The night after Bill Moyers' hard-hitting expose of the compliant American mass media serving as the Ministry of Truth for the Promotion of Oil War, GOP assets Brian Williams and MSNBC had the audacity to present a "debate" of the announced Democratic presidential candidates. The transcript of the debate is an interesting read, but one really should see the debate to appreciate the poor delivery styles of all concerned.
In my opinion, such a political American Idol at this stage of the 2008 campaign is a distraction and not beneficial. With all of the major issues facing the American people at this time, this isn't the time to get distracted by a popularity contest. And yet, maybe that contest will eventually prove to have been a benefit in exposing the sorry sad sacks that both parties are offering up as the Solution to All of Our Problems. Not a single candidate helped themselves last night. Not one. When MSNBC presents the Republican offerings next week, they will fare no better.
This isn't to say that there weren't some interesting highlights from South Carolina. But in the main, no candidate – not Hillary, nor Obama, nor MNBA Biden – broke out of the pack as the clear choice to lead the nation. But if one were to cut out all of the self-serving promotion and the tired platitudes offered up as answers, there wouldn't be much to report. Each of the candidates had an opportunity to score major points, especially on their favored topics, and yet each failed to score a major victory.
Dennis Kucinich, for instance, had a chance to present the argument for pulling our troops out of Iraq, but turned it instead into an advertisement for his bill intended to convince the rest of the world to tidy up our Iraq mess for us. Senator Dodd demonstrated a lot of "me-too" in his promotion of Feingold-Reid as the answer to Iraq.
On the whole Iraq situation, only former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel reached this pundit with his views. When presenting his strategy for ending the Iraq Oil Rustle, Gravel asked the American voter to "understand that this war was lost the day that George Bush invaded Iraq on a fraudulent basis" and asked the pertinent question, "How do you get out?"
I got to tell you, we should just plain get out. Just plain get out. It's their country. They're asking us to leave, and we insist on staying there. And why not get out? What harm is it going to do? Oh, you hear the statement, "Well, my God, these soldiers will have died in vain." The entire deaths of Vietnam died in vain. And they're dying in vain right this very second. Do you know what's worse than a soldier dying in vain? It's more soldiers dying in vain, that's what's worse.
Gravel was steaming with his excoriation of the seated Senators:
You pass the law – not a resolution, a law – making it a felony to stay there. … And if you're worried about filibusters, here's what you do tactically. …pass it in the House. We got the votes there. In the Senate — let [the GOP] filibuster … let Reid call up [a cloture vote] … at 12:00 every day … and let the American people see clearly who's keeping the war going and who's not. And that's the just the beginning…
Alas, it was really almost the end… and there was still over an hour to go.
Another Almost Moment was handed to former Senator John Edwards to make his Everyman Campaign real and believable. Instead, he stumbled, showing that maybe he really isn't quite in touch with the needs of the working class in America as his critics charge. Rather than show leadership on the issues of the impoverished and those without health care, Edwards tossed the football laterally to "the financial markets" to "figure out what it is we need to do". You lost my vote right there, Senator. You can't be a leader if you refuse to take the lead.
My biggest disappointment was Governor Bill Richardson. Despite all of his international props as a diplomat, he didn't come off well at all with his overly-wordy and distracted responses to questions. As the only state-level chief executive currently in the race, he should have been a step ahead on the experience scale, but he made some rather strange connections between various topics that should concern our nation, such as combining mental illness with gun violence as experienced at Virginia Tech as if that happens all the time. In pandering to NRA paranoia, and in defending Alberto Gonzalez due to his ethnicity prior to attacking him for his malfeasance, Richardson showed that he has personal issues that transcend those facing our nation. We have had quite enough of that, thank you (for nothing) Democrats. In revealing his personal issues, Richardson has lost my vote.
One redeeming question Williams asked had to do with regrets. When Williams asked each of the candidates to speak upon their "most significant political or professional mistake", it proved to be about the only moment when the majority of the candidates touched on honesty. The answers each gave impressed me that they are aware of their limitations, something the current White House resident fails to display. Williams and MSNBC might have served us voters better if this was the first question asked of the candidates, as it diverted their self-awareness from hubris toward humility and honesty.
Such a result was also produced by the last set of questions Williams asked of the candidates. Putting each on the spot with their most-inflammatory positions, each was exposed to the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy Media Machine by the response each gave: Kucinich on why he introduced a bill of impeachment of Dick Cheney, already putting him in the gun sights of Oval Office operatives like Dana Milbank of the Washington Post; Dodd on civil unions and not gay marriage, Biden on the environment and energy policies, Richardson on relations with Cuba, Obama on energy-saving lamps in his own home, Edwards on models of moral leadership, Hillary on Wal-Mart.
Each made statements that their opponents will ride to the four winds in fanning the partisan flames consuming this land. With the answer each gave, each demonstrated that they are not the choice for leading the nation. One can only hope that when it comes down to the Republicans next week, MSNBC and Brian Williams do for the Elephant what they did for the Donkey, for the Republican choices are no better or less self-serving.
Paraphrasing a comment Hillary once made, it takes a nation to make a nation, and the divisiveness that has wracked this country since November 22, 1963 has got to come to an end if this nation is to survive intact. The American voter has to find a clearly qualified choice for taking the reins of power in hand, and the American media could possibly redeem itself from its sins of commission if it helped to discover who the right person is, rather than continue its practice of promoting the lesser of two corporate candidates of the status quo.