The following are excerpts from the vice presidential debate between Sen. John Edwards and Vice President Cheney:
Troops in Iraq
CHENEY:It's important to look at all of our developments in Iraq within the broader context of the global war on terror. And, after 9/11, it became clear that we had to do several things to have a successful strategy to win the global war on terror, specifically that we had to go after the terrorists wherever we might find them, that we also had to go after state sponsors of terror, those who might provide sanctuary or safe harbor for terror. . . .
The effort that we've mounted with respect to Iraq focused specifically on the possibility that this was the most likely nexus between the terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. The biggest threat we faced today is the possibility of terrorists smuggling a nuclear weapon or a biological agent into one of our own cities and threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans. What we did in Iraq was exactly the right thing to do. If I had it to recommend all over again, I would recommend exactly the same course of action.
EDWARDS:Mr. Vice President, you are still not being straight with the American people. I mean, the reality you and George Bush continue to tell people, first, that things are going well in Iraq -- the American people don't need us to explain this to them, they see it on their television every single day. We lost more troops in September than we lost in August; lost more in August than we lost in July; lost more in July than we lost in June. The truth is, our men and women in uniform have been heroic. Our military has done everything they've been asked to do. And it's not just me that sees the mess in Iraq. There are Republican leaders, like John McCain, like Richard Lugar, like Chuck Hagel, who have said Iraq is a mess and it's getting worse. . . . What [former U.S. administrator in Iraq] Paul Bremer said yesterday is they didn't have enough troops to secure the country. They also didn't have a plan to win the peace. They also didn't put the alliances together to make this successful. We need a fresh start. . . . Mr. Vice President, there is no connection between the attacks of September 11th and Saddam Hussein. The 9/11 commission has said it. Your own secretary of state has said it. And you've gone around the country suggesting that there is some connection. There is not.
U.S. Handling of Afghanistan
E:Now, remember, we went into Afghanistan, which, by the way, was the right thing to do. That was the right decision. And our military performed terrifically there. But we had Osama bin Laden cornered at Tora Bora. We had the 10th Mountain Division up in Uzbekistan available. We had the finest military in the world on the ground. And what did we do? We turned -- this is the man who masterminded the greatest mass murder and terrorist attack in American history. And what did the administration decide to do? They gave the responsibility of capturing and/or killing Saddam -- I mean Osama bin Laden -- to Afghan warlords who, just a few weeks before, had been working with Osama bin Laden. Our point in this is not complicated: We were attacked by al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. We went into Afghanistan and very quickly the administration made a decision to divert attention from that and instead began to plan for the invasion of Iraq.
C:The senator has got his facts wrong. I have not suggested there's a connection between Iraq and 9/11, but there's clearly an established Iraqi track record with terror. And the point is that that's the place where you're most likely to see the terrorists come together with weapons of mass destruction, the deadly technologies that Saddam Hussein had developed and used over the years. Now, the fact of the matter is, the big difference here, Gwen, is they are not prepared to deal with states that sponsor terror. They've got a very limited view about how to use U.S. military forces to defend America. We heard Senator Kerry say the other night that there ought to be some kind of global test before U.S. troops are deployed preemptively to protect the United States. That's part of a track record that goes back to the 1970s when he ran for Congress the first time and said troops should not be deployed without U.N. approval. . . . The fact is, as we go forward in Afghanistan, we will pursue Osama bin Laden and the terrorists as long as necessary. We're standing up Afghan security forces so they can take on responsibility for their own security. We'll keep U.S. forces there -- we have about 16,000 there today -- as long as necessary, to assist the Afghans in terms of dealing with their security situation.
E: Someone did get it wrong. But it wasn't John Kerry and John Edwards. They got it wrong. When we had Osama bin Laden cornered, they left the job to the Afghan warlords. They then diverted their attention from the very people who attacked us, who were at the center of the war on terror, and so Osama bin Laden is still at large. Now, I want to go back to something the vice president said just a minute ago, because these distortions are continuing. He said that -- made mention of this global test. What John Kerry said -- and it's just as clear as day to anybody who was listening -- he said: We will find terrorists where they are and kill them before they ever do harm to the American people, first. We will keep this country safe.
Kerry's Qualities to Be President
C: I'm saying specifically that I don't believe he has the qualities we need in a commander in chief because I don't think, based on his record, that he would pursue the kind of aggressive policies that need to be pursued if we're going to defeat these terrorists. We need to battle them overseas so we don't have to battle them here at home. I'm not challenging John Kerry's patriotism. . . . What we've questioned is his judgment. And his judgment's flawed, and the record's there for anybody who wants to look at it.
E:One thing that's very clear is that a long resume does not equal good judgment. I mean, we've seen over and over and over the misjudgments made by this administration. I want to go back to what the vice president just said, because it's a continuation of the things he's been doing, unfortunately, on the campaign trail; it's a continuation of what he began his first answer with tonight. John Kerry has voted for the biggest military appropriations bill in the country's history. John Kerry has voted for the biggest intelligence appropriations in the country's history. This vice president, when he was secretary of defense, cut over 80 weapons systems, including the very ones he's criticizing John Kerry for voting against. These are weapons systems, a big chunk of which, the vice president himself suggested we get rid of after the Cold War.
Do You Favor Lifting
Sanctions in Iran?
C:No, I do not. And, Gwen, at the time [when Cheney was chief executive of Halliburton and did favor lifting them], I was talking specifically about this question of unilateral sanctions. What happens when we impose unilateral sanctions is, unless there's a collective effort, then other people move in and take advantage of the situation and you don't have any impact, except to penalize American companies. We've got sanctions on Iran now. We may well want to go to the U.N. Security Council and ask for even tougher sanctions if they don't live up to their obligations under the initial -- International Atomic Energy Agency Non-Proliferation Treaty.
E:The reality about Iran is that Iran has moved forward with their nuclear weapons program on their watch. They ceded responsibility to dealing with it to the Europeans. Now, the vice president, as you pointed out, spoke out loudly for lifting the sanctions on Iraq. John Kerry and I believe we need to strengthen the sanctions on Iraq, including closing the loophole that allows companies to use a subsidiary, offshore subsidiaries to do business with Iran. . . . [Cheney] was pushing for lifting sanctions when he was CEO of Halliburton. Here's why we didn't think Halliburton should have a no-bid contract. While he was CEO of Halliburton, they paid millions of dollars in fines for providing false information on their company, just like Enron and [former chairman] Ken Lay. They did business with Libya and Iran, two sworn enemies of the United States. They're now under investigation for having bribed foreign officials during that period of time. Not only that, they've gotten a $7.5 billion no-bid contract in Iraq, and instead of part of their money being withheld, which is the way it's normally done, because they're under investigation, they've continued to get their money.
C:Well, the reason they keep mentioning Halliburton is because they're trying to throw up a smokescreen. They know the charges are false.
On Same-Sex Marriage
C: Four years ago in this debate, the subject came up. And I said then and I believe today that freedom does mean freedom for everybody. People ought to be free to choose any arrangement they want. It's really no one else's business. That's a separate question from the issue of whether or not government should sanction or approve or give some sort of authorization, if you will, to these relationships. Traditionally, that's been an issue for the states. States have regulated marriage, if you will. That would be my preference. In effect, what's happened is that in recent months, especially in Massachusetts, but also in California, but in Massachusetts we had the Massachusetts Supreme Court direct the state of -- the legislature of Massachusetts to modify their constitution to allow gay marriage. And the fact is that the president felt that it was important to make it clear that that's the wrong way to go, as far as he's concerned. Now, he sets the policy for this administration, and I support the president.
E:Yes. Let me say first, on an issue that the vice president said in his last answer before we got to this question, talking about tax policy, the country needs to know that under what they have put in place and want to put in place, a millionaire sitting by their swimming pool, collecting their statements to see how much money they're making, make their money from dividends, pays a lower tax rate than the men and women who are receiving paychecks for serving on the ground in Iraq. Now, they may think that's right. John Kerry and I do not. We don't just value wealth, which they do. We value work in this country. And it is a fundamental value difference between them and us. Now, as to this question, let me say first that I think the vice president and his wife love their daughter. I think they love her very much. And you can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It's a wonderful thing. And there are millions of parents like that who love their children, who want their children to be happy. And I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and so does John Kerry. I also believe that there should be partnership benefits for gay and lesbian couples in long-term, committed relationships. But we should not use the Constitution to divide this country.