Sunday, May 13, 2007

1st Democratic Presidential Debate (Part 2)

Picking up where I left off...

Clinton is asked about Guiliani's quote about Republican's being better at protecting America and fighting terrorism. Her answer includes a lot of complaining about the current administration. Dodd answers similarly.

Another show-of-hands question... Do you believe there is a global war on terror? Kucinich does not raise his hand. He addresses that by saying he would not use war as an instrument and would increase diplomatic efforts.

Obama is asked how he would respond to any new terrorist attacks. His answer is a bit rambling, but he concentrates on good intelligence and communication with the world community. Edwards is given the same question and concentrates on finding out how terrorists would have gotten weapons through the borders. He says that there are dangerous people and nations in the world that need to be dealt with strongly but that there are more instruments at our disposal than bombs. Good answer. Clinton concentrates on the idea of swift retaliation but also emphasizes that we should not go looking for other fights. And, she works in a complaint against the Bush administration.

Show-of-hands: Does anyone want to join Kucinich's efforts to impeach Dick Cheney? No one raises their hand. Kucinich addresses the question by getting out a pocket copy of the constitution and claims that Cheney has violated the constitution. His passion for the constitution is admirable, but he doesn't do a good job explaining how and why he thinks Cheney violated it.

Dodd is asked if there is a difference between gay marriage and civil unions. He says he does not support gay marriage because of the traditions of marriage but that he does strongly support civil unions.

Biden is asked what he would do about the climate and energy problem. He says that he and Obama have a bill in proposal that would require every car produced in America to be a "flex fuel" automobile, require gas stations to pump ethanol by 2009, encourage research into lithium battery technology, cappin emissions, etc.

Richardson is asked a question about relations with Castro's Cuba. He begins responding to a previous question about terrorism response, that he would respond militarily and aggresively and build international support for our goals. About Cuba, he says we should be planning for a post-Castro Cuba right now, re-examining the embargo, etc.

Gravel is asked if we're behind other countries when it comes to nuclear energy. Gravel barely and inarticulated answers the question and swerves over into ranting about terrorism. Brian Williams even comments how unbelievably the question went from environment to terrorism, earning a little laughter from the audience.

Obama is asked what he's doing to help the environment. He talks about planting trees on Earth Day, but Brian Williams interjects asking "What about fluorescent light bulbs?" Obama jokes that he thought the tree thing was pretty good. Then, startingly, even he swerves over into talking about terrorism. Bad move. I like it better when candidates answer the question they're given. Nearing the end of the debate, I think they just want to get in their last words on terrorism regardless of what the questions are.

Kucinich is eager to respond to Obama. He says we need to end both global warming and global warring. He says we attacked Iraq for oil, and we're about to attack Iran for oil. Until we change energy policies, we'll continue to have aggresive stance against other countries. Wow, score one for Kucinich.

Obama is eager to respond to Kucinich. He says he does not wish to go to war with Iran but emphasizes their growing potential to build nuclear weapons. He says that information is not disputed. Kucinich tries to interject that it is disputed. Gravel is given a chance to respond. He inarticulately spouts something about scaring the "bejezus" out of Iran for decades. Then he says the greatest violator of non-proliferation is the U.S. because we're not disarming as we pledged we would. Then he asks Obama, "Who the hell are we going to nuke? Tell me, Barrack" Obama responds, "I'm not planning to nuke anybody right now, Mike."

Edwards is aksed who is moral leader is? Edwards pauses for several seconds. He says he can't identify with just one person as moral leader. He says God is a moral leader, and he prays every day. He then mentions his wife and family as being strong moral support. Granted, that's a softball answer, but it was a weird, tough question. And, as softball answers go, I don't think he could have answered any other way, and I still like the answer.

Sweet, Brian Williams asks Clinton if Wal-Mart is a good or bad thing for the United States of America, earning some laughter from the audience. Please say bad. Please say bad. She starts by saying it's a mixed blessing. Okay, decent start. When Wal-Mart started, it brought goods to rural areas. As they've grown, they've raised controversy over fairness and treatment of employees. Then, she starts ranting about the current administration and corporate America being oblivious to the needs of the middle class. Granted, there may be some truth to that, but I wish she had stayed more on topic about Wal-Mart and not used it as an opportunity to rant. Almost an excellent answer, but I gotta go with good instead.

Biden is asked if the Democratic party will become extinct if they lose another presidential election. His answer is kind of rambling. He says something about how the Republicans should be more afraid of Hillary than they are. Then, we swerves into some kind of comment about international relations. Not well answered.

And, that was the last question of the night.


Again using the same point system: excellent answer = 3 points, good answer = 2 points, fair = 1, and poor = 0, and including questions from all 90 minutes of the debate, my numbers work out to the following:

  • [1.778] Former Senator John Edwards (9 questions)

  • [1.600] Senator Barrack Obama (10 questions)

  • [1.600] Senator Joe Biden (10 questions)

  • [1.400] Senator Hillary Clinton (10 questions)

  • [1.375] Governor Bill Richardson (8 questions)

  • [1.143] Senator Chris Dodd (7 questions)

  • [0.875] Congressman Dennis Kucinich (8 questions)

  • [0.288] Former Senator Mike Gravel (7 questions)

In the last third of the debate, there were three more excellent answers. Biden brought his excellent total up to three with his answer to the climate and energy crisis question. Edwards had an excellent answer to the moral leader question. And, oddly enough, Kucinich had an excellent answer to an environmental question.

As far as poor answers... Biden's answer to the last question of the night was poor. Otherwise, the poor answers remained confined to Kucinich and Gravel.

I'm kind of shocked that the final averages worked in favor of John Edwards. I've never been particularly impressed with him. It's always seemed odd to me that he's considered such a strong candidate now or back in 2004 after only one term as a senator from North Carolina. However, he does have a lot of poise and may handle debates well the way some people handle tests well. Also, he got a last minute boost by his moral leader question. While it was an excellent answer, I'm sure a few other candidates would have answered similarly.

It's interesting to see that Obama and Biden are tied for 2nd place. I'm somewhat more familiar with Biden because he appears on TV news shows all the time. From what I know, I'd say Biden is the strongest, most likable, and most straight-talking candidate among the Democrats. If he were to win the nomination, I'd be very tempted to vote for him, especially if the Republicans don't nominate a strong alternative.

It seems like every election has to have a crazy person in it, whether it's a good kind of crazy or a bad kind of crazy. In the '90's you had the good kind of crazy with Ross Perot. More recently, you've had the mixed bag kind of crazy with Rev. Al Sharpton. This year, we've got the bad kind of crazy with Mike Gravel. He's inarticulate and unmistakably angry. Seriously, that guy appeared to be ticked off at everything and everybody. He's a ticking timebomb. I think he himself is a weapon of mass destruction. If he were elected, I could envision him having a heart attack in the first week just from yelling at people. It's a shame too, because Perot, Sharpton, and the other "crazies" were at least fun to watch and listen to, and they cut through the crap dished out by the other candidates. But, Gravel is not fun or poignant or particularly helpful to the process. He's just scary. Some of his ideas are decent, but he needs some composure, and he needs to express his ideas better. Then, he might be okay.

As far as the other 2nd tier candidates, I think Richardson isn't that bad, Dodd isn't horrible but not nearly spectacular enough either, and Kucinich may be serving the Perot/Sharpton purpose without actually being a "crazy."

And as for Hillary Clinton... I'm not a fan of hers. There's just something about the way she talks that I don't believe her. She does not have a tenth of the charisma of her husband Bill. Bill Clinton could lie to my face, and I'd thank him for talking to me (okay, an obvious exaggeration, but you know what I mean). Hillary, however, could tell me the sky is blue, and I'd be tempted to look up "sky" on Wikipedia to see if she really was correct. She did a decent enough job in this debate, and I'm gradually finding her less annoying. However, she spends way too much time being negative about the current administration. Don't get me wrong, this administration deserves the insults, but I'd rather Hillary focus on her plans, her policies, her better ideas. I think it would help her if she talked more about what she would do rather than what Bush should have done.

Overall, a lackluster debate. Too few excellent answers. I've already watched the recent Republican debate but will need to watch it again for blogging purposes. From what I remember, there are too many among the ten Republican candidates that aren't very recognizable or distinguishable. I think Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee are more articulate and eloquent than all eight Democratic candidates combined. I don't understand the appeal of Rudy Guiliani. I think, scarily enough, that McCain might be the "crazy" in the Republican camp. And, I think the best overall candidate, Ron Paul, could probably use a little polishing in his answers and some more visibility outside the internet (where he is already *extremely* popular).

I think I read somewhere that another debate is coming up this week. I look forward to it.

1 comment:

BillT said...

"I'm kind of shocked that the final averages worked in favor of John Edwards. I've never been particularly impressed with him. It's always seemed odd to me that he's considered such a strong candidate now or back in 2004 after only one term as a senator from North Carolina. However, he does have a lot of poise and may handle debates well the way some people handle tests well."

A seeming willingness to say anything and to appear to be completely unconcerned with any ramifications of the statement gives one an unprecedented advantage in debate. Makes for lousy leadership, though.