Getting squirrellier by the hour

Published October 6, 2004 7:44PM (EDT)

As Salon's Eric Boehlert was surprised to learn from watching MSNBC last night, Chris Matthews and his panel of pundits relished Dick Cheney's debate performance, with Matthews saying the vicious veep went "looking for squirrel and he found squirrel." Especially delicious to the MSNBC panel was Cheney's harshing on Edwards about never meeting him before last night. Well, in this case, Cheney may have been looking for squirrel, but he has ended up looking squirrelly. Last night, the Kerry-Edwards campaign was quick to point out that Cheney and Edwards had indeed met before, and they had photos to prove it.

Like much of the vice president's comments on the campaign trail, his chiding of Edwards for being a Beltway non-entity sounded persuasive, until you find out that what he said was not entirely true. And we're learning more about just how untrue his remarks were as the hours pass. Another apparent falsehood: "Now, in my capacity as vice president, I am the president of Senate, the presiding officer. I'm up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session," Cheney said last night. Over at Daily Kos, someone actually checked the Congressional Record (fancy that) and found that Cheney presided over the Senate "a grand total of two times the past four years -- just as many times as Edwards, who also did so twice."

And the Los Angeles Times points out that Cheney rarely sits in the chamber, and usually only to break a tie vote or swear in new senators -- and he also attends the GOP senators' weekly luncheons to discuss party strategy. It turns out that when Cheney visits the Senate, he seems to avoid Democrats. "But only Republicans attend [the luncheons]," the Times says, "and Cheney usually breezes into the building, goes to the meeting, then leaves without hobnobbing with Democrats. In fact, Cheney was teased by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) for only associating with Republicans when, in an encounter on the Senate floor, Cheney cursed at Leahy."

And Cheney had another good line about Edwards' supposed absenteeism from the Senate. "Your hometown newspaper has taken to calling you Senator Gone," Cheney said. Again -- if only. This morning, Edwards' hometown newspaper, the News & Observer, asked of Cheney's reference: "Which paper is that?" The paper could find no mention of "Senator Gone" in its own archives.

Atrios found the paper in question, a weekly paper 20 miles away from Edwards' hometown. Not his "hometown newspaper," and certainly not nearly as influential as the daily News & Observer. As Atrios points out, the Philadelphia Weekly recently said that people who vote for Bush would burn in hell, but it would be a stretch for Kerry to use that against Bush in a debate, citing a "Philadelphia newspaper."

By Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at

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