Although Tuesday night's debate was much more evenly matched than the Kerry-Bush debate, Sen. John Edwards showed me that he is solid and thoughtful, and a man fully capable of holding the office of president if he should be called on to do so.

Vice President Cheney showed that he is a smart man, but it was also clear that, like President Bush, he hates to be questioned and is much more comfortable when he can say whatever he wants without having to answer for it.

A.T. TRIBBY

Alexandria

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Sen. John Edwards is not ready to be vice president. On Tuesday, Vice President Cheney spoke words that, had President Bush used them, would have meant this campaign was over.

That Mr. Edwards is a personal injury lawyer by trade is no reason for the media to spin this debate as a trial, with the senator as star prosecutor.

WILLIAM SCHWARZ

Midlothian, Va.

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Vice President Cheney said in Tuesday's debate that he had never met Sen. John Edwards before. That is untrue.

While addressing the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 1, 2001, Mr. Cheney said, according to a transcript: "Thank you. Thank you very much. Congressman [J.C.] Watts, Senator Edwards, friends from across America and distinguished visitors to our country from all over the world, Lynne and I [are] honored to be with you all this morning."

S. SAQIB ALI

North Potomac

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Vice President Cheney made a melodramatic point by claiming that he had never met Sen. John Edwards before they walked onstage for the debate. Never mind that it wasn't true; more important is how Mr. Cheney suggested that he should have seen Mr. Edwards when making his regular Tuesday visits to the Senate.

But what Mr. Cheney left out is that, in a departure from tradition, he meets only with Republicans on those visits. Bush and Cheney: dividers, not uniters, once again.

FRANK MILITELLO

Van Nuys, Calif.

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Regarding "Misleading Assertions Cover Iraq War and Voting Records" [news story, Oct. 6]: Glenn Kessler and Jim VandeHei question Sen. John Edwards's assertion 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.

They counter that "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."

However, they fail to consider payroll taxes, which average about 12.7 percent and are not levied paid on dividends. When added to the 15 percent income tax, this brings the soldiers' tax rate on earned income to a total of 27.7 percent, almost twice the 15 percent on unearned dividends.

PHILLIP KIM

Potomac

Having grown up in Ohio and served in the Air Force, I was interested in what the candidates had to say about the war in Iraq and the economic depression that's plaguing Ohio. I have three brothers out of work in Ohio, their jobs outsourced overseas.

Having watched both debates so far, I think that Sens. John Edwards and John F. Kerry have a plan to fix the two major problems facing America. On Tuesday, Mr. Edwards seemed like a straight shooter, confident and forthcoming, while Vice President Cheney was hunched over, with shifty eyes darting to the table, doing that hand-rubbing thing he likes to do. I've no doubt that both sides have a plan, but I think the Kerry-Edwards plan will get my brothers' jobs back and my friends still in the Air Force out of Iraq.

DON SALENSKY

Herndon

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An illuminating moment in Tuesday's debate was Vice President Cheney's assertion that Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards "have got a very limited view about how to use U.S. military forces to defend America."

I would counter that the American people are the ones who have a limited view of when to send our sons and daughters to war.

Our tiny town lost five people on Sept. 11, 2001, including two young girls. Many a parent in our community and around the country agreed that we would do anything, even send our own children, our friends and our families into war in Afghanistan to defend our country against such an attack. We knew that, although war is a last resort, a time had come in our lives when we were forced to make such a dreaded choice.

The administration did not gain that kind of consensus before sending our troops into harm's way in Iraq. Instead it incessantly beat war drums of exaggeration about Saddam Hussein to prepare for the ill-advised and poorly planned attack against a man who is despicable but was not an immediate threat and could have been subdued by other means. President Bush and Mr. Cheney have indeed used us all.

JIM DUFF

University Park

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During Tuesday's debate Sen. John Edwards continued to characterize, as did Sen. John Kerry during the first presidential debate, Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda as the enemy in the war against terrorism. Vice President Cheney, as did President Bush, spoke only of terrorists.

This different view of "the enemy" is striking. Are we to conclude that the Democratic candidates believe that terrorists do not become a threat to our security until they actually strike? To be effective in the global war on terrorism, our president, whoever that becomes, must have the will, the vision and the resources to recognize a terrorist threat without limit or label or affiliation.

To believe that al Qaeda is our only terrorist enemy compromises the safety and security of our country.

VERNON MALLU

Washington