Saturday, February 19, 2005
( 7:49 AM )
Rumble in Little Beruit
Okay, first the viewing schedule. The airing of the debate between Howard Dean and Richard Perle is scheduled to air on CSPAN at 8:00pm EST tonight (SATURDAY, Feb 19, 2005). I recommend you view it - it is actually a relief to watch an actual political debate without stupid cable news pundits in the middle of it. The debate is part of an annual series that Pacific University puts on out here in Portland. The last one I went to was two years ago: Ralph Nader v. Newt Gingrich. The Dean/Perle debate was just a really enjoyable experience. I think part of the reason was that the questions were pretty well constructed. It was too short, I felt they didn't get into all they could have, but there was definitely the ability to hear both viewpoints (one, of course being grounded in reality, and one firmly floating in la-la-land). I'm hoping to find a transcript of it, but I'll definitely be taping it off CSPAN.
I don't think Portland suffered any worse a reputation than it already has with the establishment with the whole shoe-throwing thing. I'll get that out of the way before I get into the meat of the debate. Dean gave his opening remarks first and then Richard Perle got up to his podium. About 5 minutes into his talking, a guy in the audience ran down to the front by the stage and just started yelling "you F-ing liar! You liar!" and then threw his shoe at Perle. It glanced right past him. The kid got another shoe off before the ushers tackled him. For another couple of minutes you could hear him screaming "Liar! Liar!" Fortunately for Perle, most lefties don't grow up being very accomplished sportsmen, and so the kid had no aim. There were a few other disruptions from the crowd through the debate when Perle said something particularly kooky - someone would yell from the audience when their frustration could no longer contain itself. I don't know how much of the wacky bits will make it onto CSPAN. Of course, most of the audience were there for Howard Dean - you have to hand it to Perle, who basically had to come to a den of lions to do this debate. He (probably not surprisingly) reminded me of Kissinger - that sort of firm conviction in his bizarre view of the world, explaining it calmly as if we were kindergardners and attempting to appear okay with having to mingle amongst the lowly serfdom of humanity.
Perle started off by saying (shocker:) "Everything changed after 9/11". He went on to say that Bush's most significant foreign policy decision had been to say that we would equate states that harbored terrorists with the terrorists themselves and treat them the same. He likened the doctrine of pre-emption to having a health insurance policy - saying that just because you don't end up having a catastrophic sickness during the year doesn't mean you shouldn't have paid your insurance (translation: just because Iraq was no threat at all doesn't mean we shouldn't have invaded). His main accustion of Democrats, which he said over and over, was that they didn't spend enough on Defense. He repeated again and again that strong defense policy means spending money on the Pentagon. He said so many wacko things, like that we should not talk with North Korea and instead pressure China to do the work.
Dean started off by saying that Democrats have a much clearer foreign policy framework than the Bush administration because they are focused not only on the broader picture of diplomacy but also have a longer view of the future, thinking not just about today and tomorrow, but years ahead. He said that strong defense wasn't just pouring money into the Pentagon. He also said that while it was very important to defend ourselves and to strike hard against terrorists and those who would harm us, that this can't be our only foreign policy. He talked about how we must pay attention to the support base for terrorism that grows out of poverty and oppression and we must consider that there are reasons why the US's moral standing in the world has slipped the last few years. He also talked about the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush administration, spending billions on these stupid missle interceptor tests when veterans' benefits were being cut and our intelligence capability around the world was suffering. Not to mention our diplomatic standing everywhere.
Perle asked Dean about how discussion of foreign policy issues could be more bipartisan when it appeared things in this country had split into such opposing political camps. Dean replied that the Democrats in Congress WANTED to participate in foreign policy and that in fact there were a lot of people from whom the President could have sought advice on Iraq or other foreign issues, but he never did or does. It in fact is Bush and his administration that has so politically divided things by not allowing any other voices to participate in policy making. Perle's response to that was (get this): whatever Bush might have heard from Democrats he most likely heard from Colin Powell. Colin Powell. Perle was basically saying that the President didn't need to listen to democrats and that Colin Powell was close enough to an alternative viewpoint. It was crazy. Perle started off by accusing dems of being the ones who were politically divisive and ended up defending Bush's political divisiveness by basically shutting out Democratic voices and dissing Powell publicly as not being a Republican. You can imagine how the audience groaned at that one.
Perle focused mainly on Iraq and that using force and pre-emptive power was the only way to work foreign policy. He used the analogy of Israel bombing the nuclear plant in Iraq before the nuclear material was present so as to save as many lives as possible with attacking Iraq before it could use a weapon against its neighbors or us. He said, wouldn't we attack a country who was about to launch a missle at us? Well, imagine if that missle was still in the silo - it still presents a threat. Imagine that missle was still being built in the factory. Imagine that missle was on plans in the hands of a despotic ruler.
The whole time I'm thinking, imagine the missile is only in your imagination and we just bomb and attack Iraq killing hundreds of thousands of people because you have a vivid imagination? It was very frustrating to hear him speak and even lie about things, but it was also refreshing to hear a counter argument well spoken in response. Dean said that there were so many other foreign policy threats and issues we needed to deal with and that Iraq was the "low hanging fruit" that Bush grabbed at and led us into a situation now where we're completely overstretched and stuck now.
I really encourage you to try and catch the debate on CSPAN. I wish debates like this could take place all over the country. If people actually had the opportunity to witness arguments from each side like this without tv interfering, I think the level of informed voters and citizens would jump into the stratosphere. I'm really glad I got to go. Especially to see someone throw a shoe at Richard Perle, because that's how I feel often when I'm hearing that crap spew out of Bushies. I only hope some of what Dean said makes it into the mainstream, though I doubt it. It was a cogent analysis and great explanation of a complete foreign policy - tv pundits don't want to hear stuff like that, so they don't let anyone else hear it.
Real debate is healthy for democracy, we should have more of it.