Thursday, January 29, 2004

Blogging the debate 

It's live! With spelling mistakes galore!

7:00 One more sign of Lieberman's demise: the opening video showed Kucinich before showing Lieberman.

7:02 And Kucinich got a louder cheer than Lieberman! *Sigh* Edwards got the best reaction, while Lieberman and Clark got the most lukewarm.

7:04 Kerry artfully answers a question on his comments on the South and quickly segues into an attack on Bush. A very good answer.

7:05 Likewise, Edwards completely dodges a question on whether it's crucial for him to win South Carolina by answering Kerry's question.

7:07 Bad start for Dean, who sounded as if he got something stuck in his throat answering a question on his new campaign manager.

7:08 Sabotage! The power at my home cut out for a second so I missed half of Clark's answer on whether he should leave the race if he doesn't win a primary the next two weeks.

7:09 Same question for Lieberman, Kucinich, and Sharpton. Why do we have to have these dumbass questions every debate? I thought the point of a debate is to let voters decide who they like the most, not whose bandwagon they should jump on. Sharpton gave the best answer in rejecting the question.

7:12 Question for Dean on the war and the Kay report. Bush lied mislead, blah blah blah.

7:14 Edwards wants an independent commission to investigate intelligence failures. This might be one of the best ways for Democrats to attack Bush on national security.

7:15 Kerry defends his pre-war vote by saying Bush should have worked with the UN.

7:16 Question to Lieberman on whether Syria would have given up its weapons absent an Iraq war. He defends his vote by saying Saddam was the biggest WMD.

7:17 Question to Kucinich, so I'll take a few seconds to observe that so far Brokaw has been lobbing softballs by asking questions in which the candidates could give their best answers.

7:20 Clark repeats his claim that Pentagon people told him Bush wanted to invade Iraq 2 weeks after 9/11.

7:21 Sharpton brings up a dead soldier as an argument against the war. Classy.

7:25 Kerry lists some Bush exaggerations and reiterates the need for multilateralism.

7:27 Brokaw asks Clark whether the response to terrorism was inadequate under the Clinton administration, since he attacked Bush for not being ready for 9/11. Clark gave a non-answer by blaming Bush, again.

7:30 Bad format for the debate, since Brokaw couldn't ask a follow-up question.

7:31 Both Kerry and Kucinich called Bush "ideological", so presumably they'd be fair and balanced if they're president.

7:32 Lieberman retells an anecdote I've heard before about some woman who told him she's voting for him because she trusts his son's life as a soldier to Lieberman. The question to him was on Bush's comment that the US doesn't need permission from the UN on foreign policy. Again, the format allows candidates to completely ignore the question.

7:34 Sharpton sure knows how to sound authoritative without saying anything of substance.

7:36 Note to Edwards: there's a world market on oil. Even if we do find alternative sources of energy, cut our oil use in half and don't buy a single barrel from Saudi Arabia they'll still have as much power as they do now in manipulating the oil market to affect our policies.

7:37 Dean says "the terrorists might have already won" because Bush is taking away your civil liberties. And he throws in a mention to the Federalist society. During the break, Bush's secret police kills Dean and replaces him with a robot.

7:42 NAFTA question for Dean, with Brokaw noting that Gore was THE NAFTA guy. Dean says NAFTA has only applied and benefited corporations, whatever that means. He also says "people don't leave their country because they hate their country." Maybe not, but I think people like Eugene Volokh might argue that they leave because they hate their government and like ours better.

7:45 Lieberman says jobs aren't created by building a wall around America on free trade, and notes that many American industries depend on exports that rely on free trade. The second biggest reason why I support Lieberman. Comparative advantage, baby!

7:47 I think Kucinich just implied that people would be willing to pay higher prices for products because they have a conscience.

7:48 Kerry is "on the side of workers", that Bush is "selling jobs to large corporations", and referred to companies and CEOs that export jobs as "Benedict Arnolds".

7:51 After Kerry calls for training programs, Edwards attacks training programs by saying that they're no good for middle-aged workers.

7:52 I still don't know what Clark is talking about on anything he says.

7:56 Except for Lieberman, I can pretty much summarize everybody's answers to every question so far: "I blame Bush". Which might explain why Lieberman is trailing badly.

8:01 Dean repeats that he got everybody under 18 in Vermont health insurance. Rosemary Esmay thinks he's wrong, however. Also, he seems to think that we can prevent a social security disaster in the future by growing the economy and putting smarter people in charge.

8:03 Kerry lists some bills he passed by hiding it into another bill. I don't know if it's something to brag about though ...

8:04 Kucinich wants single-payer health care. [Insert joke here.]

8:05 Lieberman keeps saying he's moderate and thinks this will get him elected.

8:08 Medical malpractice question to Edwards. Edwards again dodges by answering a previous question to another candidate, then he proposes an independent panel that would review cases to decide whether they should go to trial, and if a lawyer abuses the system he's prevented from filing such lawsuits. Sounds like a good idea to me ...

8:11 Sharpton agrees with Kucinich on single-payer. Good to hear that the crowd isn't too enthusiastic about it.

8:12 Still no idea what Clark is talking about ...

8:17 Edwards is against gay marriage, while Dean defends the NRA.

8:18 Dean attacks Kerry's last answer on health care and gives him rebuttal time for the second time tonight. Kerry repeats his "we're coming, they're going ..." line.

8:21 Clark wants religion out of schools. That should win those southern votes!

8:22 Brokaw asks the Confederate flag question ... to Sharpton. Why can't this question be asked to one of the electable candidates?

8:24 The debate ends with Kerry's saying that he supports affirmative action.

Afterthoughts: the debate format stinks. There was no opening or closing statements, no follow-up questions, and almost no interaction among the candidates. Rather than a debate, it was more like a 10 minute question-and-answer session for each of the seven candidates. Because of that, the candidates could, and did, get away with not answering tough questions (which were few and far between, incidentally) by going on tangents and giving pre-formatted answers. Also, Brokaw asked the right questions to the wrong candidates. Instead of asking whether Lieberman whether Syria would have given up its weapons absent an Iraq war, Brokaw should have asked Dean that question. Instead of asking Sharpton the Confederate flag question, he should have asked Edwards or Kerry.

Winner: Kerry by default because of the format. Everyone basically gave stump answers, and none of the candidates stood out. Dean seems sedated. Kerry did good enough to preserve his frontrunner status. What's most interesting is Edwards's answer on tort reform for an independent commission. If he's the nominee I expect tort reform to become an issue in the general election, so Edwards might be making a preemptive right turn on this issue.
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