random thoughts on the democratic debate

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.

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another left turn

our pal dennis kucinich now has company in the dark horse category of democratic presidential candidates.  we know very little about kucinich except that he’s a socialist nut with a gorgeous wife, and he is also someone who favors immediate withdrawal of our troops from iraq. we know even less about fellow dark horse candidate former senator mike gravel. that’s why he faces even longer odds than kucinich (if that’s even possible). so why does this guy deserve a whole post?  i think that some of his ideas are interesting, and even though i disagree with some of those ideas, i think they are worth discussing. i’m also fascinated by his willingness to call out pretty much every democrat who voted for the iraq war right in front of them at the DNC winter meeting.

here’s part of what he said(any italics are mine):

History teaches us that nations fail when leaders fail their people. The decision to invade Iraq without provocation and fraudulently sold to the American people, by a President consumed with messianic purpose, sadly confirms this lesson of history.

The Democrats controlled the Senate on October 11, 2002 and provided political cover for George Bush to invade Iraq. The Senate leadership could have refused to even take up the resolution, or a few Senators who opposed it could have mounted a filibuster.

But the fear of opposing a popular warrior President on the eve of a mid-term election prevailed. Political calculations trumped morality, and the Middle East was set ablaze. The Democrats lost in the election anyway, but the American people lost even more. It was Politics as Usual.

Given the extreme importance of any decision to go to war, and I am anguished to say this, it’s my opinion that anyone who voted for the war on October 11––based on what President Bush represented––is not qualified to hold the office of President.

he’s partially right. the senate leadership could have done more to stop the iraq war from happening. they didn’t do so, because they also believed that saddam was a threat. they had every reason to think so. hillary even did her own research and came to the same conclusion her husband and president bush did — that regime change was necessary in iraq. political calculation wasn’t the motive for the democrats when they let the president invade iraq.  it is the motive for democrats calling for immediate withdrawal from iraq (like dennis kucinich and mike gravel for example). there is another contest going on with all these candidates…who will win the favor of the netroots? how else do you explain this incredible shift to the left by many of these democratic candidates?

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