Friday, September 05, 2003

New Mexico Debate- Michael's Review

The candidates messages, and the overall tone of the debate, weren't unexpected. The candidates largely kept their criticisms for Bush and so often found themselves in agreement, except for Lieberman of course, that some of their differences seemed petty.

The surprise of the evening would have to be the demeanor of Gephardt. He was on fire. Incensed, smokingly angry at the Bush Administration, and lashing out with verve over and over. His eye's bulged and veins stood out as he denounced Bush's failed policies while gesticulating animatedly. The moderators practically had to shout him down at one point. He was by far the greatest entertainment of the evening. Dean looked positively calm and demure by comparison.

Wesley Clark, who it was rumored had been negotiating for a podium in New Mexico, failed to show. Also absent was Rev. Sharp-Tongue, and the night seemed staid and serious without his mercurial presence. I still think the new President should create a post of Holy Fool for Al.

Lieberman damn near shot himself in the foot, and got the only jeer of the evening, with a swing and a miss at Dean over the application of American labor and environmental standards to our trade partners. He said that the Bush recession would soon become the Dean depression if we tried to apply our standards to our trade partners. That was the line that got the jeer. People knew that the attack was mean-spirited and overly-technical. Dean thanked Lieberman for the shot and quickly pointed out that he meant international standards. Lieberman lamely said that he had always supported that, too.

Could Lieberman's advisors have genuinely thought that such an innocent conflation of international and American standards would be the issue to directly attack Dean over? People don't know what either consists of, nor the difference between them. Nor do they care. All they care about is keeping American jobs in America. Yet Lieberman thinks he'll score points by defending a free trade regime which drains jobs out of our country and exploits the workers other countries? He is so out of step with the mood of the electorate, he seems to be walking in the opposite direction.

Every time Lieberman opens his mouth a sanctimonious homily flops out and everybody feels like their dad is lecturing them once again on how they'll never amount to anything. It is interesting to see his chutzpah, though. In a room full of bikers he might loudly proclaim that Harleys and Indians suck and the only decent motorcycles are Motoguzzi. Once thoroughly trounced, he would no doubt point to his beating as evidence for the rectitude of his argument.

I suspect Braun and Kucinich are having an affair. Their perfect agreement on every issue, the adoring looks as the other speaks, hint at a campaign trail romance. They may not capture the Presidency, but they have captured cupid. It's too bad really that they are unelectable. A steamy bi-racial affair between President and Vice President is just what this nation needs to loosen up it's mojo following the frightened immobility of the Bush era. My wife did compare Kucinich to an evil goblin from the Lord of Rings as he stood glowering at the stage while listening to the other candidates. Not a good sign, that.

Kerry borrowed liberally from the themes and language of his own announcement speech in composing some of his answers. He was genial, and even made some really good points, especially on children and defense policy, which came straight out of Dean's play book, and he even cracked a couple of good one-liners at Bush's expense. But I gotta say, Kerry is starting to look like the mummy from a B horror film with really great hair. If the guy had any more gravitas in his face he would be the Crypt-thing. I think he needs a good night's sleep.

Edwards was his usual glib, handsome, charming, humorous, down-homey, and credible self. I want to drag him off and introduce him to all my female relatives, even the married ones, but I still don't want him as President for some reason. A certain lack of what Kerry has a surfeit of perhaps. Smush 'em together and maybe you have a President.

Graham seemed to disappear into the crowd after some an initially strong showing on Iraq and terror. He presented his plan for economic recovery as a blind trust exercise, and then seemed to fall through the stage.

Then there was Dean. He wasn't his usual self. Perhaps it was the format, but he seemed much more self-contained and at his ease than usual, almost laconic, and he spoke with an admirable brevity; I think he may have had time left by the end of the debate. Perhaps he has hit the stride of a front-runner, or is trying a more even-tempered delivery. There was none of the sparing with Kerry of the last debate; but they were at nearly opposite ends of the stage. He did speak Spanish with wonderful facility. Kucinich's high school pronunciation and the other candidate's bare attempts at occasional phrases were embarrassing in comparison. Less is more in this case I think. Dean showed critics that he could take the heat with grace and play the statesman as well as the populist rabble-rouser.

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