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Democratic Debate: YouTube, You Win

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Debut, debacle or theater, with its sponsorship of the latest Democratic presidential debates, YouTube could find itself squarely on the political tip of every tongue in a way which only this kind of public drama could elicit. It should push Potter-mania out of the headlines – magical thinking.

While the candidates are the same in number and appearance as before: The delivery of the questions almost upstaged the actors. Did it live up to expectations about being more inclusive, i.e., diverse? On that score, it was indeed a diverse crowd presenting questions about mundane concerns. 

Were there any surprises tonight? I think not, these questions bandied about and lobbed before were not new, pulled from blogosphere or the headlines. Anderson Cooper must have surprised everyone when he asked the candidates for show of hands if they flew there by private jets. This is a surprise, what happened to first class? Elitism as usual, it looks that way. 

There is a pattern emerging in the positions that the candidates assume both in their responses to questions and in their delivery. Hillary has great delivery, no doubt. Barack, while articulate, has a halting nature to the way that he responds. Actually, that could come from being too cerebral, introspective, especially for writers. Then there is Mike Gravel. He has a one-line list that he keeps repeating: “follow the money.” I think this guy has problems. The one that is beginning to stand out in my mind however is Joe Biden. Not only are his responses warm and convincing, also quite honest. His presence rounds out this stellar field.

One of the questions involved the possibility of Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton alternating presidents—worrisome if she were to win. Her response was great: she said thought Bush should not have won, and that she thought someone else won the second time. The audience where I watched cheered loudly. It begs the unspoken: many of today’s culture wars filtered into American law and politics under Bill Clinton’s watch. Specifically: uncontrolled illegal immigration, NAFTA, three-strikes law, failure to pass universal health care, and the inconvenience of “going green.”

I think the strangest moment and the best line came when a man posed the question: “I want to know if my ‘baby’ will be safe?” Then he starts caressing his now-banned assault weapon! Biden gave the best response: “If that’s his baby then he needs help.” The crowd went kinda wild in the pub.

On health care, the producers strung five videos together, followed by questions about universal coverage. Obama was able to personalize this question by mentioning his mother’s cancer diagnosis when she was in between jobs. I suspect that this story is common. The audience heard a favorite taboo question bloggers first raised: “Is Barack black enough?” He shimmied right past the answer. While, he cited the same “hailing-cab-while-black syndrome,” he cannot deny his obvious bi-racial lineage. Richardson managed to make some good points. He brought up preventive medicine more than once. That is a good thing. He also mentioned the unholy alliance between schools and soft drink makers; who have their soda machines in all the high schools—why? The revenue helps the school to add to its already thin coffers. And everybody knows that money trumps obesity concerns.

Taxes, troops, and tough health care decisions seemed to be on everyone’s mind. With the call down of the troops—the people, and democratic candidates pulling away from the Iraq war—it looks like the democrats are unpatriotic. If the connection grows stronger, then the Republican candidates might have a new whipping boy: Low ratings for Congress and the Iraq disconnect. Watch for the Republicans to bring up issues relating to national security and democratic support of the troops.

We heard from Edwards who abruptly and aggressively brought up his poverty tour. Everyone was on the edge of their seats for that rendition. We did not hear much about education this time. Based on the answers that one typically gets from non-educators (including politicians) one gets the feeling that a teachers think-tank is in order to answer many of the knotty details. The democrats continued to dance around many issues such as illegal aliens crowding the schools. Right now, that is the law. No teacher or principal can ask someone who speaks no English, and looks totally lost, “you got legal papers to go with that child?”  This is because a fellow democrat made it all possible: Senator Kennedy.

The responses elicited, overall, by this debate are still too safe, sanitized despite the infusion of YouTube videos. Entertainment has added value, but it will probably take the exit of 3 or 4 of these lovely candidates before toughness takes over.

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About Heloise

  • RJ

    And yes, of course my response completely mangled the HTML on this thread.

    Irony? :-/

  • RJ

    The blogger that [sic (who)] called Edwards dumb [sic (didn’t happen)], probably voted for Bush [sic (no comma)] the dumbest president ever. Bush is dumber than the leaders of most African 4th world leaders [sic (completely butchered sentence)].


    LOL! 😉

  • The blogger that called Edwards dumb, probably voted for Bush the dumbest president ever. Bush is dumber than the leaders of most African 4th world leaders.

  • Baronius

    Baritone – If we all agree that Reagan was an actor, can we just stop talking about it? Your critique of Reagan was cartoonish: his hair, his jelly beans… you even call him “Bonzo”! This is the type of argument that gets woos and hisses at a debate, but contributes no insights.

    I brought up Reagan and Kennedy together to avoid partisanship. I was describing men who strode large across history, as opposed to trivial politicians like Agnew. But if you want to debate Reagan’s impact on history, let’s do it.

    You say that the USSR would have fallen inevitably. There’s no doubt that it was a bad system. But for the years previous to 1981, the Free World had been in retreat. The Soviets advanced in Central America, Africa, and Asia. In the Carter years, we were told to hope for peaceful coexistence.

    In the Reagan years, the West confronted Moscow. We spent a fortune on the military, daring the Soviets to compete. They tried, and it crashed their economy. We challenged them in the marketplace of ideas and on the proxy battlefields. We beat them with a culture that everyone wanted to be a part of. We humiliated them over their refusenik policy.

    You probably weren’t part of the Carter administration, so I can’t blame you for historical wrongs. But I’ve heard a steady chorus of Reagan critics calling him a cowboy with his finger on the button; those same people who voted against every weapons system and encouraged dialogue with the USSR as moral equals. Within a decade, they all talked about how “we” won the Cold War, how Reagan had nothing to do with it, and that the fall of the Soviet Union was inevitable. That makes it hard to take Reagan’s critics seriously.

  • In some instances you give both credit and blame for and against where they were either not earned or due. Each president inherited a great deal of what went before.

    Reagan was, in many respects, very simple minded as some of his gaffs revealed. He regularly nodded off at cabinet meetings and the best that can be said of his performance is that he made jelly beans popular for a while. To credit him with the hostage release is disingenuous at best, given that they were freed the very day that Reagan took the oath. Itis also an overstatement to claim that Reagan had anything to do with the fall of the Soviet Union. It collapsed of its own weight caused by its failed agriculture and its economy in general. The USSR would likely have fallen if Bonzo had been in the White House.

    While it was not made nearly so public, Reagan was very much a religious fundamentalist and looked forward to the coming “rapture” just as GW does much more publicly now.

    Also, some believed that Reagan couldn’t find the door to the rose garden without Nancy to steer him to it.

    And let’s not forget Iran/Contra.

    He did have great hair, though.

    As to his predecessors, while they certainly had their failures, even Nixon, whom I despised had his successes – most notably his opening up to China. Of all those you mentioned, 2 inherited the office and the troubles that came with it. Ford in particular walked into a situation that would have been extremely difficult for anyone. While I don’t agree with his pardoning of Nixon, it was understandable. Ford’s failure to retain the office was due to a great deal of Nixon carry over.

    Johnson, too, walked into a whirlwind, but managed to make the office his own with his subsequent election. His campaign was no more nor less “dirty” than most others. Goldwater determined his own fate. Johnson was a powerful man, but failed mainly in his assessment of what course to take in Vietnam. His primary success came through his actions regarding civil rights and anti-poverty measures.

    Carter was perhaps the most hapless of all. Again, though, a great deal of what brought down his presidency was beyond his reach, and would have been no matter who sat in the oval office. Also, he was badly served by many who he apparently trusted. Therein might be Carter’s greatest failure.

    Nevertheless, as I noted above, I don’t see Reagan as a shining example of a president. He was simply more adept at duping the voters than those who came before. Time in office is not necessarily an indicator of greatness.

    When it comes down to it, we Americans generally do a piss poor job of finding good leaders.


  • I actually don’t think Reagan was a great president, but he was an excellent leader. As a lawmaker and an administrator he came up short, but as a source of leadership and inspiration he was great. That said, as you point out, in comparison to the disastrous presidents who came before him he was absolutely exemplary.


  • RJ

    And if you don’t, that’s fine. But the American people did.

    LBJ – Took office after JFK’s assassination. Ran a dirty campaign against Goldwater in 1964, which he won in a landslide. Then proceeded to become so unpopular but the public, he chose not to run for reelection because he would have likely lost the Democrat nomination. Total time in office – 5+ years

    Nixon – Won in a near-landslide in 1968, but was helped by third-party candidate Wallace. Won a historic landslide in 1972, then less than 2 years later was so unpopular that he resigned rather than be impeached in the House and removed by the Senate. Total time in office – 5+ years

    Ford – Only President never to win an actual Presidential election as either the Presidential candidate or the Vice-Presidential candidate. Unpopular after his pardon of Nixon, seen as semi-competent, economy performed poorly, Vietnam retreat debacle (helicopters at embassy photo), beaten by relatively unknown Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter in 1976. Total time in office – 2+ years

    Carter – Stagflation, energy crisis, overthrow of the Shah of Iran, subsequent Iranian hostage crisis, attempted rescue mission debacle, malaise, giveaway of the Panama Canal, etc. Got whipped in 1980 by “right-wing extremist” Ronald Reagan. Total time in office – 4 years

    Reagan – Iranian hostages returned, economic recovery and long-term boom, military and national confidence rebuilt, victories against Soviet-backed Communist regimes in our hemisphere and elsewhere, historic landslide reelection in 1984, numerous historic speeches, eventual fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union, chosen successor Vice-President wins in near-landslide in 1988. Total time in office – 8 years (first President to serve two complete terms since Eisenhower)

  • RJ

    “I frankly don’t know how anyone can consider Reagan any kind of bench mark as a president. Many conservatives consider him tantamount to a god. I never considered him to be as capable as president as he was at being an actor. He sucked as an actor.”

    So…compared to his predecessors (LBJ, Nixon, Ford, and Carter), you honestly don’t believe that Reagan was a vast improvement?

  • Having been dead for about 11 years, Agnew probably would be more adept now than he was back in the 70s. I understand that slow rotting tends to mellow a person, brings on a new perspective as it were.


  • Baronius

    At first I was joking about Agnew… but I’m sensing a groundswell of support out there.

  • “Kicking ass and taking names.” That’s military doggeral for being an asshole.


  • Dr Dreadful

    And how to gain entry to small rooms with bars on the windows.

  • Ah, Agnew. Where will we find his like again? He sure knew how to kick ass and take names.


  • Baronius,

    I know you didn’t ask, but I did it anyway.

    I can’t say that I would “like” Hillary. But she has proven to be effective in the Senate. I won’t ever have to invite her over for dinner, so if she is less than congenial, I don’t give a damn. The question is, Can she be effective as president? No one knows, but at least she knows her way around the building.

    I frankly don’t know how anyone can consider Reagan any kind of bench mark as a president. Many conservatives consider him tantamount to a god. I never considered him to be as capable as president as he was at being an actor. He sucked as an actor.

    While Kennedy had style and sophistication, the more we learn of him, the more his stature suffers. He actually may have been the last president to benefit from the “gentlemen’s agreement with the press which allowed him to partake of the ladies without scrutiny.

    Agnew? Surely you joketh. Agnew was one. A joke, that is. Or am I being a nattering nabob?

  • For Candidates It is easy to complain about things, and of course it suggests a bonding, but still makes you as only part of the problem instead of exercising your Personal Empowerment to fix the problem.

    That is what I see these fan fare candidates to be worth. They are undocuumented, and have very little to actually say to you except noise

    The Government, Economy and Personal Empowerment are like the gears in a clock, where if one goes out of skew, then it might eventually even stop.

    The link decribes the Book, the New Deal. It is the plans that I will use to fix the clock, and the means to fund the campaign in order to be given that honor.


    Orion –

  • Ah, at last! A voter nostalgiac for Spiro Agnew.

  • Baronius

    Baritone, I didn’t ask you to praise the candidates on the R side. I just think that the D’s have as bad a field. Hillary has all the likability of McCain. The three frontrunners average less than a full Senate term of experience. (Even Thompson did that much between roles.) Edwards is, well, a joke. I can’t tell if I’m just getting jaded, but none of these guys on either ticket strike me as a Kennedy or a Reagan. Barely an Agnew.

  • Baronius,

    Frankly, I don’t agree. I won’t go so far to say that the Dem line up of candidates is stellar, but I don’t find them collectively as objectionable as the Reps. At one time I thought John McCain had the Rep nomination in the bag, and actually found him more paletable than most republicans. But the man can’t get out of his own way. He’s even worse when it comes to sticking his foot in his mouth than Biden

    Giuliani did manage to distinguish himself in the days after 9/11, but his actions before and some after has darkened his image. His marriages and position on abortion (which I support) make him unattractive to fundies.

    Romney’s switch on abortion gives him a waffling reputation, and he may actually be too far to the right for more moderate Reps.

    Fred Thompson just doesn’t impress me as anyone who would want to work as hard as one must to run this country.

    And the rest? Who knows. I don’t even remember who else has thrown their hat into the Rep’s ring.


  • Baronius

    Baritone, doesn’t that description of the GOP candidates fit the Dem lineup as well? I’m not disputing the difficulties facing any Republican nominee. I’m just feeling nostalgic for the days of quality candidates like Dukakis and Dole, and that’s pretty sick.

  • When all the dust clears, it’s going to be either Hillary or Barack unless something really unexpected happens.

    Whichever winds up the Dem candidate will be the next president. GW has taken his presidency to such lows, that the nation will not be able to stomach another GOP administration.

    The GOP line up of candidates (even given the probable addition of Fred Thompson) inspires little hope. They either have too much baggage, have too many gaffs, too many flip-flops, or too little name recognition. For any Rep to overcome the disaster which has plagued the White House and this nation during the past nearly 7 years will require a gargantuan effort.

    While I will vote Dem, I’ve no illusions. Things will not get all rosy with a Democratic administration. However, perhaps there might be at least a spark of intelligence coming from the WH. That alone would be refreshing.


  • Baronius

    I missed it, but based on what I’ve seen of these people before, here’s my guess: the brightest, most articulate, most ideologically-pure Democrat was Cooper.

  • Heloise
  • RJ

    My (admittedly biased) opinions of the candidates from last night’s YouTube/CNN debate:

    Gravel – Complete lunatic. Utterly unhinged. Frightening. Probably should be added to the national “no fly” list.

    Kucinich – Clearly a leftist moonbat, but at least he’s ideologically pure (kind of like Dean in 2004), and he makes some good points that the other candidates don’t dare mention.

    Richardson – Not telegenic (IOW, ugly). I had always thought he was a moderate, but he made some really reckless statements re: Iraq and foreign policy in this debate. I lost a lot of respect for him.

    Biden – I gained a lot of respect for him. Strong, clear answers. Seemed to speak from the heart, yet was still wonkish. Obviously very experienced, and a credible candidate. (My new favorite of the bunch, even though he is arrogant and gaffe-prone.)

    Hillary – Cold. Brrr! But strong, smart, and relatively moderate. An effective speaker, but she still gives off the bitch-vibe with her facial expressions (or lack thereof) and body language.

    Obama – Great speaker, good answers, but still far too leftist for my taste. (But I think he was the winner of last night’s debate.)

    Edwards – Looks like a mouth-breathing moron when speaking. (I’m not saying he’s dumb; I’m just saying he looks dumb when he’s talking.) Pretty-boy empty-suit. He better win Iowa, or else he’s finished in public life for good.

    Dodd – Surprisingly competent. I really thought Dodd was a dud until this debate performance. Not exactly Churchillian, but solid. Still disagree with him about almost everything, but was impressed nonetheless.

  • I did not see all of the broadcast. My wife called me up to watch it some 20 minutes into it.

    However, what I did see was, in fact, largely entertaining, and I did find some of the UTube questions interesting, perhaps more, as you suggest, in their delivery than in their particular substance.

    The nut job with his “baby” assault rifle was perhaps the most startling, but the environmental question from the snowman was humorous and fairly effective.

    While I think Mike Gravel is a borderline psycho, hardly the person any of us would want as our commander in-chief, I did agree with him on one point. I have said in my blog and elsewhere that the people dying now in Iraq and all those who perished during the Vietnam War – on all sides – have died in vain. It’s true of most wars.

    I think Anderson Cooper did a creditable job of managing the questioning and attempting at least to limit the political proseltyzing. It’s damn near impossible to get any politician to shut up when you want them to. Cooper even managed to mildly chastize some who bantered on or attempted to change the subject.

    I was not bothered by the “private jet” response. It’s hardly reasonable to expect a presidential candidate to run a national campaign hopscotching the country on commercial airliners. They’d have to set up campaign headquarters at airports. I doubt that any of the republican candidates are boarding Jet Blue or the Puddle Jumper Express to carry out their campaigns. There is also, obviously, the security factor to consider. I’m not sure I’d want to share a plane with someone who a few thousand nutballs would like to blow to kingdom come.

    No doubt, these “debates” will become more intense as the pretenders quit the race. I would think that after a primary or two, the dollars will start to dry up for the hangers on.

    After Hillary and Barack I’m not sure there is a clear third place runner. I would think that Gravel, Kucinich and Dodd would be the least likely to maintain far into the primary season. That leaves Biden, Edwards and Richardson.

    Personally, I am not a particular fan of either Biden or Edwards. Biden has made too many embarrassing gaffs over the years. Edwards wears his religion too plainly on his sleeve, and his shameless pandering to christians, I find offensive.

    Richardson’s support for the NRA is troubling to me, but he did prove to be a man of good humor, capable of self deprecation during an earlier appearance on The Daily Show. I don’t know that that stands as a qualifier to be president, but it didn’t hurt him, in my eyes at least.

    One does wonder when the gloves are going to come off. With the exception of Gravel, and to some extent, Kucinich, the rest are handling each other with deferrence not wanting to ruffle too many feathers, too early. The worst thing that can happen to the Dems is to become rancorous and splintered going into the primary season which could, of course, carry over into the fall election. Only time will tell.