2004 Candidate Debate
May 6, 2003
By Ed Hanratty
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Did anyone catch the recent Democratic Presidential debate?
Of course not. Why? Not because you don't care - because the
ABC network ignored its FCC duty to best serve the public
interest, airing (at least in the New York market) "Wheel
of Fortune" and "Gladiator" as eight men and one woman spoke
publicly in the most underrated art-form we know, civil debate,
about why they believed that they should be the forty-fourth
President of the United States.
Now, my wife and I are losers. In bed by the end of "Law
& Order: Special Victims Unit" at 11:00 PM, and up at FIVE
THIRTY IN THE MORNING to watch ABC broadcast the tape delay
of the debate at the University of South Carolina. Yes. 5:30
- 7:00 AM is the time slot deemed appropriate for a debate
on who should challenge pResident Bush in 2004. I could go
on and on and on about why this is a blatant abuse of the
FCC Guidelines and Regulations, the clowns that run ABC (literally-Disney
Corp.), or the growing FOXification of our news outlets. But
I'm not going to do that.
Rather I guess it's best that I give you my slanted opinion
on what was said, who looks good, and who doesn't stand a
chance. Let's face it - if you listen to Joe Scarborough,
Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Pat Buchanan, or the latest Neanderthal
to find his way on to cable television, Michael Savage (who
makes Trent Lott and Rick Santorum look like beacons of tolerance),
they'll tell you to vote for Bush because none of these candidates
are worthy anyway. So, withouto further ado, here's the opinion
of one of the, oh, maybe 65 Americans who watched this debate
Ohio Representative, Former Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio
Kucinich probably represents what I personally would love
to see happen in America: Health care for all, a reduction
of wasteful military spending, stronger environmental laws,
tough anti-corporate crime laws and prosecution, campaign
finance reform, and a firm dedication to finding alternative
energy sources. Furthermore, he actually outlined plans and
policy, and wasn't merely blowing ideological smoke. Too bad
he looks like the offspring of Ross Perot and Kevin Spacey.
He's got very little in the charisma department, and doesn't
seem comfortable in the spotlight. But I'll tell you this:
He would make a strong Secretary of Energy in the next administration.
Carol Moseley Braun
Former Illinois Senator, Former Ambassador to New Zealand
An impressive ideologue that just doesn't seem Presidential.
Braun offered a lot of nice opinions that poll well with the
more liberal wings of the democratic party, but she hasn't
really campaigned, raised money or made her mark. Candidates
like Braun are important to the primary process, they ensure
that certain tough topics are discussed, but I don't see her
picking up a strong following.
Hands down the most entertaining candidate, but he was more
than the "jester" that he'll likely be made out to be in the
press. Sharpton took others to task for their support of Bush
War II, and more than any other candidate, spoke about the
deterioration of our inner cities and the need for urban revival.
He probably offered up the funniest line of the evening (or,
early early Sunday morning for those watching at home), comparing
the Bush tax cuts to cult leader Jim Jones' Kool-Aid: "It
may taste good, but it's gonna kill you". Sharpton brings
a lot to the table, but unfortunately, a chance to win the
nomination, or better yet, defeat Bush, isn't one of them.
Florida Senator, Former Governor of Florida
Graham may actually be more of a military hawk than President
Bush if you could believe that. He advocated using the US
military to aggressively pursue Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other
terrorist organizations, and I admit it would be interesting
to see a Democrat debating Bush and calling him a dove. Furthermore,
he has an impressive track record as an executive, even if
lacks charisma. However, the reason Graham is a candidate
to be taken slightly serious is pretty obvious: his home state.
No need to rehash bad memories of 2000 (there's another candidate
who seems to be making that his platform), but we know what
Southern State is going to see a significant amount of Democratic
campaign dollars and candidate appearances. Moderator George
Stephanopolous (who did a fantastic, balanced job) called
Graham out though on a widely held opinion: that Graham is
actually running for Vice President - and it's quite likely.
Former Governor of Vermont
It was obvious from the start that Dean is campaigning against
one candidate: John Kerry. He's vying for the "Legitimate
Liberal" title amongst the candidates, and with all due respect
to Moseley Braun, Sharpton, and Kucinich - this is a two-horse
race and Dean is the underdog. He attacked Kerry for his shady
support of the war, accusing him of playing both sides of
the fence. I had read a lot about Dean going into the debate.
I heard he was a "Clinton-like dark horse", and in all honesty,
he was quite disappointing. If you're going to be compared
to Clinton, you have to have what my wife calls, the "It Factor."
The charisma, that certain ingredient that above all else,
makes you "presidential". Dean didn't have it. I agree with
Howard Dean on many issues, probably more than Kerry, but
Dean sealed his fate in my mind during his closing arguments,
when he was reading off index cards while the other eight
were well prepared and spoke directly to the camera or audience.
Missouri Representative, former House Democratic leader
Gephardt has a big stigma to overcome: a career Washingtonian,
a typical politician. I personally have never been a big Gephardt
fan, but I can honestly say that I was very impressed. The
other candidates took him to task for his health care proposal,
which does have serious economic and plausibility concerns.
However, he defended it well, and deserves major credit for
actually having a comprehensive, well thought-out plan at
this point in the race. He carried himself well and exerted
more charisma than I had ever seen from him. Doesn't quite
have the "It Factor," but is indeed a worthy candidate.
Connecticut Senator, former Vice Presidential Candidate (2000)
Please, please, please. Anybody but GI Joe. This man is a
Republican - plain and simple. I really don't know what makes
him a Democrat. His strategy was obvious from the start, he's
campaigning on two issues. The first strategy being "the hawk"
among the nine. Sure, Graham was rather hawkish, but Lieberman
sang the praises of the War in Iraq at every opportunity,
using the Bush tactic of distorting the Iraq war as part of
the overall war on terrorism, and using buzz words like "security",
"defense", and "strength".
His second campaign platform is the "Woe is me. I was robbed
in 2004. I should be Vice President". Joe, most Democrats
agree with you, but as for independent voters, they don't
want to hear it. After all was said and done, Al Gore conceded
and George W. Bush was sworn in as President. I don't know
if you've noticed, but a lot has changed in America since
2000. Bush has high approval and popularity ratings. People
don't want to hear about how illegitimate you believe his
election was, even if most Democrats agree with you, this
is a losing strategy. Move on. We had to. Look, 2000 was a
disgrace, and in certain districts in Florida it should be
used during the campaign to drive people to the polls. And
yes, I would like to see Nelson Mandela and Jimmy Carter monitor
the elections, but that's not going to fly in this campaign.
Massachusetts Senator and Decorated Vietnam Veteran
Kerry has been my personal choice for quite some time, and
remains so. I admire his ethics and track record. He, like
Gephardt, has spent an awfully long time in Washington. There's
also that "Massachusetts Liberal" label that doesn't fly well
in certain parts of the country, not to mention the fact that
the eventual nominee will be named in Boston. But I tend to
look at it like this: The places where "Massachusetts Liberal"
is a dirty word are decided "red states". They're already
locked up for Bush in 2004, and no Democrat will win there
anyway. So don't go worrying about how Kerry won't poll well
in rural Mississippi.
I think Kerry's service record will make him a formidable
candidate against Bush in the areas where Bush is strong,
but he's still different than Bush in those areas. Whereas
Gephardt accused Lieberman of being "Bush Lite" (another great
line) because of his broad support for Bush's military agenda
- Kerry has tempered his support with caution. Now, I would
feel much more comfortable about Kerry had he not voted to
authorize the war in Iraq, don't get me wrong. But his comment
on "regime change" and his response to those who criticized
it raised another possible strong point of his campaign. He's
making it clear that he is sickened by this widespread notion
that Republicans have the copyright to the American Flag,
American service, and patriotism in general. It's an argument
that needs to be made, and the Republicans need to be held
North Carolina Senator, Former Trial Lawyer
For the past few months, I've been saying the same thing about
Edwards: he's a pretty face, a nice smile and a very inexperienced
politician with little depth. After hearing him speak first
in Iowa, and then last night, let me add one more word to
my opinion of Edwards: wow! Talk about the "It Factor,"
this guy IS It. I've heard him described as "Clinton without
the scandals" and boy, whoever said that was on target. Assuming
that he's as clean as everyone says he is, this man could
be the next President.
He's a great speaker, he seems incredibly genuine, and in
tune with what's wrong in America. As much as I worry about
his overall inexperience in policymaking, I just think of
him debating Bush and I smile. Why? Because a Bush-Kerry debate
would be a carbon-copy of the Bush-Gore debates. Kerry will
come off as a liberal elitist using big words and Bush will
crack a joke, a smile and come off as the winner. That won't
happen with a Bush-Edwards debate. Edwards summed it up in
his closing arguments, saying that Bush may talk like a regular
guy, but he still has corporate interests in mind. He may
live on ranch and wear a big belt buckle, but that doesn't
mean he knows about the real problems facing America today.
Edwards spoke passionately about Enron and corporate fraud.
He was eloquent and inspiring. He was the real deal. He has
It, and being a Southerner most definitely helps the Democratic
cause, seeing that no Democrat has ever won the Presidency
without carrying one southern state.
In a perfect world, I would still prefer John Kerry to be
the President of the United States in 2004. But this isn't
a perfect world. We have a very conservative, very dangerous
trigger happy corporate crook sitting in the White House right
now. This isn't the time to play fantasy politics. The Democrats,
the American people need a strong candidate capable of going
toe-to-toe with a very popular president. America needs John