What Keith Olbermann oh-so-cleverly called the spotlight dance between Obama and Clinton (and those other people) failed to reveal anything that we didn’t already know. There was no compelling story in this debate, only the regularly scheduled Bush-bashing and an argument over which candidate would get us out of Iraq the fastest. That’s why all the buzz was around two (shall we say) lesser lights in the Democratic field, Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich. (I especially liked Gravel’s accusation that Barack wanted to nuke somebody…)
Transcript available here.
Kucinich doesn’t buy the line that they did the best they could with the information they had at the time. At least he has what could be charitably called an Iraq plan.
I have a plan, H.R. 1234, a plan to end the war in Iraq, which calls on the international community to provide peacekeepers and security forces that will move in as our troops leave. But we can’t do that until we determine we’re going to end the occupation. And we will do that when we stop the funding.
Any plan that primarily depends on the international community for its success is doomed to failure. There should be collaboration with the international community, but I’m not sure what makes Kucinich think that he can do what much more skilled politicians have failed to do. What would convince those countries who had previously promised their support to actually provide it? I don’t know the answer, and Kucinich probably doesn’t either.
That said, he is committed to getting the US out of Iraq, for better or for worse. He calls out the other candidates for continuing to pay for this war that they don’t support. He has been the candidate who takes unpopular positions on issues, and that’s something you can’t say about most of the Democratic front-runners. He could be the most hard-left candidate the Dems have…except for Mike Gravel.
Mike Gravel said some unbelievable stuff…like this:
We need to find another way. I really would like to sit down with Pelosi and with Reid, and I would hope the other senators would focus on, how do you get out? You pass the law, not a resolution, a law making it a felony to stay there. And I’ll give you the text of it.
And if you’re worried about filibuster, here’s what you do tactically. They can pass it in the House. We’ve got the votes there. We’ve got the votes there. In the Senate, let them filibuster it. And let Reid call up every — at 12:00 every day to have a cloture vote. And let the American people see clearly who’s keeping the war going and who’s not.
Good luck with that, Mr. Gravel. Did you catch that? He wants to make it a FELONY to stay in Iraq. Left unclear, of course, is WHO Gravel wants to put in jail. I’m guessing it’s the President of the United States, but maybe I should ask him the question just to be sure . It’s quite difficult to be left of Kucinich, so I give him credit for succeeding with that.
Even though I have no doubt that both of these men believe everything they said in the debate, these statements weren’t entirely made out of conviction. They were made out of necessity — a need to distinguish themselves from their fellow travelers…and maybe in the process steal some inhabitants of nutroots nation. What we saw from them in this debate is Exhibit A why third-tier candidates, whether they are Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, or the Vampires party, haven’t yet attained that credibility that one must have to break into the top tier in any presidential race.
Another reason these candidates can’t seem to get any traction is that choosing a presidential candidate has become more about image than about substance. Image consciousness drives the process in both parties. In the non-political world, we would be more impressed with Joe Biden and Bill Richardson and their experience/ qualifications than we are with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The Republican or Democratic presidential nomination is no longer given to the most qualified, but to the candidate whose family looks the best on a Christmas card.
Every single presidential candidate has glaring flaws. Let’s just start with that premise. I’ve said from the beginning that Richardson and Biden are worth more attention than their Democratic party will give them. Even though Joe Biden comes to the wrong conclusion about Iraq at the end, at least you can tell he has thought the whole thing through, unlike some other candidates who prefer to parrot the conventional wisdom of the Democratic left. Unlike many in the top tier, Biden has a plan for Iraq, and has had one for a long time. He is willing to ask the tough questions such as what would happen if the Democrats cut funding, and what would happen if they pulled the troops out tomorrow.
With Richardson, his record reflects more than a hard left agenda. He has cut taxes in New Mexico as well. Conservatives like politicians who cut taxes. His resume dwarfs some of the other candidates, and he should be in the conversation with them for that reason.
It’s also troubling to me that many of the candidates who were asked the question about whether they believed that there was a global war on terror didn’t acknowledge that possibility. Maybe their reaction was reflexive, since the phrase is tied to a President that they don’t respect. It requires incredible blindness not to see the dangerous world we live in and not to see the threats we face as a nation from terrorism. One could totally discount what we are doing in Iraq, and still believe that there will be more work to do after Iraq. The terrorists aren’t going to go away peacefully if we leave Iraq prematurely. The only thing we can do to make them happy is to go up in flames from one of their attacks. Their aim is to kill us and further implement Islamic law throughout the world. HOW CAN WE NEGOTIATE WITH THAT? You can’t. If you don’t understand that, you shouldn’t be President.