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United States vice-presidential debate, 2004


United States vice-presidential debate, 2004

Dick Cheney
John Edwards

On October 5, 2004, Democratic candidate John Edwards debated the incumbent vice-president, Republican Dick Cheney.


  • Venue 1
  • Questions for Vice President Cheney 2
  • Questions for Senator Edwards 3
  • Post-debate poll 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The Veale Center at Case Western Reserve University

The only Vice Presidential debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards was held at the Veale Center at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. The debate attracted a large audience, as 43.6 million people tuned in, nearly as many as had watched the presidential debates from 2000.

Moderator Gwen Ifill of the Public Broadcasting Service posed a total of twenty questions to the candidates:

Questions for Vice President Cheney

  1. Vice President Cheney, there have been new developments in Iraq, especially having to do with the administration's handling. Paul Bremer, the former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, gave a speech in which he said that we have never had enough troops on the ground, or we've never had enough troops on the ground. Donald Rumsfeld said he has not seen any hard evidence of a link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Was this approved—of a report that you requested that you received a week ago that showed there was no connection between Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Saddam Hussein?
  2. Tonight we mentioned Afghanistan. We believe that Osama bin Laden is hiding perhaps in a cave somewhere along the Afghan-Pakistan border. If you get a second term, what is your plan to capture him and then to neutralize those who have sprung up to replace him?
  3. When the president says that Senator Kerry is emboldening enemies and you say that we could get hit again if voters make the wrong choice in November, are you saying that it would be a dangerous thing to have John Kerry as president?
  4. Mr. Vice President, in June 2000 when you were still CEO of Halliburton, you said that U.S. businesses should be allowed to do business with Iran because, quote, "Unilateral sanctions almost never work." After four years as vice president now, and with Iran having been declared by your administration as part of the "axis of evil," do you still believe that we should lift sanctions on Iran?
  5. Mr. Vice President, the Census Bureau ranked Cleveland as the biggest poor city in the country, 31 percent jobless rate. You two gentlemen are pretty well off. You did well for yourselves in the private sector. What can you tell the people of Cleveland, or people of cities like Cleveland, that your administration will do to better their lives?
  6. I want to read something you said four years ago at this very setting: "Freedom means freedom for everybody." You said it again recently when you were asked about legalizing same-sex unions. And you used your family's experience as a context for your remarks. Can you describe then your administration's support for a constitutional ban on same-sex unions?
  7. President Bush has derided in John Kerry for putting a trial lawyer on the ticket. You yourself have said that lawsuits are partly to blame for higher medical costs. Are you willing to say that John Edwards, sitting here, has been part of the problem?
  8. I want to talk to you about AIDS, and not about AIDS in China or Africa, but AIDS right here in this country, where black women between the ages of 25 and 44 are 13 times more likely to die of the disease than their counterparts. What should the government's role be in helping to end the growth of this epidemic?
  9. Without mentioning them by name at all, explain to us why you are different from your opponent.
  10. Whichever one of you is elected in November—you mentioned those three electoral votes in Wyoming and how critical they've turned out to be. But what they're a sign of also is that you're going to inherit a very deeply divided electorate, economically, politically, you name it. How will you set out, Mr. Vice President, in a way that you weren't able to in these past four years, to bridge that divide?

Questions for Senator Edwards

  1. You and Senator Kerry have said that the war in Iraq is the wrong war at the wrong time. Does that mean that if you had been president and vice president that Saddam Hussein would still be in power?
  2. Senator Kerry was asked about preemptive action at the last debate—he said, "You've got to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing and can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons." What is a global test if it's not a global veto?
  3. Part of what you have said and Senator Kerry has said that you are going to do in order to get us out of the problems in Iraq is to internationalize the effort. Yet French and German officials have both said they have no intention even if John Kerry is elected of sending any troops into Iraq for any peacekeeping effort. Does that make your effort or your plan to internationalize this effort seem kind of naive?
  4. If this report that we've read about today is true, and if Vice President Cheney ordered it and asked about this, do you think that, in the future, that your administration or the Bush administration would have sufficient and accurate enough intelligence to be able to make decisions about where to go next?
  5. Senator Edwards, as we wrap up the foreign policy part of this, I do want to talk to you about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Today, a senior member of Islamic Jihad was killed in Gaza. There have been suicide bombings, targeted assassinations, mortar attacks, all of this continuing at a time when the United States seems absent in the peace-making process. What would your administration do? First of all, do you agree that the United States is absent? Maybe you don't. But what would your administration do to try to resolve that conflict?
  6. Senator Kerry said in a recent interview that he absolutely will not raise taxes on anyone under, who earns under $200,000 a year. How can he guarantee that and also cut the deficit in half, as he's promised?
  7. As the vice president mentioned, John Kerry comes from the state of Massachusetts, which has taken as big a step as any state in the union to legalize gay marriage. Yet both you and Senator Kerry say you oppose it. Are you trying to have it both ways?
  8. Do you feel personally attacked when Vice President Cheney talks about liability reform and tort reform and the president talks about having a trial lawyer on the ticket?
  9. Ten men and women have been nominees of their parties since 1976 to be vice president. Out of those ten, you have the least governmental experience of any of them. What qualifies you to be a heartbeat away?
  10. Flip-flopping has become a recurring theme in this campaign, you may have noticed. Senator Kerry changed his mind about whether to vote to authorize the president to go to war. President Bush changed his mind about whether a homeland security department was a good idea or a 9/11 Commission was a good idea. What's wrong with a little flip-flop every now and then?

Post-debate poll

CBS News interviewed a nationally representative sample of 178 uncommitted debate-watchers. The sample was of voters who were either undecided about whom to vote for or who had a weak preference that could be changed. Of the group, 41 percent said Edwards won the debate, 28 said Cheney won, and 31 percent thought it was a tie. Both uncommitted men and uncommitted women preferred Edwards.[1]

According to telephone interviews conducted by SurveyUSA in Florida, 44 percent of people thought that Cheney had "clearly won" the debate, while 40 percent of people said the same of Edwards. A separate poll found of 1000 likely voters found that 43 percent believed Cheney won while 37 percent felt Edwards did better. Moreover, after the debate 47 percent said that Cheney was "very qualified" to assume the responsibilities of president (a 7 percent rise), while only 25% said the same of Edwards (no change).[2]


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External links

  • RealPlayer video stream of the debate from the BBC website
  • Video and stream of the debate from the Internet Archive
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