We rise, unaccustomed, in defense of Vice President Dick Cheney.
Cheney told a campaign-trail audience Tuesday that if the Democrats win the White House, “the danger is we’ll get hit again” by terrorists. A vote for John Kerry, in other words, is a vote for more terrorism.
Nasty, to be sure. But in a campaign where charges and countercharges (mainly, in our view, those coming from the Republican side) are surging way past the merely nasty to the utterly vile and brazenly dishonest, making distinctions is important.
The war on terrorism is the central issue in the campaign, and both parties’ candidates have various points to make about it. But the issue boils down to one question: Which candidate would do the best job, as president, of making sure that we don’t “get hit again.” That is what people really care about.
Sens. Kerry and John Edwards have been criticizing President Bush’s performance on terrorism since 9/11 and promising to do a better job at it if given the chance. In doing so, they surely mean to suggest that the risk of another terrorist attack will be greater if Bush and Cheney win the election. A vote for George W. Bush, in other words, is a vote for more terrorism. Or if Kerry and Edwards don’t mean that, it’s hard to know what they do mean.
Cheney might deserve credit for brutal clarity, if a spokeswoman hadn’t rushed out almost immediately to muddy the waters with a few fictions about what he really meant. What he really meant, she said, was that the next president -- whoever he is -- will face the danger of another terrorist episode. This has the advantage of being undeniably true and the disadvantage of quite obviously not being what Cheney meant.
Thanks to this kind of quick and forceful response by the Bush-Cheney campaign, the danger that innocent editorial writers will get hit again by the feeling that Dick Cheney has been unfairly attacked and needs to be defended has been dramatically reduced. And we can all sleep better.