- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 7, 2000

The audacity of the Democratic presidential ticket is extraordinary. The size of the audience before which either Vice President Al Gore or his running mate, Sen. Joe Lieberman, will express bald-faced prevarications seems to be limitless. Mr. Gore began Tuesday's presidential debate by lying when he denied that he had ever questioned George W. Bush's experience to be president. Appropriately, Mr. Lieberman's response to the final question in Thursday's vice presidential debate "I have not changed a single position since Al Gore nominated me to be his vice president" was equally at variance with the truth.

Despite being pilloried by the media since he was selected in late July by Mr. Bush to be the the GOP vice presidential candidate, Mr. Cheney performed exceptionally well Thursday evening. No doubt viewers who saw him for the first time were quite surprised by how much he differed from the media's caricature. Throughout the debate, Mr. Cheney displayed a command of policies and their underlying arguments probably never before demonstrated by a vice presidential candidate of any party in modern times.

Nowhere was Mr. Cheney more forceful or convincing than when he pointedly emphasized the soundness of Mr. Bush's recommendation Tuesday evening about the evolving Yugoslavian political crisis. "I do think it's noteworthy that there appears to be an effort under way to get the Russians involved" in the crisis, Mr. Cheney observed. "Tuesday night in the debate in Boston, Governor Bush suggested exactly that that we ought to try to get the Russians involved to exercise some leverage over the Serbians. And Al Gore pooh-poohed it. But now it's clear," Mr. Cheney noted, "in fact that's exactly what [the United States was] doing and that Governor Bush was correct in his assessment." Left unsaid, of course, was the glaring fact that the contemptuous reaction to that recommendation from Mr. Gore, who has been the administration's point man in U.S.-Russian relations, illustrated Mr. Gore's own glaring shortcomings in the area where he is supposed to hold a huge advantage.

Like his boss, Mr. Cheney had his hands full with the task of countering cleverly crafted obfuscations, outright misrepresentations or political non-sequiturs. One such was the question of how each presidential proposal would assist stay-at-home moms. Mr. Cheney charged that the Gore-Lieberman tax proposal discriminated between stay-at-home moms with children they take care of themselves, on the one hand, and mothers who go to work and have their children taken care of outside the home. Mr. Cheney argued that the Bush-Cheney proposal would grant tax relief to all families, while the Gore-Lieberman proposal heaped child-care tax credits upon working mothers while providing stay-at-home moms with no tax benefit for caring for her own children. As it happens, among the 29 tax credits in the Gore plan, which, Mr. Cheney rightly observed, would require a CPA to decipher, was a $500 tax credit available to stay-at-home moms, a fact that Mr. Lieberman made known in defending Mr. Gore's supposed attention to middle-class families. What Mr. Lieberman did not report was the fact that this particular tax credit applied only during the child's first 12 months of life. Afterwards, there would be no child-care tax benefit available to stay-at-home moms.

Echoing Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney clearly elucidated the difference between the two approaches: The Gore proposal was "a classic example of wanting to have a program, in this case a tax program, that will in fact direct people to live their lives in certain ways, rather than empower them to make decisions for themselves. It is a big difference between us."

For women who do enter the labor force, Mr. Lieberman slyly revealed his support for an incomes policy that would have much more in common with the old Soviet command economy than with America's market system. Noting that women receive 72 cents for every dollar a man receives in a "comparable job," Mr. Lieberman argued such a discrepancy was "unfair" and "unacceptable" and pledged to "eliminate the pay gap." This is the widely discredited comparable-worth scam, in which industrial psychologists would painstakingly and arbitrarily assign points to every aspect of all jobs in order to equalize wages for all "comparable jobs." With the government involved, it would become a bureaucratic nightmare.

In the politically motivated non sequitur department, Mr. Lieberman had the audacity to charge that former Secretary of Defense Cheney would "run [the military] down essentially in the midst of a partisan political debate." Mr. Cheney had done no such thing. He merely repeated the conclusions of several Pentagon reports and armed-services chiefs of staff critical of the military's readiness. Repeating a canard first offered by President Clinton in a State of the Union address, Mr. Lieberman absurdly claimed, "This administration has turned around the drop in spending on the military that began in the mid-1980s." That is some chutzpah. Mr. Lieberman traced the sources of the military's problems to Ronald Reagan and their solutions to Bill Clinton.

In no policy arena have the adverse consequences of the Clinton-Gore administration's lack of responsible policy-making become more apparent than in the current energy crisis. "The fact that we don't have an energy policy," Mr. Cheney rightly observed, "is one of the major storm clouds on the horizon for our economy." He noted that domestic oil production is at a 46-year low. Indeed, oil imports have increased more than 50 percent since 1992, while domestic production has plunged. Clearly, one part of the solution must be increased production, but Mr. Lieberman, repeating Mr. Gore's pledge Tuesday, refused to consider exploring for oil and natural gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Meanwhile, as U.S. dependence on foreign oil has rapidly accelerated, Mr. Gore was forced to flip-flop yet again last month, recommending that the Strategic Petroleum Reserve be tapped to alleviate the political crisis affecting his campaign brought about by rising gasoline prices.

A consistent theme Mr. Cheney evoked throughout the debate was the failure of the Clinton-Gore administration to address major problems, including the long-term solvency problems of Social Security and Medicare, during the past eight years. The list goes on. Mr. Bush will not be running out of material for the next two debates.

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