Dover Bitch

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Democrats Debate

Tonight's debate was surprisingly substantive. CNN deserves some credit for that, but they also negated any kudos they might have gotten from DB by tossing out those ridiculous hand-raising hypotheticals. While I am the last to blame a network for having unexpected technical problems, in this case the mics not functioning properly, the network's conscious decision to have camera operators running around behind the candidates was unnecessary and distracting. This is a presidential debate, not VH1's Behind the Music.

OK, that's out of the way. How about the candidates?

I thought Obama was doing a sensational job for the first 40 minutes or so. He called out Wolf Blitzer on the silliness of a question about making English the official language of the United States. He also handily shot down John Edwards when the former Senator said that Obama wasn't leading when it comes to Iraq, noting that Edwards was four years late coming around to his position. Edwards followed up by admitting that he was wrong about Iraq. Refreshing as it is to hear a leader admit mistakes in this day and age, if there's a time you don't want to be admitting you were wrong, it would be after having your attack thrown back in your face during a live debate.

But Obama's command disappeared quickly. An audience member with a son in Iraq asked why soldiers cannot choose what hospitals give them care. Obama responded by praising the VA for negotiating cheaper medications. If there was a worse answer for a soldier's mom than "your son has no choice because it's cheaper," I'm not sure what it could be. Mike Gravel hammered away at Obama for the problems at Walter Reed, which is under Obama's oversight as a member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee. Quite frankly, there's no way to come out of that looking good. I don't think Obama really recovered.

Edwards was not impressive to me tonight. In addition to being swatted away by Obama, he did himself no favors with some of his other answers. He was asked how he will keep gas prices down as president. I braced myself for what I knew would be his answer: Launch investigations of the oil companies. Ouch. This is the kind of answer I would expect from a candidate for the House of Representatives, not the White House. Not only will "investigations" never yield any real answers or have any effect on actually lowering prices, this answer distracts from the larger issue of intelligent energy policy. The answer isn't cheaper oil, it's less need for oil. I am grateful for Edwards' extraordinary focus on poverty. I am very concerned, however, that his answers will lead a dangerous number of voters to conclude that he has contempt for capitalism in general. To be sure, I believe the oil companies have been unscrupulous and I'm disgusted by many facets of the industry. I just don't think that blaming the oil companies as your primary answer is wise politically. People want solutions and all he provided in that answer was fodder for the Republicans who will accuse him of "class warfare."

Hillary Clinton fared the best in my opinion. She made no major (even minor) gaffes and she took the initiative on several occasions. She also shot down Blitzer's use of hypotheticals, describing her husband's attempt on Osama bin Laden. Other people will have different opinions I'm sure, but I am always satisfied to hear a politician remind voters that Bush kicked out the weapons inspectors. Despite Dennis Kucinich's attempts to blame his fellow Democrats for the war, Hillary did quite well to put the blame back where it belongs.

Chris Dodd simply did not get enough time to make the impact he needed. He had the most gratifying answer of the night: In his first 100 days, he will restore our Constitutional protections. Thank you, Sen. Dodd.

Joe Biden, full of fury, had an excellent answer to a different question (about earmarks). Biden called for public financing of campaigns. Well done.

I'm afraid Gov. Richardson is going to be out of this campaign before anybody else. He wasn't particularly bad. He just wasn't particularly anything. His best chance of getting into the White House in 2009 is as an ambassador in Hillary Clinton's cabinet. [UPDATE: I didn't give Richardson enough credit for highlighting the need to improve our country's education system, particularly in the area of giving very young children a great start. I applaud him for that.]

A final comment... The Democrats as a party are fielding candidates who are light years better than the GOP. Every single one of them would be a better president than anybody the GOP is offering.

Labels: ,