...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003
      ( 9:53 AM )
Mama's Debate Review

UPDATE: For post-debate coverage, Prometheus is the one to read today!

UPDATE 2: For the best commentary I've seen on the subject of the 'tiff' between Lieberman and Dean in the debate last night, you must read Billmon today (a taste: It should be clear by now that what is at stake here is not Israel's "security" as traditionally defined. Those, like Holy Joe Leiberman, who insist America must never abandon its commitment to that "security" are completely missing the point)

Last night's debate before the Congressional Black Caucus was much more rowdy and fun to watch than last week's New Mexico Debate. Perhaps it was the LaRouche antagonists that loosened up the atmosphere, or perhaps it was simply the presence of the indefatigable Rev. Al Sharpton, who always makes every forum/debate worth watching. Here is the Mama's rundown:

Dick Gephardt: The new fire is waning a bit. Using the same "miserable failure" line was a little dorky, and I think the audience knew that. He was adequately dressed down by Kucinich (more on that below), but he held his ground. He is starting to sound more vehement and "presidential" - but I still think that voters will see through his 11th hour conversion to Man Of Action. The waffling on whether he'd vote for the $87 billion if the president did not meet his standards was expected but dissapointing. After the flack he's been getting for his support of the Bush plan pre-war, I would think he'd be much more admant about not letting the administration get its way.

John Kerry: Got a haircut and didn't seem so sickly looking, so that was a plus in his column right there. I think he answered his questions adequately - and his answers comparing Iraq to Vietnam were a welcome dose of reality from someone with the authority to make that comparison (and interestingly, he used the same language as my dad yesterday...is Kerry reading blogs?). I didn't think he ultimately made himself stand out any more last night, however. (he's also being tormented by the press, evidently.) Kerry also waffled on the $87billion vote - again, not unexpected but still disappointing.

Bob Graham: Was all there last night, not like in New Mexico. He seemed right on target, and all of his answers were great. He definitely hit a chord with the audience when he answered the question of whether he personally thought that the president misled the country into war and he said "Yes!" Someone of his stature and experience should be among the top national leaders of this country - but then, I got bogged down in his answers later on in the evening. He seemed to be twisting a little and not keeping his eye on any one succinct answer to anything. Another waffle on the $87billion vote.

John Edwards: I think he's made a mistake dropping out of his Senate seat - unless he just somehow doesn't want to be in congress anymore. His answers were good last night, and he seemed enthusiastic. His campaign, however, just doesn't have the spark needed to get people interested. If he really does think he has a chance for the nomination, I think we should start seeing more of his igniting the base of the party rather than continuing with his high priced fundraisers. He waffled on the 87$ billion vote answer, as they all did (except Kucinich)...so that was a little disappointing because he, like the others, sounded very apathetic and political - though I do give him cred for finally saying that he would consider a No vote.

Joe Lieberman: Had some good answers, but all that was overshadowed by (1) his continued whining ("it paaaaiinnss me to hear you say that....") and (2) his attacks on Dean (again). I think his attack on Dean regarding Israel backfired (more on that below), and it was obvious from the audience response that he was standing alone in many of his opinions and his tactics. He seems unconvinced that he cannot possibly win - it's as if he and the DLC are hypnotized and under the illusion that "when the the American people think about it, of course they'll vote for Joe!" which is so far off base that it's incalculable. It also appeared obvious to everyone last night that if he were president, he in no way would be a help end the crisis in the middle east.

Dennis Kucinich: Good answers as usual, and not as much silliness this time, so that rated better on my scale. His confrontation of Gephardt was well-laid out and very spot-on. Gephardt took it okay, but I think it was Kucinich's ball to play and he did it with good timing. Voters need to know the facts, and Kucinich's constant reminders that several of these candidates were happy to go along with Bush before is a good thing in my book. Generally, I like that Kucinich is there because for me, he acts as anchor - pulling the party to its base again and again. I hear over and over people saying "The one I agree most with is Kucinich!" - so that bodes well, I believe, for the idea that voters who turn out will be much more vociferous in their protection of the left/liberal traditions of the Democratic party. I hope he doesn't drop out too early, I think he provides a good and steady pull to the left for all of the candidates.

Howard Dean: He shined bright. I am obviously a Dean supporter, but objectively I felt that he really answered his questions well and inserted his positions at appropriate places. I was glad to see him seem looser and laugh a few times, which really brightens him up and makes him so much more appealing. I thought he handled the confrontation with Lieberman with class and very authoritatively. I don't want him to waffle on his stance that the US should be an objective mediator in the middle east - for far too long we've played apologist for Israel's unconscionable conduct. While he may have lost any chance for AIPAC's money, it's my hope he didn't need it anyway. He did well with the race questions, and I think he showed he is prepared for this issue and wants to tackle it head on. I thought he got a freebie when Brit Hume asked him about his lapel sticker during Kerry's answer time, but he scored points for supporting the union organizing on campus. I think he came out on top in this one - he's still the one to beat.

Carol Moseley-Braun: She wasn't as bright in this debate as usual. I usually love watching and hearing her speak, and her glittering smile usually sparks things up. But last night she seemed tired or just not on top of her game. It could have been that the moderators didn't throw her enough meat to chew on either. Her answers, while familiar, lacked the luster they usually have.

Rev. Al Sharpton: Fantastic. I could watch him for hours. I especially liked when he offered to provide more effective security when things seemed to be getting out of hand. His answers, as always, were concise and to the point, delivered with the flare that this country sorely needs in a political leader. I hope he doesn't drop out too early either - he makes these forums and debates entirely worth watching.

All in all, I come to the same conclusion as the last debate. With the exception of Lieberman, I would be delighted to see Bush have to face any one of these candidates in a debate. In the end, I think Dean is showing that he's not only a leader who is flexible and can do the job, he's showing that there's more than just the man in a campaign. The way he has electrified people who have never in their lives been politically active shows far more staying power than anything else, in my book. Even if he doesn't get the nomination, he has done more to return the Democrats and the American people toward the power they've not claimed in many years, and for that alone he outshines the others.

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