The debates tonight on ABC in case you missed them, were the most revealing episode in the entire campaign for the 2008 Presidential nomination of both parties. It wasn’t that there was anything that hasn’t been said before, it was because of the way that things were said. On the Republican side, there were total mean-spirited jabs at each other that portrayed the candidates to be more like a crowd of cat-callers than Presidential candidates. They incessantly sparred with each other like men at a bar that have let their guard down after a few drinks and were showing their true selves rather than the cultivated side of their personality that they use for business.
They might have agreed with each other in principle, but the slightest variance in talking about Republican virtue was greeted with scathing comments from the others. The one who was the primary recipient in the barely concealed barbs was predictably, Ron Paul. The Representative from Texas did not take it and grin; he came back at his fellow Republicans in a way that infuriated them. He talked about their views and said that they will never be able to put any economic changes on the table until they stop the trillion dollar drain on the budget that the wars are costing the American taxpayers. The entire debate was mostly about the war on terror and continuing the war in Iraq. Immigration was a big subject with McCain and Romney sparring like two prize-fighters. The entire Republican debate was marked by periodic praise for George W. Bush that showed either their ignorance of the current approval ratings of the current President, or just their ignorance period.
The Democratic debate was narrowed down to four, with Sen. Dodd and Sen. Biden out of the race and Gravel and Kucinich not invited. The debate hardly lacked in substance however as the four engaged each other in rugged verbal combat, tough words for each other but not as sleazy as the Republicans that came on first. The high point for me was when Sen. Edwards stated that it was impossible to call for changes in government corruption from the corporate sector when you take money from lobbyists and PAC’s that donate to your political campaign, an obvious attack on Sen. Hillary Clinton. Clinton fired back by saying that smooth words and high principled speeches don’t necessarily mean that the person uttering them can actually lead a country. Sen. Obama came back at her and said that words can indeed inspire the people of this nation to do what is necessary in order to turn this nation around in the right direction. All four agreed that George W. Bush’s tenure in office had put the future of this nation in peril. Finally, Hillary Clinton said that she would start moving troops out of Iraq within her first ninety days in office and that she would leave no troops in Iraq. Surprisingly, no other candidate asked her why she had made such a surprising about-face from her earlier stance on Iraq. Maybe they were all just grateful that she did.
Gov. Richardson seemed dismayed about the attacks that the candidates made on each other. He should have been happy that they didn’t attack him. Maybe if he had better than a 4% showing in Iowa they would have. I imagine that they felt he wasn’t worth the effort. Personally, I like Bill Richardson but I’m sick to death of him giving out his resume as an answer to every question he answers. He might do everyone a favor by pulling out of the race. Maybe if he pulled out the media might have room for Kucinich and Gravel. I don’t understand why they ban these two candidates. Obama and Edwards seem to bring enough venom for the corporate led special interest groups that whatever Gravel and Kucinich could bring to the table certainly couldn’t add to it. They might even act as “calming” figures.
The difference between the two party’s candidates was certainly dramatic. Maybe there is hope for the two-party system after all, or maybe this is just a violent hang-over from the Bush years. It was a good idea to have these debates back-to-back. The American people got a chance to see the difference up close and personal. If I were a Republican, I would be horrified by the spectacle I saw tonight.
That’s the way I see it.