Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Viva Las Vegas? Dems debate in Sin City

Posted by Scott Cavanagh
Heading into last night's Democratic debate in Nevada, I was disappointed in many on the left over their treatment of the recent Hillary-Obama dust-up--which I believe is a totally media-created load of crap. In no way did Hillary demean MLK by correctly stating that the Civil Rights Act would never have gotten through without the support of President Johnson (love or hate LBJ, signing that was one of the bravest political acts in history, particularly for a white southerner--he knew, and it has proven true, that Dems would lose the South for generations), and it was an amazing stretch to try to make Bill's "fairytale" comment into some statement that it was a fantasy for a black man to be elected president.

Still, lefty callers to the radio shows I listen to regularly (Stephanie Miller, Randi Rhoads, Thom Hartmann, etc.) were just running with the press' ridiculous mischaracterizations of these harmless comments and tearing both of them to pieces over imaginary offenses.

Then came the debate. Despite the fact that both candidates in question had repeatedly apologized for any misunderstandings earlier in the day, and vowed to focus the debate on issues, the MSNBC moderators proceeded to spend the first forty minutes or so asking nothing but race-related questions that eventually twisted right back to the same non-story of the prior 48-hours. Once again, Tim Russert proved to be an overrated, "gotcha", hack, who, if not for his moon face, would be best suited for Entertainment Tonight. The rest of the debate was high quality and managed to focus the remaining 90 minutes on mostly important topics that highlighted some nuanced differences between the three candidates.

Overall, I was most impressed with Obama. I think Edwards is sincere when he talks about the plight of poor people, but he voted FOR the 2001 bankruptcy law, as did Hillary. Obama voted against it. When all three were asked the stupid ("Here candidates--point out a flaw your opponents can rap you over the head with for the next three weeks") "give us an example of a personal weakness" question, Obama answered truthfully--that he was a little disorganized and forgetful at times. What did Edwards say? He just gets too emotional when he sees injustice. Hillary? She also just cares too much for her own good. One honest answer and two political dodges—score another point for Barack.

Edwards was strong all night, but he really lost me on both the bankruptcy vote, (which he had no real explanation for), and his claims that he would end talk of storing nuclear waste in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain. Hillary quickly pointed out that Edwards not only voted FOR Yucca Mountain-- he did so TWICE. Throw in his vote to give Bush authorization to invade Iraq, and that adds up to a pretty high number of harsh votes for the "hero of the working man"--particularly when he only served one term.

That said, I think he would be extremely hard to beat in a general election. With Obama and Clinton out (or ideally Obama on his ticket), Edwards would still carry the party's core constituencies of women and minorities, and would also be attractive to the same demographic of white males (particularly in the south) that voted for Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Al Gore (to a lesser extent).

I think Hillary's best moments came when she expressed her concerns and ideas on how to stop Bush's plan to sign multi-year agreements with the fledgling Iraqi government that could keep our troops entrenched there long after he leaves office. Her knowledge of the issues and status as a member of the Armed Services Committee give her a real edge in the foreign policy department, particularly with Biden and Richardson now out of the race. She also made a great strategic move by reaching out to Obama to co-sponsor the legislation. If the candidates appear to be on the same page where Iraq is concerned, Obama loses a key campaign issue. If this debate then focuses on the economy, health care and the environment, Hillary has a pretty good track record to run on--and the voters know it well.

One last thought on Dennis Kucinich not being invited (or being uninvited, as it were) to the Nevada debate. Yes, Dennis is a little eccentric and shoots from the hip a bit too often. He also has been getting a very small percentage of the votes in the early primaries. But let's look at some other facts about him. He's an honest, straight-talking guy who truly represents the working people of this country by consistently addressing the tough issues nobody else (particularly the TV networks) wants to talk about. More importantly, he's a duly elected congressman from the great state of Ohio and a candidate for President of the United States. Do we really want MSNBC and other corporate-owned media interests telling us who is and isn't a viable candidate for us to hear--when 90% of the country's delegates have yet to cast a single ballot? That's a scary proposition.


Ken Hart said...


Yeah, the whole "race/gender" fight has been a creation of the media. (I'm still not sure what Hilary was trying to say about MLK, but it wasn't a racial slam.) Tim Russert actually looked disappointed that the candidates weren't continuing the race/gender fight! He pushed it for about 20 minutes, and they all pointedly ignored him. Afterward, the bizarre Chris Matthews even flat-out said that this debate wasn't what he wanted to hear! (Uh, Chris, it's not about you....)

I disagree about Kucinich. He had been participating in the debates for a year, and he had plenty of air time to voice his opinions before a nationwide audience, just as he did in the last election, and the election before that. That's pretty good for a guy who never had a chance of winning. He hasn't been gypped by any means. Now it's time for Americans to hear what "the big kids" have to say, and I don't want Kucinich hogging more air time. Still, I'm sure MSNBC now regrets the decision; a few pointed questions from Kucinich to the other candidates might've broken up the lovefest.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I wish the Democrats would come up with a unified policy regarding how they're going to handle the Iraq situation, before the election. or at least a concrete direction and approach.

Okay, this may be a stupid and simplistic thing to ask, but my main reason for saying this is an attempt to de-politicize the issue.
I personally think ANY candidate who becomes President is screwed because of the Iraq situation and some sort of unity to deal with it is wishful thinking on my part.
If I understand the news, as superficially as I listen to it, I guess the economy is shaping up to be the main issue for the voters, but I keep thinking that Iraq is just going to be a constant distraction, at best. And anyways, isn't the investment in Iraq affecting our economy as well, at least in part?
Because of these real issues that are not easy to solve, the media's occasional efforts to create storylines for competition between the candidates is frustrating because why is there a need to manufacture issues when there's genuine issues out there in the first place?

Okay, if the Republicans can come up with a unified plan regarding Iraq, that would be awesome as well. I say Democrat only because I'm planning on voting Democrat.

But I don't think a plan to merely pull our troops out is sufficient, since we sort of started this mess.
I don't think pulling out the troops should be the whole Iraq policy.