Friday, October 08, 2004

One Percent Of Most

That Dick Cheney told numerous lies in his debate with John Edwards is a well documented fact - just ask not "com" Mr. Cheney (though I don't consider that one a lie - more of a gaffe really). There was Cheney's numerous distortions of very serious matters: about the case for war against Saddam, thoroughly sussed out in this article, his implausible claim that he never linked 9/11 to Iraq, the jobs figures, the impact of the repeal of portions of Bush's tax cuts on small businesses, his record at Halliburton, and the list goes on.

Yet, the press has seized on one of the more trivial examples of Cheney's dishonesty: the infamous quote regarding John Edwards' attendance in the Senate and Cheney having never met him before the debate. This is what Cheney said:

You've got one of the worst attendance records in the United States Senate. 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.

The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight.
The problem for Cheney is that the two had met on several occasions prior to the debate, and there is photographic evidence to prove it. Reminiscent of the attention Gore's erroneous, and relatively innocuous, statement about touring disaster areas with FEMA director James Lee Witt received (Gore actually really only got the dates confused), the media has seized on this less serious fallacy with the zeal of the info-tainment credo: It makes for good television.

Whereas Cheney's other prevarications require background, context, explanation and nuance, his lie about never meeting Edwards is simple, easy to understand, and heck, you don't even need to use words and other such complex constructs. It's the picture book version of politics.

While I think Cheney's other mistruths are more worthy of examination by the press corps, I have resigned myself to the knowledge that the mainstream media will only cover
four things in elections: polls, scandals, attacks and mistakes. This one falls in the category of "mistake." So in the interest of hashing out Cheney's "mistake," I want to focus on another part of Cheney's statement that has received far less attention than the photographs and videos of the two together at various functions.

Before he dropped the bombshell that the debate was the first occasion he and Edwards had met, Cheney set up the punch-line with the following introduction:

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. [emphasis added]
Cheney said he was in the Senate on "most Tuesdays" that the Senate is in session acting in his official capacity as president pro-tem. Turns out, he has a pretty liberal definition of "most" (probably the only time liberal and Cheney can be used in the same sentence).

According to the
government's own records, Cheney only presided over the Senate in his capacity as president pro-tem a whopping two times out of approximately 127 sessions, over the past four years. That equates to roughly 1.5% of the time - not exactly what most mathematicians, statisticians or average folks would call "most" of the time.

But wait, it gets worse. During that same period, John Edwards himself served as the president pro-tem of the Senate twice himself. So John Edwards served in Cheney's role as often as Cheney did. And Cheney was mocking Edwards' attendance record. Pretty tricky, Dick.

You can't make this stuff up.

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