliburton has been fined and is under investigation for deeds that took place when Cheney was CEO, sniffed:

Cheney has not been directly implicated in any of the investigations. But the remainder of Edwards’s characterizations of Halliburton’s business practices are largely accurate.

How much more direct does it have to be? The SEC trashed the company for what it did while Cheney was CEO. Cheney tried to dismiss Edwards’s allegations as a “smokescreen.” The New York Times cooperated by blowing smoke up our asses with David E. Rosenbaum‘s point-by-point analysis of how both veep candidates “stretched the facts”:

Mr. Edwards suggested an improper relationship between the Bush administration and Halliburton, the company with large contracts in Iraq that Mr. Cheney led before he ran for vice president.

Mr. Edwards was right that Halliburton holds a no-bid contract for services in Iraq, is under investigation for overcharges, and is still being paid by the government. But there is no evidence Mr. Cheney has pulled strings on Halliburton’s behalf since becoming vice president. And the independent Government Accountability Office concluded that Halliburton was the only company that could have provided the services the Army needed at the outset of the war and was thus justified in having received the noncompetitive contract.

No evidence he pulled strings? The noted anarcho-Marxist-liberal rag The Wall Street Journal reported on that string-pulling. Read the Multinational Monitor’s roundup of this and other Bushian matters. Here’s an excerpt:

Although Bush administration officials say Cheney had nothing to do with the contracts, the Wall Street Journal reported in January 2003 that executives from Halliburton and other big oil companies had met with Vice President Dick Cheney’s staff in late 2002 to discuss how to jump-start Iraq’s oil production after the war. Details of that meeting, like the vice president’s National Energy Task Force, remain a secret.

In June [2004], GAO investigators confirmed that Pentagon officials had broken competitive contracting requirements and overruled objections from an army lawyer to grant the first Iraq oil-related work order to Halliburton.

According to Representative Henry Waxman, D-California, Michael Mobbs, a neoconservative political appointee working under the direction of Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, made the decision to award the oil contract to Halliburton. At the same time, an Army Corps of Engineers e-mail message surfaced, suggesting that the decision had been “coordinated w VP’s office.”

In a letter to Cheney asking for more information, Waxman described an October 2002 meeting in which Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, was informed of the decision, along with other White House officials.

And Halliburton was the only company that could have provided these “services”? That’s because the contract proposal was written that way. That’s the oldest Pentagon trick in the business.

Read this June 2004 story in The Guardian (U.K.) about Libby, Cheney, and Halliburton. As for Waxman, his Government Reform site is a better online news source than 99 percent of all news sources.

Last and certainly not least, let’s talk about dead U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

Edwards: “We’ve taken 90 percent of the coalition casualties.”

Cheney: “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.

Dead wrong? We’re dead, Cheney, and you’re wrong. Edwards was absolutely right. But both the Post and Times screwed this up. The Times‘ Rosenbaum wrote:

Mr. Edwards said 90 percent of fatalities, but that includes only foreign troops killed, and does not count approximately 700 Iraqi security forces said to have died.

The Post was not much better, allowing that Edwards’s claim “stands up,” but only after pointing out that “the U.S.” doesn’t release figures of dead Iraqis.

Are they insane? Edwards said “coalition” forces, and he said it for a reason: The Bush regime has refused to release any figures on Iraqi casualties — civilian, military, insurgents, grandmothers, children, police, anything. You have to go to sources like Iraq Body Count for that information. (Latest estimate of dead Iraqi civilians: 13,000 to 15,000.)

This was not nit-picking by Edwards. He was correct in saying that 90 percent of the coalition casualties are Americans. And his point was that this was no coalition, even though the Bush regime wants to paint the unwarranted invasion of Iraq by a “coalition of the willing” as analogous to World War II–brand “Allies” fighting the “Axis.”

The point in dicing and slicing those who diced and sliced the truthfulness of Edwards and Cheney is that Edwards did not stretch the truth. Cheney, on the other hand, lied.

Cheney even erred when defending his lies. He told viewers to go to “,” when he meant “” But that was an honest mistake. This is what had to say about Cheney after the debate:

Cheney wrongly implied that FactCheck had defended his tenure as CEO of Halliburton Co., and the vice president even got our name wrong. He overstated matters when he said Edwards voted “for the war” and “to commit the troops, to send them to war.” He exaggerated the number of times Kerry has voted to raise taxes, and puffed up the number of small-business owners who would see a tax increase under Kerry’s proposals.

But headlined its piece “Cheney & Edwards Mangle Facts,” and that itself is not justified. This is what it said about Edwards:

Edwards falsely claimed the administration “lobbied the Congress” to cut the combat pay of troops in Iraq, something the White House never supported, and he used misleading numbers about jobs.

Read this story by Edward Epstein of the San Francisco Chronicle, and then tell me whether Edwards was wrong about his point on combat pay. Epstein wrote in August 2003:

The White House quickly back-pedaled [August 14, 2003] on Pentagon plans to cut the combat pay of the 157,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan after disclosure of the idea quickly became a political embarrassment.

As for Edwards’s point about jobs? Exactly where he got his figure of 2.7 million jobs lost is unclear. But it could have come from this August 2004 report, which noted, among other grim news concerning the impact of Bush’s tax cuts:

The Economic Policy Institute finds that the number of jobs created in the wake of the tax cuts has already fallen 2.7 million jobs short of Administration predictions made in 2003. EPI reports that through August, the economy has produced 1.6 million jobs since passage of the 2003 tax bill; this is just 38 percent of the 4.3 million jobs the Administration predicted would be generated over this period.

The point is that Edwards could have picked all kinds of bad news about jobs — figures worse than he cited. How is that error, if it was one, comparable to the bullshit that Cheney spewed at us?

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