Last evening’s 2008 Democratic Presidential Debate was an exercise in childishness lead by a totally unhelpful duo of NBC television personalities. Beginning with the clearly staged questions that asked “nothingness” to the uneven split of candidate air time, NBC did no one any favors, particularly the viewing public. As bad as NBC was, the candidates found a way to come out worse. School children best describes most of them.
Hillary – While clearly the most sophisticated and the most focused on the national election, Hillary still chose to respond to the whining of the other candidates. For most of the responses she came out ok, but at best neutral. For some of the responses she looked like someone caught with their hand in the cookie jar. The questions were meaningless or involved the obvious, and many sounded like “did you stop beating your husband”. Hillary missed too many opportunities to redirect the line of question to a comparison of her and George Bush and that all the Republicans were George Bush clones.
Barack – Probably the evening’s biggest disappointment was Barack. He keeps beating the same dead horse that Hillary voted for the Iraq War and he was against it. The problem is that a lot of other people voted for the War (and were wrong). Barack acted like someone with the second best hand in a high stakes poker game. His hand is good but is still a loser.
John – As an orator, he was quite impressive. John has courted the Unions and Trial Lawyers and received a lot of money from them. That did not stop him from pointing the finger at Hillary and implying she would be influenced by all the contibutors she has rounded up. John is another Jimmy Carter (outsider) and will make a poor President (although many times a better one than George Bush).
Chris – As Hollywood casting goes, Chris looks very presidential. His oratory delivery sounds also very authoritative. But it is a big reach to see him as the Standard Bearer.
Bill – Sad is the only words I can find to describe the Richardson candidacy at this point. He hammered and hammered at the same point… “I am the only candidate who has negotiated face to face with foreign leaders…” (Someone needs to tell him that Presidents do not negotiate, the State Department does.) I believe Bill is a very good person but he would not motivate or energize anyone as President.
Joe – The one bright spot of the evening was Joe Biden. He alone blew away the dumb questions being raised by the NBC moderators. To the question about pledging to stop Iran’s nuclear program (which was a baited trap leading to supporting war), Joe pointed out that Iran was the tail and the dog was Pakistan. Our preoccupation with Iran was completely overlooking the 1000 pound Gorilla (Pakistan) since Iran would have only a few grams of fissionable material while today Pakistan has 1000’s. In a few words Joe pointed out the enormous blind spot in the Bush/Cheney thinking.
Dennis – Without a doubt the most interesting candidate is Kucinich. He is clear and unequivocating. Dennis is however an open socialist and would have no chance in the election process. Should there be a religious right third party candidate, I would not be surprised to see Kucinich run as a social progressive candidate.
The sorry lesson of last night is
1. We can not count on the media to ask important and telling questions.
2. We can not count on the candidates to tell why they should be selected unless they do it by comparison to another.
3. The 2008 election is already over if the Democrats simply run on George Bush’s record and that they will be a saner, more compasionate, and competent party. It is not clear from last night whether the Democratic candidates understand this.