Photos show Cheney met Edwards before debate

Democrats have field day

running mate's gaffe sends voters to anti-Bush site

Election 2004

The debates

October 07, 2004|By David L. Greene | David L. Greene,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Was it a case of vice presidential amnesia? Or could it be that Sen. John Edwards just makes no impression when he meets someone?

Most likely, Vice President Dick Cheney stretched the truth when he suggested in Tuesday's debate that his opponent was a guy he had not met before.

"The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight," Cheney said.

It was a familiar accusation: A senator is attacked by his rival for missing important votes in the Senate because he had taken time off to campaign for a higher office.

But Cheney's observation was not accurate.

Democrats had a field day yesterday circulating photos of Cheney sitting at a National Prayer Breakfast in Washington in 2001 -- beside Edwards. Another photo showed President Bush introducing the two at the event. And a transcript revealed Cheney heartily welcomed the North Carolina senator in his opening remarks.

"I guess he forgot the time we sat next to each other for a couple hours about three years ago," Edwards said while campaigning yesterday.

Cheney and Edwards met again in April 2001. They shook hands off-camera while both were appearing separately on NBC's Meet the Press. The show's moderator, Tim Russert, confirmed the meeting.

More recently, according to Edwards aides, the men crossed paths when Edwards accompanied newly elected Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina to her swearing-in ceremony.

The Bush campaign did not dispute the Cheney-Edwards encounters. Instead, Cheney's wife, Lynne, said voters should focus on Edwards' absences from the Senate -- not on what her husband said in the debate.

Aside from the question of when Cheney met Edwards, the vice president -- a man famously meticulous in his wording -- botched the name of a Web site.

His gaffe was not without consequences.

Under fire from Edwards for his ties to Halliburton Corp., which has been accused by Pentagon auditors of overcharging for services in Iraq, Cheney sought to defuse Edwards' attack by sending viewers to a Web site that he said offered an independent assessment of his relationship with the oil giant.

"They know the charges are false," Cheney said. "They know that if you go, for example, to FactCheck.com, an independent Web site sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania, you can get the specific details with respect to Halliburton."

Cheney meant to send viewers to FactCheck.org, but people who followed his directions found themselves in a place where Cheney would never want them to go: GeorgeSoros.com.

The site, which belongs to George Soros, a philanthropist who has poured millions of dollars into an effort to oust Bush, greets visitors with this message: "President Bush is endangering our safety, hurting our vital interests and undermining American values."

Soros has posted a note on the site insisting he has no idea why Web surfers who intended to go to FactCheck.com had been redirected to his address.

The address Cheney gave, FactCheck.com, belongs to a for-profit advertising company based in the Cayman Islands. John Berryhill, a lawyer for the company, told the Associated Press the site was flooded with hits -- about 100 a second -- after the debate. Incensed, the company redirected visitors to Soros "to relieve stress on the service and to express a political point of view," Berryhill said.

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