Friday, June 29, 2007

PBS Democratic Debate -- I Agree With What He Said

It was billed as the All-American Presidential Forum, perhaps in attempt to lure sports fans, but really it was the Urban Affairs debate, held at Howard University in front of mostly African-Americans, hosted by Tavis Smiley, with all the questioners being non-white. In other words, home turf for Dems, discussing issues which will not decide the election. The questions were interesting, thoughtful, and for the most part, ignored, as most of the candidates translated the specific question into “this is about education/crime/health care” and gave their prepared answer.
Obama and Edwards are very lucky that very few people are watching these debates. They have no chance at drawing distinctions between themselves and Hillary, as Kucinich and Gravel attack everyone equally, and Clinton and Biden sound so well prepared and authoritative on every issue, that Obama and Edwards seem out of their depth. All of them are getting better at this (except for Richardson) and the time that is wasted on Gravel’s senescent ramblings gets more and more annoying. Although there was a point last night hen I thought Dodd was actually going to smack him down, which would have been wonderful.
This was on really solid turf for Hillary, Obama, and Edwards, yet the format didn’t give them a chance to really discuss anything. Obama was able to talk to the audience in a different way than the others, and frankly, may be the single best thing about his candidacy. When discussing the shocking HIV/AIDS statistics in the African-American community, he alone was able to talk about the need for the community to take more responsibility.
Hillary may be the best “short-form” debater ever (to coin a term). Give her a minute, she will make her points in a minute, coherently and effectively, give her 30 seconds, she’ll do it in 30 seconds. Unlike virtually every other candidate, she answered the actual questions that were asked, rather than just shifting to her prepared boilerplate. She is a very impressive woman and this was really solid turf for her.
No candidate is hurt more by the two left-wing idealogues than Edwards. In earlier debates, he wanted to draw distinctions between himself and the others on the war and Kucinich and Gravel lumped them all together again. He wants to talk about his superior health care proposals and Kucinich attacks him with the others because he doesn’t immediately knock the insurance companies out of the system. Life is easier when all you do is spout ideology, unfettered by the actual need to either win or accomplish anything. Kucninch and Gravel have the Naderite position in this game – and they get 25% of the time to hurt Edwards, effectively help Hillary, and, like Nader in the past (and maybe future) help the Republicans stay in power.
Just a word on Blabbermouth Bill Richardson – shut up. Okay, that’s two words, but man, is he annoying. And unless he’s spent an awful lot of time in the sun the last month, he was wearing makeup dark enough to be used in a road company of Othello. It looked like he was trying to emphasize his non-white half in this gathering. He reiterated his willingness to boycott the Olympics, saying, pompously, “I happen to think preventing genocide is more important than sports.” Next time he says something like that, someone should ask him if it’s more important than China having most favored nation trade status. Then when he hems and haws over that, they can tell him to just shut up.
Mostly, everyone in the debate agreed with everyone else. The next version of this will be with Republicans, and that could actually be interesting.

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