Interview of Gordon Mitchell by Walt Golden

Topic: Vice presidential debate

KQV Radio (1410 AM), Pittsburgh Pennsylvania

October 5, 2004, 7:30 a.m.


Walt Golden (WG): Now it's time to hear from the vice presidential candidates. Cleveland plays host for tonight's forum between Dick Cheney and John Edwards. Correspondent Manuel Gallegus has a preview.


Manuel Gallegus: It promises to be a well-watched, 90-minute debate between John Edwards and Dick Cheney, with the candidates sitting close together, at a desk, before a live audience. Analysts say Cheney must demonstrate his vast political experience. Edwards job, they say, will be to rattle Cheney, perhaps using his skills as a former trial lawyer.


WG: Meanwhile, Pitt's Director of Debate Gordon Mitchell is on KQV's live line this morning with some insight. Mr. Mitchell, good morning to you.


Gordon Mitchell (GM): Good morning, Walt.


WG: Pundits are saying that most of the time the vice presidential debates don't make a whole lot of difference in the campaign. That's not what they're saying this time. What do you think we're going to see tonight?


GM: Sharp contrasts often produce colorful debates and tonight we're going to see two vice presidential candidates who match up like night and day. Some journalists are billing the match up as Dr. Doom vs. Huck Finn; others say it has the feel of Darth Cheney versus Luke Edwards. Ethos, or speaker credibility is an important part of any debate, and this one is going to pit fatherly gravitas against sunny exuberance, so it will prove to be interesting.


WG: Now I'm not an expert on the whole thing but supposedly the strategists on the GOP side are trying to get some steam back in the campaign. Many said that Bush didn't do all that well in his first debate with John Kerry, and that he wants to get things refocused on 9/11.


GM: I think that's what we are going to see from Dick Cheney. He has a stock phrase he uses quite a bit in terms of comparing the two parties as one being the party of September 10 and the other being the party of September 12, trying to highlight the transformative nature of the 9/11 attacks on foreign policy decision making. I think tonight we'll also see Cheney go after the so-called "Kerry doctrine." He often says the Democratic policy seeks a "permission slip" before preemptively attacking adversaries and that this is an irresponsible policy.


WG: Over on John Edwards' side, supposedly they're going to try cast Cheney as the villain. Connections with Halliburton, that kind of business.


GM: I think we'll see Edwards use that word Halliburton quite a bit and try to leverage it by picking up where Kerry left off in highlighting the tradeoffs between the Bush administration's expenditures on the Iraq war coming at the expense of spending on homeland security and domestic programs in the United States. The other thing Edwards needs to do is clarify this so-called "Kerry doctrine" issue by arguing that what Kerry was trying to say during the first debate was that the grounds for war must be legitimate in the eyes of the world. He'll try to amplify the point that Kerry used to preface his "global test" remarks by saying that while any preemptive attack has to be legitimate in the eyes of the world, a Kerry/Edwards administration would never cede the right to anyone for the United States to strike preemptively.


WG: Any way to predict, based on their styles, which might come out on top in terms of voter perception?


GM: The Bush camp is going to start reaping real rewards from their format negotiating tonight. The Democrats actually wanted a town hall format for this debate, but the Republicans insisted that in exchange for an agreement by President Bush to do three debates instead of two, this vice presidential debate would be a sit down affair. This format really plays to Cheney's strengths. He is a relaxed debater who is most comfortable in conversational settings. Edwards is an animated debater. The trial litigator in him is trained to fill up the courtroom with oratory. He tries to occupy the debating space with expansive gestures and movement. Tonight he's going to have to sit still and modulate his delivery. Sometimes in that mode he loses a bit of his oratorical polish.


WG: Ought to be interesting. Gordon Mitchell, Director of Debate at the University of Pittsburgh on the live line. Thank you for the insight and the preview. All of it live on KQV starting at nine o'clock tonight.