VP candidates debate, some say better then their running mates

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – Vice Presidential candidates took on international and domestic policy issues during a debate held Tuesday night at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Vice President Dick Cheney defended his administration’s handling of the war in Iraq against Sen. John Edwards’ allegations that the Bush administration should have worked harder to capture Osama bin Laden instead. Cheney said his administration focused on Iraq because it “was the most likely nexus between terrorists and weapons of mass destruction.”

“What we did in Iraq was exactly the right thing to do,” he said. “If I had it to recommend all over again, I would recommend exactly the same course of action. The world is far safer today because Saddam Hussein is in jail, his government is no longer in power.”

While Cheney cited ongoing reconstruction efforts in the Middle East, with Afghanistan’s elections set for this week, and Iraq’ elections next January, Edwards fired back that Cheney’s administration lied to Americans about a “rosy scenario” in the region.

“Not only are they (Afghanistan) providing 75 percent of the world’s opium, large-cut parts of the country are under the control of drug lords and warlords,” Edwards said. “Big parts of the country are still insecure. And the reality is the part of Afghanistan, eastern Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden is, is one of the hardest places to control and the most insecure.”

Moderator Gwen Ifill of PBS’ “The NewsHour” and “Washington Week” turned the candidates’ attention to other countries in the region, asking the candidates how America should handle the Israel-Palestine peacemaking process.

Edwards said he thinks America should prevent Iran from posing a threat to Israel, and that Israel should be defensive.

“Now, we know that the prime minister has made a decision, an historic decision, to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza. It’s important for America to participate in helping with that process, he said. “Now if Gaza’s being used as a platform for attacking the Israeli people that has to be stopped. And Israel has a right to defend itself.”

Cheney discussed steps his administration has taken in support of Israel, and called for reform of the Palestinian state.

“The president stepped forward and put in place a policy basically that said we will support the establishment of two states,” Cheney said. “First president ever to say we’ll establish and support a Palestinian state next door to Israelis.”

Ifill also questioned the candidates on their plans for the economy and how they would like to improve the quality of life for the unemployed. In the past four years, America has lost 1.6 million private sector and 2.7 million manufacturing jobs, Edwards said, adding that he and Kerry oppose outsourcing jobs to other countries.

“We want to get rid of tax cuts for companies sending jobs overseas,” he said. “We want to balance this budget, get back to fiscal responsibility. And we want to invest in the creative, innovative jobs of the future.”

However, Cheney said in the past year, he and Bush have added 1.7 million new jobs to the country.

“I think probably the most successful thing we can do with respect to ending poverty is to get people jobs. There’s no better antidote to poverty than a good, well-paying job that allows somebody to take care of their own family,” Cheney said. “To do that, we have to make America the best place in the world to do business.”

Young voters across the country said they were interested in the candidates’ plans for the next four years.

“Edwards’ bubbly-ness and his excitement coincide with John Kerry’s eloquence and his excitement,” said Allison Goldstein, a recent graduate of Arizona State University with a degree in communications. “Cheney feels like the more facts he throws out there, the more heads he’s going to change, but he just doesn’t get me excited.”

Noelle Daly, a recent graduate of Bowdoin College with a degree in English and religion, said she liked Cheney’s “manner of debating with such sobriety and logic.” “I was surprised with how impressed I was with Cheney,” she said.

The election debates continue on Friday with the second of three presidential debates.

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