Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Democratic Presidential Primary Debate @ Congressional Black Caucus.

I watched the debate live on Fox News tonight ( an organization whose right-wing tendencies are outmatched only by their general ineptitude and un professionalism ) and came away with several impressions.

First of all, there was quite a lot of Bush bashing, as was probably inevitable. However, despite what the talking heads who were on within minutes of the debate's end would have viewers believe, there was also a lot of substantial discussion of issues. A lot of the candidates agreed on many issues, but there were several dissenting opinions voiced. Lieberman and Dean disagree on how to deal with the conflict in the Middle East, with Dean stating that the only way America can solve the situation is as an impartial negotiator whom both parties can trust. Lieberman responded by saying that America has a long history of mutual values and military interest with Israel, and that ignoring that is a mistake. He also claimed that Dean wants to remove most of Israel's military forces from the West Bank and effectively cede it to the Palestinians. While I am not familiar with Dean's policy on the area, a short-coming I intend to rectify, I agree with Lieberman that that issue should be up to the parties involved. However, that aside, the rest of what he said is baloney. Reality dictates that compromise is only achieved with honest negotiation, and Dean is correct in his assertion that if the Palestinians feel like they are being cheated, nothing will be accomplished. If we are to effect peace in the Middle East in a role as modifier between Israel and Palestine, we must be impartial.

Another divisive issue was whether or not to vote to approve President Bush's $87 Billion request to fund the reconstruction effort in Iraq. Every speaker covered their tracks by saying that we must support our troops, etc. etc. Most also said in one form or another that Bush must answer questions about where the money is going, what the long-term exit strategy is, and how his administration will be accountable for the sum. Of all of them, only senator Kerry had the balls to say that if those question go unanswered, he would vote no for approval of the money. To be fair, Rep. Dennis Kucinich said that he would vote no regardless, and that he wants for American troops and interest to completely abandon the area, and for the U.N. to take over for us. This man is an idiot. America must retain control of the security operations in Iraq; the U.N.'s record speaks to it's ineffectiveness in that arena throughout previous international incidents. Where the U.N. is needed is in the humanitarian and civil reconstruction efforts. We need manpower in Iraq to deal with those aspects of the war so that we can focus on what we do best - professional military security. I basically think Bush and Ashcroft have royally fucked us in Iraq, so we need to approve the money or lose any remnant of our credibility to (basically correct, if we were to leave) characterizations of America as a school-yard bully. But the questions must be asked, and the money must be spent wisely, or the next guy in office is going to spend four years cleaning up Bush's mess only for the right to shout about what a mess that president has made of Bush's 'glorious vision of freedom in Iraq' or some other such ridiculous dogmatic blithering.

That was about the only time during the debate that I felt Kerry made a legitimate advance in his cause and differentiated himself from the competition.

The two most charismatic speakers, with whom I agreed about most of what was said beneath the Bush-bashing rhetoric, were Dean and Sharpton. ( Don't get me wrong, Bush deserves every lick he takes. The state of American politics, however, is in sad shape all around, and politicians need to elevate the tone of their campaigning. While splatter-free politics are a pipe-dream, I try to ignore as much of it as I can.) I felt the strongest response to Sharpton when, during the frequent obnoxious interruption of Joe Lieberman, he basically told the rogue elements in the audience that tonight was a historical moment in black politics, that they were tarnishing both it and the respect due the CBC, and to shut the hell up and let the man speak. In general I felt a strong response to Dean, who reminds me of Clinton without the moral ambiguity; he is charismatic, well spoken, intelligent, and direct. Of all the candidates, he was the only one who did not exceed his allotted time on every question, often getting his message out consicely and stopping short because he needed say no more.

To a lesser degree, N. Carolina Senator John Edwards also had a good presence on the stage, spoke well, and seemed charming. But with the exception of a rather impassioned stance on education (which I approved of most heartily), he came across to me as rather bland, unable to say anything the others hadn't already. Also he several times lost his composure chuckling at something Sharpton said; while I too was chuckling, and rather liked him for having a sense of humor, it did nothing for me politically.

However of all the politicians on the stage, I felt the one with the best message, the least show-boating, and the most compassionate demeanor, was former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun. Braun is a quiet woman, which is unfortunate because in this political climate her message will not be heard as well as those who can raise the money and rail the pulpit. But everything she said on stage tonight clicked with me. She made a lot of sense in her points, and frankly I kept wishing the panel would ask her more questions. In her closing argument this evening, she said that 60 years ago a great president said "We have nothing to fear, but fear itself"; she then added that the Bush administration has "pandered to fear". I have heard nothing that better characterizes how I feel about the Bush presidency's policies while in office.

In her recent address to the National Organization for Women and the National Women's Political Caucus, she said this:

We here have dedicated ourselves to the right of our daughters and nieces - indeed, all our children - no matter what their color, sexual orientation, religion, or heritage, to serve in whatever capacity their God given talent and energy will allow. Progress for all Americans will come when a true meritocracy can emerge in which gender, race, nor privilege will not limit human potential.

If I were a registered democrat, I would be damn proud to vote for this woman.

- Jordan, from the heart.

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