The First Democratic Debates
May 4, 2003 9:47 AM   Subscribe

The First Democratic Debates were last night, but you wouldn't know it from the media's coverage. Barely a story on CNN. Howard Dean stole the night, with over a hundred screaming supporters outside the debates. The only person there with supporters was the blogging Presidential Candidate. There were students there from U.C. Berkley, Washinton, Georgia, North Carolina, and Kentucky. All thanks to the power of blogspot, and meetup. Whether or not Dean gets the nomination, this will be a campaign for the history books. They'll be on c-span all day today.
posted by cjoh (64 comments total)
Actually, having a bunch of "screaming supporters" outside does not equal stealing the debate (in any except perhaps a nefarious sense). Why no links to show the substance of what Dean & others argued?
posted by Zurishaddai at 9:54 AM on May 4, 2003

brings one thing to mind....

what liberal media?
posted by nish01 at 10:04 AM on May 4, 2003

No kidding.

It wasn't shown on the local ABC affiliate here in Atlanta. Man, the Democrats HAVE to find a viable candidate soon, or we're all doomed...

By viable, by the way, I don't mean mealy-mouthed. I want someone to stand up and offer an alternative to the current madness. Someone to stand up and say THIS is right and THIS is wrong, and not just be a Republican wannabe.

If Leiberman gets the nod, though, I'll have to look elsewhere. I'm tired of religious fundamentalists in government...
posted by jpburns at 10:10 AM on May 4, 2003

"the blogging Presidential Condidate"? What about Gary Hart? I'm sure the other ones have blogs too.
posted by jragon at 10:13 AM on May 4, 2003

The debate was moved to 9pm ET so as to take place after sundown — Lieberman's religious beliefs bar him from campaign activities during the Sabbath, which ended at sundown Saturday night. It's a nice thought, but obviously impractical, and having the debate that late (it was delayed until 11:30pm on those affiliates that botered to air it) contributed to the lack of coverage.

But while the supporters outside the debate don't mean Dean stole the show inside, it's an interesting point that so many people showed up for a candidate who is arguably using the web more effectively than any other candidate past or present. It seems like Howard Dean "gets it," and that's enough for a lot of internet-savvy voters to give him a second look.

It's still early, and this field will obviously narrow as the campaign moves forward. But Dean is already making a strong showing, polling neck-and-neck with frontrunner John Kerry in the crucial state of New Hampshire. High-stakes fundraising and corporate contributions have taken a lot of the political power away from ordinary people, but maybe 2004 is finally the year the internet starts to give some of that power back.
posted by barkingmoose at 10:24 AM on May 4, 2003

Howard Dean is an amateur. He's done so many things that show he doesn't know how to deal with national media reporters that I've lost a lot of respect for him as a candidate. (I can get my hubby to post if you want examples; he's a poli-sci junkie.)

Reading this article it looks like Al Sharpton may have stolen the pre-show.
posted by evening at 10:30 AM on May 4, 2003

i loved al sharpons quote about bushes tax cuts - "they like jim jones' kool aid - it tastes good but in the end it kills ya ... "
posted by specialk420 at 10:40 AM on May 4, 2003

I like Dean, but he's only slightly more likely to get the nod from the Dems than Al Sharpton. You don't really thing that an antiwar candidate is going to get the nod from the DNC do you?

What people don't seem to understand is that the parties rig the primaries, which is why we didn't have McCain vs. Bradley in 2000, but the "attack of the well entrenched morons"; Bush vs. Gore.

If the Democrats have any smarts left, they'll nominate Edwards, who has the Clinton mojo. He's the only candidate that has a chance of beating The Shrub. I think that Edwards will get the nod and he will beat Bush unless the economy rockets ahead, which doesn't seem likely.

Of course, Bush may just start another horseshit war, which may get him elected from the panicky idiot crowd.
posted by mark13 at 10:44 AM on May 4, 2003

Horseshit, panicky, idiot. Such eloquence, mark13!
posted by dagny at 10:56 AM on May 4, 2003

speaking of politics, bush should have to personally cough up the cost of that fucking dog and pony campaign whistle stop on the aircraft carrier the other day. particularly the cost of flying his scrawny, service-evading asshole out there.

"i'm a guy who only pretended to serve in the military, hell, i disappeared for half of my hitch! but hey - look how authentic i appear in this flight jumpsuit, striding across the deck with my finger pointed at nothing! the fools and buffoons, the idealistic children in uniform i've buffaloed with patriotic pap, and yes, even the horseshit panicky idiots are going to fall for this, big time!"

and so they have, and so it goes.
posted by quonsar at 11:06 AM on May 4, 2003

Salon, the Washington Times, the New York Times and the Associated Press all are commenting on the debate.

Apparently several ABC affiliates showed Gladiator in place of the debate. I'm not sure if that's mocking commentary on their part or not.

I'm not sure that I'll even vote in the election if Dean doesn't get the nomination. I cringe at another 4 years of Bush, but Lieberman isn't any better, and the majority of the other candiates are just plain bland.
posted by cmonkey at 11:10 AM on May 4, 2003

Re: Bush's appearance on the carrier.

Was I the only one to think of Michael Dukakis in a tank?
posted by norm at 11:12 AM on May 4, 2003

Hey guys, it's OK if you don't bash Bush in a thread or two, or was this debate so uninteresting that you had to resort to that?
posted by gyc at 11:23 AM on May 4, 2003

bob graham has the experience and the right tone - id vote for the guy ... its a bummer to see kerry in such a slump. if its lieberman vs. bush ... - vancouver here i come.
posted by specialk420 at 11:24 AM on May 4, 2003

But what gives them the right to exclude Lyndon LaRouche? He is running on the democrat ticket, has more money and followers than *any* of the other candidates in that state, and 50 prominent nationally recognized elected or appointed democrats have demanded that he be allowed to participate.
Despite his obviously whacked viewpoints, if HE can't penetrate his own parties debate, then what chance will any serious third party candidate EVER have of participating in the real debates, post convention, currently restricted to ONLY 1 republican and 1 democrat?
posted by kablam at 11:25 AM on May 4, 2003

I might end up voting in the 2004 presidential election just so I can vote against that fatuous smirking liar currently inhabiting the office, but Howard Dean is the only candidate so far that I would actually vote for. He's the first candidate in years who actually seems to have his head screwed on straight. Of course, mark13 is probably right; the primaries do seem designed as filters for the competent so that the actual election can be a television-friendly showdown of mediocrities.

You don't really thing that an antiwar candidate is going to get the nod from the DNC do you?

I don't know anything about the Democratic Party's internal politics, but an antiwar candidate is just about the only thing that can make them relevant at this point. They've spent the last three years rolling over for Bush at every turn, seemingly, and their entire party platform seems to be "Well, we're really not as bad as the Republicans, honestly". Their opposition is the biggest creep since Nixon, and half the country loathes him. What are they waiting for?
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:27 AM on May 4, 2003

The little news coverage that's out there suggests that there was no clear winner in the debate. The Democrats have no leader, and the debate didn't change that.

Personally I don't think Dean did particularly poorly or particularly well... I don't agree with cjoh that Dean "stole the night". Nobody stole the night. (Hey cjoh, you don't happen to work for the Dean campaign, do you?)

FWIW, Salon (subscription or ad viewing required) argues that Lieberman "seemed to slightly rise above his peers, at least this night. Much of this was also due to subpar performances by his rivals, most notably possible front-runner Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who got bogged down in a petty snipe session with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean..."
posted by blue mustard at 11:27 AM on May 4, 2003

Funny how most of the attacks coming from inside of the White House are directed at John Edwards, the only candidate who can beat Bush. And damn, he's good looking.
posted by the fire you left me at 11:46 AM on May 4, 2003

I saw the debate, and these guys need to focus less on healthcare and more on the economy. Telling folks you are going to take money away from them to provide healthcare for all is not a good message right now. Perception counts, and you don't want to be perceived as a tax and spender. Sharpton did have the line of the night, and Dean didn't shine nor fail, he just stayed on message.

I'm doing the fund raising for Dean and it's been a tough, because a lot of the Dems I speak with don't know enough about him, but some have been willing to give just to keep him in the race. Dean's fiscal conservancy, and his hands off approach to gun control help make him a viable national candidate, but he needs to avoid the gaffes like saying iraq might not be better off without Saddam, he did clarify his statement by saying he meant that a crazy muslim regime wouldn't be better, but people only hear what they want to hear so now Dean is perceived as either pro Saddam or at best mixed up on his thoughts on Iraq. I'm kinda glad Dean is under most folks radar, because he can overcome gaffes easier, but he needs to come off a lot stronger during the next debate, or he'll fall off the map completely.

Senator Joe from CT annoys the hell out of me when he agrees too much with Bush, and his moderate republican message hopefully will hurt him in the primaries. We need to rally the anti war protesters to get out to vote in the primary, or we will end up with Joe. Bush can beat Leiberman, because he only offers a slightly different message then Bush does, so why not just vote for Bush?
posted by jbou at 11:49 AM on May 4, 2003

Re: Bush's appearance on the carrier.
Was I the only one to think of Michael Dukakis in a tank?

No, actually. (scroll down to about half page. there's also a link to the infamous Dukakis pic)
posted by matteo at 11:56 AM on May 4, 2003

My own 2 cents worth:

It seems that the Democrats are making the same mistake that they did in the last congressional elections. Instead of talking why they would be good leaders, they talk about why Bush is a bad one. They spend lots of time saying what they're against (ie the war, tax cuts, etc.) but not a lot of time saying what they themselves would do if they were in the white house. You can't successfully run for office if you don't spend any time saying what you want to do. Also, the Iraq thing should be given minimal air time in their speeches. The war is mostly over. The candidates should be talking about what should be done in the future, not what should or shouldn't have been done in the past. The Democrats, in a nutshell, have a big problem with the "vision thing", and unless they improve, we're going to be looking at another four years of Bush.
posted by unreason at 12:24 PM on May 4, 2003

Barely a story on CNN.

posted by Pseudoephedrine at 12:24 PM on May 4, 2003

(Hey cjoh, you don't happen to work for the Dean campaign, do you?)

Good call, I noticed that too. Part of "getting it" is not looking like a spammer with dollar signs in your eyes as you use metafilter as a free advertising source.
posted by jragon at 12:32 PM on May 4, 2003

Dean's hardly a blogging candidate, FWIW. Hart writes his own entries and replies to comments. That's a far cry from a supporter with their own blogspot site.
posted by anildash at 1:05 PM on May 4, 2003

bob graham has the experience and the right tone

He also has the best chance of winning Florida. He might be the best choice simply for his ability to win electoral votes. He also has a refreshing attitude about the public's right to know about the information on Sept. 11 that Bush is keeping classified.
posted by homunculus at 1:08 PM on May 4, 2003

Pseudoephedrine: CNN has a little TV station as well, which is what was being referred to, not a mention on a politics subsection of a website.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:29 PM on May 4, 2003

I've heard a lot about media bias preventing coverage of the Democratic debates. And that may well be a factor. But I think the biggest reason that these debates weren't well covered is the lack of public interest. The media gives people what they want to see. And the fact is that the general public really hasn't shown much interest. I think the reason for this is that there seems to be a lack of really strong candidates that grab your attention. The front runner is Lieberman, who has to be one of the dullest public speakers on the planet. Many of the other runners are either unknowns, or, like Al Sharpton, are simply a joke. One of the reasons Clinton did so well is that he was charismatic, and gave clear, interesting speeches. I'm not saying the Dems need another Clinton, but they do need someone who can use the media as well.
posted by unreason at 1:36 PM on May 4, 2003

Hart writes his own entries and replies to comments.

He wrote a new entry a couple of days ago, btw.
posted by homunculus at 2:02 PM on May 4, 2003

Space Coyote> That's very odd, since when I flipped to CNN randomly earlier today I saw a clip mentioning the debate as well. I merely made the evidently foolish assumption that if one is going to attack CNN for not covering an event, one ought to check to see if they're covering it or not in the first place.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 2:49 PM on May 4, 2003

I know it's dumb, but I still can't get over that whole Lieberman-Palpatine resembelence. I suppose I can console myself knowing that he's actually evil.

The fact that Senator Palpatine has the whiter hair only shows that he's closer to this stage of his development. (And you thought Dean had a shit-eating grin?)
posted by kaibutsu at 3:31 PM on May 4, 2003

I'm voting for Mayor Quimby from Springfield this time around. Quimby may not be honest, but he does have the authority to make something never be spoken about again. That I think we'll need after Bush gets finished with his little rape and pillage routine.
posted by DragonBoy at 3:37 PM on May 4, 2003

A conspiricy theory nut with a felony conviction thus ineligible for office, according to the Supreme Court?

Do you have a link or cite to that proposition? I thought the only reqs were natural citizenship, residency, and age.
posted by flagrante_delicto at 3:43 PM on May 4, 2003

oh you silly people and your ideas about the power of blogs.
posted by the aloha at 3:48 PM on May 4, 2003

Do you have a link or cite to that proposition? I thought the only reqs were natural citizenship, residency, and age.

Those three are the only ones listed in Article II of the Constitution. The Democratic party requires candidates to be registered to vote, but Larouche, as an ex-felon and Virginia resident, has been disenfranchised (from here).
posted by eddydamascene at 4:21 PM on May 4, 2003

Good to hear there was some coverage, though I know there wasn't very much. Hopefully the candidates will start to make more noise and say things that will get them noticed, especially laying out alternative ways to run the country rather than trying not to offend anyone.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:26 PM on May 4, 2003

Here in Columbia, SC, where USC is located, it wasn't televised even though it was a newsworthy local event. This, in a town where they'll pre-empt prime-time programming on another network affiliate to show old tapes of Billy Graham crusades. If it weren't for my wife's career I couldn't put this place in my rearview mirror fast enough.

As a disillusioned ex-liberal who's grown more libertarian with the passing years, I think Al Sharpton's candidacy is the healthiest thing to happen to the Democratic Party in a good long while. There are a lot of people out there who don't have a voice in the rich white liberals' club that the Demos have gradually become, and Sharptongue's acerbic, blue-collar wit can connect with a lot of those. I'd vote for him before another helping of Dubyuh, Enduring Freedom or no Enduring Freedom.
posted by alumshubby at 5:06 PM on May 4, 2003

The American political system is so whored-out and worthless at actually electing someone at a federal level who's not a nearly-complete piece of shit, so populated by liars and panderers, by greedy rent-boys and their mediaspinning keepers, that I'm continually surprised at how otherwise intelligent people can still take it seriously. Certainly it would be difficult to find anyone worse than George W Bush to lead your country, but that's hardly a ringing endorsement of the competition, is it?

Enjoy your fine example-to-the-world democracy, though, folks! After all, it seems to be working so well for you.

(I'm praying to be proved wrong, of course.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:06 PM on May 4, 2003

worthless at actually electing someone at a federal level who's not a nearly-complete piece of shit

i share you frustration stavros... believe me. i do. i have a friend who moved this summer from the north shore of lake superior in minnesota to the north shore of lake superior in ontario - the breakdown of the the political system in the USA was one of the reasons...

never the less. our much missed paul wellstone tragically was lost just short of winning re-election for the third time and then there is russ feingold - a great guy from wisconsin as well.
posted by specialk420 at 7:31 PM on May 4, 2003

"The American Republic will endure until Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's own money." —Alexis de Tocqueville
posted by alumshubby at 7:51 PM on May 4, 2003

As far as where people stand on the issues, I couldn't ask for a better candidate than Dean. As far as the real world goes, I'd vote for fuckin' Idi Amin over Bush, so pretty much anyone who gets the nom has my vote. How sad is that?
posted by spilon at 8:01 PM on May 4, 2003

Anyone have a transcipt of the debate? I can't find one anywhere.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 8:07 PM on May 4, 2003

Eh, I think Sharpton's good for the Dems as well, but not for the same reasons as alumshubby, I have to admit. Sharpton's a vile bigoted nut who seems to be setting himself up as the Black Mussolini, but because he's so polarising, he pushes the rest of the candidates to distinguish themselves from him. Hopefully the drive to find a reasonable middle ground between Sharpton and Bush will force some of these guys to elaborate specific policies and ideas that appeal to the average voter. Dean/Clark in '04 seems to be the best bet of the Democratic party, but I wouldn't count on it actually happening.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 8:08 PM on May 4, 2003

I can hope that there's a viable Democratic candidate, but I'll believe THAT when I see it. First, they have to come up with ideas that actually are new and not rehashes of the old stuff. I don't have much hope of that.

And Spilon, it IS pretty sad, if you see Idi Amin as preferable to Bush. Bush ain't perfect, but he doesn't eat people.

Idi Amin
Remember Idi Amin Dada? He was the dictator of Uganda from 1971 to 1979. Uganda had been one of the more peaceful, prosperous and hopeful of Britain's African colonies. (Winston Churchill: "That paradise on earth... You climb up a railway instead of a beanstalk and at the top there is a wonderful new world.") At independence in 1963, the British handed over power to a clique of Western-educated socialist intellectuals, who quickly set about looting the place. Amin overthrew them in a coup, then systematically trashed what was left of organized Ugandan life. Among those whose murders he arranged were the Anglican archbishop, the chief justice, and the governor of the Bank of Uganda, along with some 300,000 lesser citizens.

After at first favoring Israel, where he had done some of his military training, Amin turned on the Israelis in 1972, expelled their diplomats, and gave their embassy to the PLO. He was thenceforth a client of Libya and a supporter of radical Islam and its terrorist enforcers. (Amin claimed that he himself had converted to Islam at age 16, though this has been disputed. Amin's mother was a witch doctor; he himself was educated at Christian mission schools.) The stories of Amin's cannibalism, though in the nature of things hard to prove, are widely believed in Uganda; as is the story that when one of his numerous wives displeased him, her corpse was returned to her family with the arms and legs surgically interchanged. The surgery may have been performed by the wife's personal physician, who was murdered shortly afterwards, along with his entire family.
Well, it beats divorce, I guess...

posted by JB71 at 8:16 PM on May 4, 2003

Follow the money. The way I see it, both parties are beholden to their corporate sponsors, and their agenda, of course, matches much better with the Republicans -- so the Democrats are essentially trying to keep up by putting a happy Democratic face on the same policies, toned down slightly (look at Clinton's actual record, not his smooth speeches). But since they can't go as far to the right as the GOP without completely alienating their base, Democrats are caught somewhere in the middle, waffling about and spouting mealy-mouthed nonsense (like Hillary when she answered my angry letter about her support for the war resolution last year by explaining that by going along now, she could probably stop the war later. Huh?)

It doesn't look good for American democracy.
posted by muckster at 8:34 PM on May 4, 2003

Maybe there was so little coverage because people are finally coming to their senses and realize that CAMPAIGNS TAKE TOO DAMN LONG! I mean, I know the democrats are desperate to get rid of Bush, but that's no justification for extending a campaign season that just keeps getting longer and longer as the years go by. I can't wait until we get to the point that you have to declare yourself in the race at least one term in advance of running. Maybe then someone will realize how ludricrous the campaign system is in the US.

Thank god for Tivo, where campaign commercials are mercilously vanquished with the press of the 30 second skip button.
posted by piper28 at 8:39 PM on May 4, 2003

Remember when Al Gore was making a renewed push a few months ago, with that SNL appearance and a real populist message? He was going to take an aggessive stand, and guess what happened?

Funding dried up. End of story.
posted by muckster at 8:41 PM on May 4, 2003

Thanks for the uplifting anecdotes about Idi Amin, JB.

The candidate I'm currently most impressed with, by far, is Gary Hart. I hope he decides to run, though I don't see how he can truly compete given his apparent unwillingness to spend most of his time sucking cocks for donations. To my reading, Hart has by far presented the clearest and most direct analysis of what's going on and what needs to happy.

Graham gets a nod for being from Florida.

Edwards has the mojo, and I believe he's on the right side when it comes down to it.

Kerry, Gephardt and Dean are all compromised. But they are still at least facing the right direction. Whereas our current administration seems to be working as hard as possible to destroy our environment, economy, and civil society as quickly as possible while simultaneously making sure the rest of the world hates us for doing it.

Did I mention
posted by alms at 8:56 PM on May 4, 2003

Good article on this subject in this month's GQ, btw. Makes the case that a divided democratic party has grown out of touch with the public since Vietnam. Makes the equation: People see government as increasingly irrelevant + Democrats being the party of stronger, more involved government = Democrats are increasingly irrelevant. Also makes the point that the Reagan-Bush Sr. years were ones where the Republican Party unified, while the Clinton years were ones where the Democratic party sharded.

Personally, I make a point of voting Other in presidential elections, but my thought is that unless the Democrats get someone on the ballot who really (and I meant REALLY) has some wide popular appeal, the party itself resolves most of it's schisms AND the economy stays in the toilet, Bush Jr. is going to get reelected in a walk.

H. Clinton in '08, anyone?
posted by UncleFes at 9:42 PM on May 4, 2003

The candidate I'm currently most impressed with, by far, is Gary Hart.

Hart has significant baggage. He may be the elder stateman in that partilcular crew now, but if he gets the nomination you'll hear nothing but Monkey Business from the Republicans. Clinton could get away with some extramarital because (a) he was personable and likable, and (b) his wife is perceived as as hellacious shrew, but Gary Hart doesn't have either of those luxuries. Donna Rice is no Monica Lewinsky.

If I was the Democratic party, I'd probably go with a Lieberman-Kerry ticket. And I'd get my ass handed to me next November. Sorry, but I can't see it playing out any other way, unless Bush does something so incredibly stupid that the voters literally have to shun him Amish-style.

POSSIBLY Gore-Kerry and a real butthole-clenching downturn in the economy might do it. Bush will still have to make some mistakes, but he ain't above it.

Dean highlights the divisions in the party. Pay him off, threaten his kids, wave the negatives in his face, whatever you have to do: get him to go away. Dean is this election's Nader, which is to say, pure poison for the Democrats, public relations wise.
posted by UncleFes at 10:13 PM on May 4, 2003

how about kerry/mccain?
posted by specialk420 at 10:29 PM on May 4, 2003

their agenda, of course, matches much better with the Republicans

Not really. Corporations aren't a monolithic bloc - they work together only so long as it helps them make money. The Democrats have just as many corporate sponsors because what people overlook is the corporate infrastructure required to accomplish all these various social welfare goals. Somebody needs to train the doctors and make the equipment and design the tests for US-wide healthcare. Someone needs to print the forms and design the databases and consult on efficiency and build the orphanages and half-way houses and headquarters for Social Services. Someone has to invent the tests to check for pollution and manufacture the neutralising agents and develop the better recycling methods and cheaper ways to make paper and other recyclable material to protect the environment.

Corporations are about making money, not pushing an ideological agenda. If they can make money more effectively as a government client than as a competitive firm, they can and will do so, and those firms that feel that their best chance is being a government client will buy the influence to make sure they are. Not even a Democratic government exists in a vacuum such that they can ignore economics.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 10:43 PM on May 4, 2003

I don't see the Dems getting a concrete "vision" in a year and a half. I see more of a sandy "vision" that gets blown around never staying in the same place; pretty much like it is now. Therefore, I see Bush winning 65% of the vote earning him the right to adorn his Final Four ball cap. I also see a Dem winning in '08. Finally, I see your pet fly, Emilia, dying at the extreme old age of 2.5 days. Unable to afford a proper burial, you flush her down the toilet, which in some way seems appropriate. I am drunk.
posted by Ron at 11:17 PM on May 4, 2003

Dean is this election's Nader

Ah, well, that probably explains why I like him.

I wouldn't vote for Idi Amin over Bush, but I'd probably go all Lady Macbeth afterward and spend the next week washing my hands. That ostrich-headed wretch is making a mess so big it will take decades to clean it up, and I don't even want to think about the scope of his destruction given another four years of a toadying congress and a fawning press.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:40 PM on May 4, 2003

I literally cannot believe that the Democrats are going to screw this one up- but all the signs point that way.

It's sort of like our local elections. I had the choice of voting for a) your standard rich Republican smirky face guy b) some loon who lives in a cabin in the backwoods and thinks the chip in his head told him to run for office and c) a high school student......
posted by maggie at 2:57 AM on May 5, 2003

Sharpton's? Two words: Tawana Brawley. 'Nuff said.

Lieberman? I've had enough religious freaks in office. Pass.

Kerry? Cold fish.

Hart? Heh. Heh heehehhehhahhahahhahahhahahhahah. Give it up Gary, haven't you been embarrassed enough?

McCain? Republican Lite: Tastes great, less filling!

Edwards? Don't know enough.

Dean? Hmmm.

I predict Dean will get damn close but be shut out by the party machinery at the end; he seems to be the only one running as an actual opposition candidate instead of warmed over centrist rhetoric.
posted by Cerebus at 6:04 AM on May 5, 2003

Hart has a very simple answer to his problems of the past. When he was cruising on Monkey Business, George W was doing coke with high school students.
posted by alms at 6:40 AM on May 5, 2003

Rather than debate the relative merits of the candidates with no context, how about linking to video of the debate instead? (RealPlayer)
posted by insomnia_lj at 6:58 AM on May 5, 2003

When he was cruising on Monkey Business, George W was doing coke with high school students.

The voters have already forgiven Bush for that. And I pity the Democrat that takes the low road against the man who, for better or worse, saw America through 9-11.

Hart's chances at winning the presidency are negligible, as are most of those guys'. This whole situation begs for a smoke-filled room decision. They get together, they pick one candidate, and all the rest get behind that candidate with everything they have. Just my opinion, but that's the only way I see the Dems winning in '04.

An Edwards-H.Clinton ticket in '08 has possibilities... I'm wondering who the Republicans will field though. Giuliani-Rice? Cheney would get murdered. Powell-Rice? A Powell presidency would give the Republicans two more terms easily, but he refused to be drafted back in '96, I don't know that he'll get himself drafted now. Powell HAS gotten a taste of the Show, though, so maybe he'd change his mind if it was presented to him the right way.

One to watch for: Former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar is likely to run for Senate next election - youngish moderate, not much baggage, looks good on TV. Plus he's tight with Denny Hastert, which isn't a bad thing, influence-wise.

Rather than debate the relative merits of the candidates with no context, how about linking to video of the debate instead?

What?? No WAY!! This is Metafilter, dude - no context debates our specialty.
posted by UncleFes at 7:16 AM on May 5, 2003

I thought that was 'bongo jams our speciality!'
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:44 AM on May 5, 2003

Well, it's no context debates on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, bongo jams on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

And on Sunday, we make pie. Care for a slice of rhubarb, so-joo boy?
posted by UncleFes at 8:48 AM on May 5, 2003

Mmm, rhubarb.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:17 AM on May 5, 2003

OK, first off, our predictions about the election are just so much Nostradamery at this point. I mean, I know we'd all like to be the far-sighted pundit at this point, but the fact is, 98% of us in September of 2004 will have already forgotten what we have been talking about today. Do you remember Enron, Israel and Palestine, the alleged intelligence failures that permitted 9-11, Catholic priests, Johnny Walker Lindh, Jose Padilla? You may, but all those stories, so fresh and so clean just one year ago, have been pretty much buried in the American consciousness. What's hot right now is the Iraq war, and as Matthew Yglesias notes, that's already started to seem "like, so April." Attention is beginning to turn again towards domestic issues, and I promise you it'll turn 1,000 times more before the first person gets into a voting booth.

Prepare yourself in the next few months for our focus to turn almost completely to the Supreme Court as rulings on homosexuality and affirmative action are delivered and debated ad nauseam in the press. Do you remember when public opinion on Bush hinged on whether people thought he was tough enough on corporations? And who knows what the news will bring this summer? Issues like these, scarcely even considered in Saturday's debate, will likely seem ubiquitous a month from now, and that's as far into the future as I'm willing to look. We haven't even begun the long, lazy, restless summer, a period that forever draws the nation's focus back from global politics to petty domestic trifles like shark attacks and Gary Condit. As Kos reminds us, Bill Clinton did not officially declare his candidacy until August of 1991.

Besides, history doesn't repeat itself. Howard Dean is neither the new Walter Mondale nor the new Ralph Nader, no one's the new Bill Clinton, Bill Clinton wasn't the new Michael Dukakis, May isn't the new April, and all assertions to the contrary are simplistic and frustrating.

As for the debate, I thought in general that it was a good thing there was no clear frontrunner, because I also thought it was remarkably free of vitriol (Kerry and Dean's little spats were petty, but not caustic; only once did multiple voices overlap) or tension, neither of which really belong in the game at this early point. Of course, that also meant the debate was free of excitement (the audience only clapped once, as far as I can remember, and it was for something that Senator Graham said that wasn't particularly rousing or important), but I don't particularly see this as a bad thing either, because any early excitement at this point is going to have to be entirely rebuilt after the summer is over.

Best Performance: Sharpton
Worst Performance: Kucinich

I can't believe Salon pegged Joe Lieberman as the "winner" of this little excursion. His tone was insufferably moralistic; he constantly sounded like he was lecturing the other candidates, and at one point early in the discussion, he actually quoted the Bible for no good reason. Sharpton immediately rejoined with another contradictory Bible quote that shut the good Senator up for a spell. Lieberman continued throughout the debate to express a grossly self-defeating ambivalence about Bush, talking about the "good parts" of the Bush tax cut, all but praising the President's national security record, admitting at one point that he outright disagreed with a gun control plank in the very platform on which he ran (it was all Gore's idea, he clumsily insisted), and generally sounding like a worked-over compassionate conservative.

Howard Dean's only real significant moment was his final speech, in which he said, dramatically, "The great unspoken political lie that comes from stages like this is 'Elect me, and I'll solve all your problems.' The great unspoken truth is that the future of this country rests in your hands, not mine." It was the closest thing to a rousing mission statement uttered during the entire debate. Otherwise, he didn't stick out, except in the squabbling with Kerry.

Speaking of which, Kerry also failed to distinguish himself in any significant capacity. I like the guy, being from MA, but he did constantly sound as though he were offering only feeble defenses of himself or feeble critiques of others.

Sharpton is a love-him-or-hate-him kinda guy, but I think his effect on the campaign will be good if he keeps going the way he has. Those who hate him don't typically extrapolate those feelings to the rest of the party, and those who love him will vote for whoever he ultimately throws his support behind even after he doesn't get the nomination, so it's a win-win having him in. And his presence at the debate seemed to have a clear effect, keeping the other candidates on message, and the tone civil, even pleasant. I think he knows better than to raise any sort of hell in this campaign for the Democrats, and I hope I don't have to eat those words later.

Gephardt was rather unimpressive; his only credit seemed to be actually having a healthcare plan, although the plan itself was roundly criticized. Edwards was affable and intelligent-seeming, and he nicely mediated the spat between Kerry and Dean, but he was otherwise indistinct. Graham's message focused a bit too much on the South and Florida, and I worry that his appeal is limited to that sector.

The point, I guess, is that it's rather too early to be digging in heels and refusing to vote if Dean doesn't get the nomination, or stridently declaring that only so-and-so can win. I would trust any of this collection of candidates in office more than George W. in '04, and Gary Hart or Wesley Clark may be added to the roster before summer's end. There's a long fight ahead, and still actually plenty of opportunity for the party to break out of its post-Clinton paralysis.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 11:17 AM on May 5, 2003

grrarrgh00: Of course, that also meant the debate was free of excitement (the audience only clapped once, as far as I can remember

I read somewhere that the audience was told not to applaud so the debate would continue moving swiftly (and that the Kucinich people kept clapping and had to be told to stop).
posted by fishbulb at 11:34 AM on May 5, 2003

Yeah, its a bit early.

I know I keep harping on this but it is nice to see some actual debate within the Democratic party. At least one of the reasons why Gore lost in 2000 was that his campaign took an insufferable attitude towards the labour groups that saw their jobs vanish under Clinton, and environmentalists who saw their most important concerns submarined by the Clinton administration. Gore made it clear that key issues like opening up the WTO were simply not open for negotiation and the "big tent" meant "vote for me or else." For all the bellyaching about the Greens, Gore could have had the Green vote if he simply came down from his high horse even a minimal show of being open to dialogue.

It is important to remember that Bush won with only 15% of the voting population. The candidate that can tap into the %70 of voters that didn't show up is the candidate that will win.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:54 AM on May 5, 2003

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