Thursday, October 7, 2004

Oops! Cheney had met Edwards

Debate witticism fails to hold up to scrutiny

Enquirer news services

At first, it seemed like it might go down in history as one of those killer debate moments: Vice President Dick Cheney, who presides over the Senate, said he'd never met Sen. John Edwards until their encounter Tuesday night in Cleveland.

"I'm up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session," said Cheney, turning to Edwards, the North Carolina Democrat, whom he faulted for skipping lots of votes. "The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight."

But the witticism backfired. Cheney was wrong.

Within an hour, Democrats circulated photographs and video snippets showing Edwards and Cheney standing next to each other on the dais at the Feb. 1, 2001, National Prayer breakfast.

"Thank you very much. Congressman Watts, Senator Edwards, friends across the country and distinguished visitors to our country from all over the world, Lynne and I are honored to be with you all this morning," Cheney said, according to a transcript.

Edwards also met Cheney at the ceremonial swearing-in of Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., on Jan. 8, 2003, according to newspaper accounts.

The two had met at least three times: at the prayer breakfast; in April 2001 during a taping of NBC's Meet the Press, and on Jan. 8, 2003, when Edwards accompanied Sen. Elizabeth Dole to her swearing-in by Cheney.

Nevertheless, Lynne Cheney poked fun at the Democrats' criticism of her husband's claim, which he made as a way of contending Edwards had a spotty Senate attendance record.

"It's a really good thing to go to prayer breakfasts. But don't you think the senator ought to go to the Senate once in a while?" Mrs. Cheney asked.

During 2003, as he was beginning his run for the Democratic presidential nomination, Edwards missed 38 percent of the 459 roll-call votes. He's missed all 45 votes held since Sen. John Kerry named him as his running mate in July.

Cheney spokeswoman Anne Womack said Wednesday that the vice president still had no recollection of ever having met Edwards before Tuesday night.

The Kerry campaign said that was remarkable.

Edwards wrong, too

The vice president's gaffe wasn't the only thing called into question during the debate:

• Edwards repeated presidential candidate John Kerry's misassertion that $200 billion is being spent fighting in Iraq. The amount is $120 billion, with an additional $25 billion authorized for the war on terrorism, including in Iraq.

• Cheney denied he has publicly linked Saddam Hussein and Iraq to the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaida. Cheney may not have made a direct link, but he has implied the link - including on Meet the Press on Sept. 8, 2002.

• Edwards charged that when Cheney ran Halliburton, the company did business with Libya and Iran, sworn enemies of the United States. The business with Libya occurred before Cheney was CEO. Cheney said the charge was false and that a person could look it up on

As it turns out, Cheney was wrong about that. It is

The other Web site belongs to George Soros, who has spent millions urging the defeat of the Bush-Cheney ticket.

It also was a stretch for Cheney to suggest that he frequently presides over the Senate. Cheney wields the gavel only when he's needed to cast tie-breaking votes, which happened only three times in 2003. He does visit Capitol Hill on Tuesdays, for strategy lunches with Republican senators, but no Democrats are invited.

Cheney aides said Wednesday that his comment wasn't misleading. It pointed up a larger truth, they said: that Edwards has often been absent from his Senate duties, busy running for president.

"The vice president has no recollection of meeting Senator Edwards," said Anne Womack, Cheney's campaign spokeswoman. "The important point is during his Senate career, Senator Edwards has failed to establish a record."


The Associated Press, Knight Ridder News Service and the New York Times contributed.

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